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NBC is at it again!

NBC is at it again!
July 22
09:53 2021

It’s 2021. All kinds of technological advancements are in the air, literally. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have just taken (test run) flights to space to check out the lay of the land before paying customers.  The idea is that passengers will soon be able to travel to space. On top of that, the world managed to get a handle on COVID 19 through the timely production of vaccines among other things. Although some people are uneasy with the ‘speed’ COVID 19 vaccines were manufactured. In case it’s not very clear, I’m trying to paint for you a picture to show just how fast the rest of the world is marching on.

However, back home in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the de facto giant of Africa, things are moving, well, backwards which is more like retrogression. The latest ‘development’ is the directive from the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC that broadcasters should turn a blind eye to Nigeria’s worsening security challenges. In less diplomatese, the NBC doesn’t want broadcasters to report any news about kidnappings, terrorist attacks or what looks like ethnic cleansing. Anything that can embarrass the government must never be televised. The NBC is beginning to think the C in its acronym stands for Censorship or Commander. In any case, if anyone must be embarrassed, shouldn’t the government be ashamed of not living up to its pre-election promises? Even the so-called bandits are not policed the way government is hell bent on stifling free speech.

This directive though only discovered a few days ago was actually sent much earlier this month (July 7) via a letter signed by Franca Aiyetan, NBC’s director of broadcast monitoring, on behalf of the new NBC DG, Balarabe Shehu Ilelah. I couldn’t find the full letter but I’ll share some excerpts. One of the things the NBC took issues with is the newspaper reviews done by Radio and TV stations saying some of the reviews have “ethnological coating” that can pitch “one section of the country against the other and leaving Nigerians in daily hysteria.” So, when federal government appointments are skewed heavily in favour of certain sections of the country, do the marginalized sections rejoice? When certain criminal elements are made to feel like they are above the law because of their ethnicity or religious affiliation, is that ‘ethno-illogical’ oppression or plain ogboju? What does the government, sorry the NBC really want?

“The commission, therefore, enjoins broadcasters to collaborate with the government in dealing with the security challenges by: “Not glamourizing (sic) the nefarious activities of insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, bandits etc.” In the last few years, every once in a while, there’s news about the government releasing supposedly ‘repentant’ terrorists. Again, last week, there were reports that the Nigerian Army released over a 1000 suspected or former bandits. When terrorists, bandits and insurgents are feted and appealed to, isn’t that a form of glamorizing? What’s to stop other people from being inspired or tempted?  I mean Sheikh Gumi, the unofficial Bandits Ambassador, gets protection by security agencies when he visits bandits in their ‘hideouts.’ Has the NBC released any directive to broadcasters to stop government reps who appear on their stations, making all sorts of excuses for these criminals? If bandits’ activities are really so nefarious, why are they moving freely with AK47 rifles? In November last year, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar said: “People think north is safe but that assumption is not true. In fact, it’s the worst place to be in this country because bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK47 and nobody is challenging them.” Why does it look like the government is looking the other way? In any case, if there’s some grand government efforts we don’t know about, this would be where the NBC appeals to broadcasters to help publicize government’s war against terror. If such a war is truly being fought.

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The NBC also wants broadcasters to advise “guests and/or analysts on programmes not to polarize the citizenry with divisive rhetoric, in driving home their point. Not giving details of either the security issues or victims of these security challenges so as not to jeopardize the efforts of the Nigerian soldiers and other security agents.” Broadcast stations according to the NBC must adhere to the by provisions of sections 5.4.1(f) and 5.4.3 of the NBC Code: “The broadcaster shall not transmit divisive materials that may threaten or compromise the divisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a sovereign state.” Again, certain utterances, actions (and inactions) of this government have been more divisive and fostered hatred more than any broadcast station.

“In reporting conflict situations, the broadcaster shall perform the role of a peace agent by adhering to the principle of responsibility, accuracy and neutrality.” Enter the broadcaster as peace maker. Meanwhile, while the broadcaster is twisting him or herself into knots trying to be Mother Teresa, Ghandi and Martin Luther King all rolled into one, government representatives only need to grant one gaslighting interview. Sometimes they are caught in outright lies and they don’t care how it looks to millions of Nigerians as long they please their audience of one, the rest of us of can ‘go and die’ (former governor of Edo State Adams Oshiomhole said that to a poor trying to make ends meet).

I could go on but I have to ask: What really is the job of the NBC? Does the NBC exist only to spare the emperor some embarrassment? For what it’s worth, the NBC guys need to look back at when the commission was at its most vibrant. There have been charismatic DGs like Mallam Danladi Bako and a few other DGs who have done well. The NBC under Emeka Mba was dynamic as he sought to take the NBC into the new age. He was very serious about achieving total digitization. Posterity will be the judge. It doesn’t matter that those who viewed the NBC as their birthright fought and lied to get him out. Now, I’m not sure where Nigeria is on the issue of digitization…

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Onoshe Nwabuikwu, AIRTIME columnist, is a renowned TV/film critic, and film scholar. She also has experience in advertising as a senior copywriter and corporate communications as communications consultant

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