The Media, ordinarily, should be perception builders. Unfortunately, at least in recent times, they have not done so well in defining and drawing the red line by identifying and separating major actors in our country according to their roles. Those who have done well and those who have not done well as well as those who should serve as icons, those whose image, character traits, behaviours and interventions in the public space can be elevated to the point where they can become the gold standard. This is as opposed to the villains and those who have sabotaged efforts towards nationhood either through their actions, inactions, dispositions, comments and views concerning the celebrated ethos of our nation.
Of-course, Nigeria made up of different ethnic nationalities, requires so much of these interventions. Thus, the imperative for such a framing of roles cannot be over-emphasized. This has unwittingly created a situation where we celebrate people that should not be celebrated. By so doing, we have also created and reinforced a culture of lack of accountability, crass ineptitude, impunity and improper behavior at all levels.
Thus, it is high time journalists began to be more intentional about framing our National Heroes and role models. Sadly, the media space today has become very toxic, such that a lot of negativity is what makes the news. We can change that narrative. Our newspapers and other media stories are dominated by narratives from those benefitting from crisis who seek an escalation of hostilities for their nefarious objectives.
Indeed, the Media has a duty not to amplify those voices and not to undertake their task for them.
The Media also have a role to fact-check. Certainly, fighting insecurity and criminal elements thrive on propaganda and reportage of their activities.
So, the Nigerian Media needs to decide to what extent they want to continue being the propagators of the actions of criminal elements.
The media has a responsibility to save the country by de-escalating the reportage of the activities of criminal elements.
While not advocating for a media blackout on criminality, the media should help us by not offering exposure and propaganda outlets to criminal elements.
The way we are going, we may be playing into the hands of those who are profiting from the crisis situation in the country. Again, the media unwittingly promoted label-culture and stereotyping such that people from certain groups are labeled collectively as a result of the actions of a few and there is a haste to ascribe crimes to them because the public has been led to believe that they are the ones who commit certain types of crimes.
This is an ill-wind that will note bode well for us in our quest for National Unity. Security Agencies must be given the chance to conduct investigations and come out with official reports before we ascribe crimes to their perpetrators.
The practice of reporting crime and criminal activities with assumed suspected perpetrators will only cause further division among us and perhaps, exonerate the real culprits.
Let the media once again be circumspect and install effective internal professional checks and balances in crime reportage.
Of-a-truth, every society that has charted its course towards sustainable development has done so by making sure that they promote positive narratives about their country. So, we have to alter or at best, balance-out this narrative that negative news makes the best news.
This mindset and approach will not serve us in the task of Nation-building. So let us start celebrating our genuine icons, mentors and outstanding citizens and uphold them as role models to the younger generation.
Furthermore, we just cannot afford to paint every person with the same brush!
The media must continually extol the virtues of M.I. Okpara, Obafemi Awolowo, De Sam Mbakwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and others in this category. Records show that they excelled in their assignments and in some instances, made heroic sacrifices for the unity of Nigeria and promotion of social justice.
Take the example of Mallam Umaru Altine from Sokoto who was elected Mayor of Enugu 1952 to 1958, this is one example we should be sharing with this generation.
On the other hand, the Media must downplay ethnic bigots and local champions who seek popularity by propagating divisive rhetoric and promoting social discord.
And so the questions we need to consider include, who is mentoring our youths today?
Who do we uphold as role models and give lavish media visibility?
If you look at the bulk of our newsmakers today, both past and present, we will agree that these are not the people that the youths should be emulating and taking after.
Do the people that make the headlines of our media outlets represent the best of Nigeria?
Do our headlines and lead stories represent our National aspirations? Once again, the media has a role in turning around the pall of negativity and doom hanging over us as a nation.
Also, the army of columnist in all media houses, editorials, story slant and reportage should begin to promote National Unity and not division.
The media should stop giving voice to warmongers and rabid ethno-religious jingoists and blazing headlines that threaten the Unity of the country.
Finally, let Nigerian leaders across all strata to be mindful of the language of their public communication. Language matters a lot in communications and true leaders cannot use words that divide the nation instead of seeking for healing and unity. This is a challenge before all of us and we must rise to the occasion.
Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu is the Executive Governor of Abia State