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NBC and the Freedom of the Press – By Niyi Adesina

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The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has come under some undeserved scathing criticism in recent times and a lot of these upbraiding are targeted at the Director General of NBC, Mr. Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, possibly because the world class reforms he stands for has ruffled feathers across board.
It is interesting that those that have issues with Mr. Ilelah’s piloting of affairs at the NBC, and by extension Nigeria’s broadcast industry, are rarely industry people but are rather mercenaries and soldiers of fortune that are out to profit from an industry that rebounded from the crippling impact of the emergence and growth of new media against all expectations.
Being non-experts and without industry knowledge, critics of Mr. Ilelah and the NBC usually hinge their attacks under the false accusation that he is using the broadcast regulator as a tool for suppressing press freedom. This erroneous impression derives from certain premises; one, that the Commission’s demand for broadcasting companies to pay up their outstanding debts – these include license fees and annual operation fees. Second is the NBC’s renewed insistence to sanction stations that clearly and wilfully contravene the Broadcast Code.
Those that have been criticizing and alleging repression of the broadcast media, which they broadly interpret as efforts or attempts to gag the press, the entire press, frame the issues of applicable broadcast fees and compliance with the Broadcasting Code in a manner that obscures the real issues and muddle facts in order to incite public opinion against the NBC and by extension get at the government of the day.
Contrary to this soft blackmail, those stoking the fire of hatred against the NBC DG usually omit to mention that there is one form of broadcasting fee or the other applicable to each jurisdiction across the world. In some countries owners pay radio and television licences fees on their gadgets, on some other countries it is the broadcasters that pay, while there is yet another instance of an hybrid arrangement whereby the users and broadcasters pay certain fees. Of course, these fees are paid to the industry regulator, which in the case of Nigeria is the NBC.
What our rabble-rousing critics are fantasizing about in Nigeria is a scenario in which broadcasting stations do not pay any kind of fee and they simply exist along the model of internet radio and television, unregulated. They are quick to point at examples in Europe and the United States of America without familiarizing themselves with the dynamics of these countries or jurisdictions. The online broadcasters in these countries are not unregulated as our activists here in Nigeria want to think, in fact they are over regulated – the parent companies of these online radio and televisions still must pay applicable taxes and fees as corporate citizens of the countries in which they are domiciled. Advertisers also wield powers over such platforms, no advertiser will be overtly support a platform that is acting against national interest, which means NBC’s role of protecting national interest in the broadcast industry is something that corporate institutions in other countries actively assist in implementing.
Another fact that is glossed over by the critics is the fact that a broadcaster’s inability to pay requisite fees is indicative of systemic lack of capacity to operate and thrive as a business. A cursory review will show that the stations that are in default on these fees are the ones that are in the habit of owing staff salaries or simply not paying their staff at all, which unleashes an army of unpaid media workers on the system, who in turn depend on blackmail, extortion and other unprofessional conducts to make end meet. The situation is a reminder that more fare reaching reforms are needed in the broadcast industry, more than Mr. Ilelah is presently implementing. For instance, it is no longer practical, neither is it desirable to continue to ignore the imperative for consolidation in the broadcast industry – practitioners must at this point question the rationale behind one city having 25 FM radio stations that do not pay staff salaries when they can merge into, say five entities, improve their revenue base, conserve resources and meet regulatory obligation, including paying the requisite fees.
The second leg of this matter derives from the low financial capacity arising from broadcast organizations not being professionally run. A station that owes salaries and do not pay license fees, will not have the capability to train its staff. The practice is for these stations to pick people off the streets or straight from school and plod them right in front of cameras or microphones and that is their own idea of broadcasting. There is no training at entry point, no refreshers courses and no targeted training on reporting or covering certain sensitive or emerging issues unless for the few instances when donor organizations or NGOs provide such trainings, which tragically come with certain agendas.
Consequences of this failure to train can be seen in the way some of the staffers of these organization constantly commit faux pas on air. There have been instances when on air personality egg on terrorists report insurgents as if they are a parallel state with rights to challenge the serenity of Nigeria. It also reflects in the normalization of incitement and hate speech on air with some broadcasters unable to divorce themselves from sectarian, ethnic or group affiliations that end up tainting what they feed to their audience with personal biases in contravention of the journalistic ethics to be objective. Recent events in the nation have shown the danger of this parlous situation with broadcast organizations in Nigeria – instead of straddling the middle they have become channels of propaganda for mobilizing their audience against the government irrespective of whether that the people are demanding for is based on facts or not. We have broadcast organizations that do not properly vet the content they put out such that audience classification and content rating has been thrown to the dogs.
We must also not lose sight of the fact that when a broadcast organization holds down a license on which it is not paying applicable fees and is not being optimally operated then it is a waste of scarce resources – the spectrum and frequency on which it transmits could have been better utilized by another organization that possibly has a more robust approach to existing as a business. We must not as a nation steep ourselves in this culture of waste whereby an organization that is owing operation and licence fees is allowed to keep flaunting the rules simply because the regulator has been blackmailed into staying inactive in order not the accused of stifling press freedom. The reality is that freedom comes with responsibilities and those responsibilities include an organization paying what it owes the country and not operating in a manner that jeopardizes national interest.
The charge to Mr. Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) therefore is that he must make his organization stand its ground as a regulator who has the burden of sanitizing the system and rid it of quacks. The blackmail of those pressuring it to look away is something it must ignore, press ahead with making debtors pay what they owe and create an environment that restores trust and confidence in the industry. If the reforms is implementing has to ruffle feathers then he cannot afford to shy away from that because that is the assignment the country has entrusted to him.
It is pertinent to at this point admonish those behind the attacks on NBC to note that what they are doing is unfair and uncharitable as it has consequences for the country’s long-term stability. Broadcast organizations have always been free to the extent that if press freedom is to be gauged based on that industry alone then Nigeria’s press freedom will be rated high because our radio and television stations have always been free. So, rather than constantly framing national issues from the negative perspective, these activists should approach the issues from the positives they should rather be sensitizing citizens on the need for everyone to support NBC to do better.
It bears mentioning that the broadcast organizations should engage the NBC in instances where they are unable to meet their financial obligations after making genuine efforts to. This is a better approach instead of recruiting critics to undermine their regulator. The damage being done is one that the NBC will survive but one that some media houses may not weather in the long run. The efforts some of these organizations have committed to fighting their regulator in a bid not to pay pending debts could have been channelled into repositioning their companies to perform better while supporting the NBC to offer them the necessary regulatory backing. They should explore new funding models that take the emergence of social and new media into consideration so that they can better compete cross-industry and cross-platform. When they being to treat the NBC as a resource instead of a problem they will see positive results.

Adesina wrote this piece from Badagry, Lagos.

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Tinubu: Sowore Got It Wrong – By Sadiq Abubakar

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Wannabe activist and purveyor of Revolution Now, Omoyele Sowore needs urgent help. Sowore needs saving from himself, and Nigerians have to be saved from his warped perception of reality. The self-styled activist took to Twitter a couple of days ago to malign a frontrunner among the All Progressive Congress (APC)presidential aspirants and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in a move that rolled his lack of depth and mischief into one puke-inducing flop. He got it wrong and should have corrected the wrong impression he created had he the lightest iota of honour.

Sowore tweeted about a video of Tinubu’s intervention on the insecurity bedevilling the country in a manner that attempted to cast the APC Presidential candidate in a bad light. Tinubu had in the video recommended massive recruitment of the youth into the military to counter the scourge of terrorism and banditry that the country is facing.

Right thinking Nigerians already know the import of massively recruiting the youth into the military, which would be a win-win situation for the country. However, for the sake of the few brain-damaged people that see Sowore as an activist or a messiah, the importance of such recruitment is tremendous.

First, as Tinubu rightly explained, terrorists, bandits and other criminals are practically in competition with the government and organized private sector to recruit unemployed youth. Recruiting these youth into the military immediately makes them unavailable to people with the intent of indoctrinating them into lives of vices and crime. This will practically reduce the number of criminals the country has to combat by up to half; the flip side is that these numbers of recruited youth then become available to counter those that have fallen on the wrong side of the law.

Secondly, by employing such youth, more money will filter into the system and consequently improve the economy of individuals. This is one of the best approaches to wealth distribution yet, it puts money in the pocket of young persons without it seeming like handouts.

Additionally, there is the added advantage that more young persons will have combatant training, which would tilt the odds against terrorists now believing every Nigerian they decide to abduct is fair game. Even when these youths eventually leave the military, they remain in a position to coordinate their communities to repel marauding bandits and other criminal elements.

Furthermore, in peacetime, these youth can be deployed to undertake non-combatant roles like providing agro-support, engineering works, and emergency and rescue services. One would have thought that a Sowore, who posture as an international citizen, would know that this is the practice in several countries that have large military populations for peacetimes.

Tragically, Sowore got it wrong on his tweet that he attempted to use to disparage Tinubu. The APC presidential hopeful got it right, as he mostly does, and the Revolution Now pretender is way out of his league. He is totally incapable of the kind of nationalistic thinking that Tinubu brings to issues pertaining to Nigeria.

Unfortunately, there are going to be more of such misguided and malicious tirades from Sowore in the coming days, weeks, and months until the 2023 Presidential Election is conducted, and he is again proven to be a comedian, a calling at which he has proven to be a charlatan. There is a well-established pattern that is worrisome. Sowore has fully deployed the publication arm of his business, Sahara Reporters, as a tool for attacking Tinubu’s reputation. Sahara Reporters has committed itself to frame all discourses about Tinubu from a subjective perspective intended only to damage his reputation.

The only good thing about this so far is that those who know are aware that Sowore’s attacks on Tinubu, whether on Twitter, Sahara Reporters, or any other platform, are not driven by a patriotic zeal of an activist who wants the best for Nigerians. Sowore’s tirades against Tinubu first became noticeable after the former Lagos State Governor called his bluff when he attempted to blackmail Tinubu with the threat of publishing a list of Abuja property that he thought belonged to Tinubu.

In the years that have followed since Tinubu called Sowore’s bluff by refusing to succumb to blackmail since he did nothing wrong in the first place as his hands are clean, the publisher of Sahara Reporters has published one lie after the other in the expectation that one would stick. As providence would have it, it turned out that it is Sowore that is continually exposed as a fraud – whether as an activist or a journalist.

Instead of futilely attempting to ridicule Tinubu, Sowore should focus more on his comical entry into the 2023 presidential race. Perhaps his website, Sahara Reporters, would have created more brain-damaged people that will vote for him to increase his vote from the ridiculous 33,953 he polled in 2019 Presidential Election.

While at it, Sowore would do well to reach out to the neocons he is running errands for and impress on them that after years of being their agent of destabilization, their goal of breaking Nigeria remains unattainable, especially with a Tinubu presidency impending. A Tinubu presidency would do great things for the youth as it would give its all to address unemployment, which is the greatest challenge the youth face. If Sowore does not understand this then there is no way to help him.

Abubakar wrote this article from Kaduna.

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Pam: Appraising an uncommon achiever at NCPC – By Abraham Adekunle

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Following the approval of the appointment of Rev Yakubu Pam as the Executive Secretary Of Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) by President Muhammadu Buhari, there have been tremendous positive improvement in the Christian-Muslim relationship across the nation.

One would debate less on such turnover because of the personality that stood as a gap bridge. Rev YAKUBU PAM is a man of peace and a great patriot who has used his current position to preach peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians. At a time the country’s corporate existence is being threatened by insurgency, insurrection and other criminal Vices, it takes men of courage like Pam to speak out in support of one, united, and indivisible Nigeria. He is a notable personality who has refused permitting self-appraiser in being in the spot light for any reason.

Rev Yakubu Pam has proven himself an excellent man, a man of good faith and integrity before his appointment as the executive secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrimage Commission. With heading other bodies of the Christian faith, including the Northern part of the-Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Inter-Religious Council; and the Internally Displaced Persons, Rev Yakubu Pam had shown Nigerians what a peaceful man he is.

In a country where tribal war seems to abound and issues seem to come up regularly, Rev Yakubu has remained detribalized, being for the unity and peace of the nation rather than choose a side of the nation to belong to.
Rev Yakubu Pam is an excellent leader as since his appointment by the president of the federal republic of Nigeria on the 26th of June, 2020, he has led judiciously, showing a true example to the people about what a leader and a good man of God, a good citizen of the nation should be like.

He is a quintessential leader, a teacher and a peace lover as he advocates for peace with every chance he gets. He is a man who has never taken his service in God’s vineyard for granted, he has been serving faithfully since 2020 and still is, even till now.

When one looks at his profile, one can see that his journey of faith and service did not begin today. It has been a journey that had long been in play, with the many Christian education that the reverend got as he grew in faith and in person.
Service like this requires great personalities. People who are careful in dealing with men, knowing that their position was chosen by God and no one else, we have seen men battled storms but later prevailed, but many have attained the positions of this height, and loose faith of their humble beginnings. The Reverend has however retained his humility, keeping in mind God’s role in his life and growth.

The commission is blessed to have been led by Rev Yakubu Pam as he has since then impacted the nation in many ways. His appointment has set many records for high standard of leadership in Nigeria which has led many stakeholders acclaim to this fact severally in conferences and the likes. It is amazing what God can do using a great leader, Reverend Yakubu Pam has shown himself as the great man who constantly contributes to easing the plight of the people.

The Reverend is a leader that listens to the people and hears their voices, and then speak out on their behalf on several occasions. He has spoken up about the killings in the North, urging and pushing for a better government. The people’s plight has always been his plight,

Rev Yakubu has restored transparency to the commission and since then has set the pace for better leadership in other parts of the country. He restored the people’s faith in the having religious leaders in politics and having them deliver and promptly too.

He has also been termed an icon of peace which is a fact that cannot be disputed. He has worked endlessly since his appointment as the executive secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrimage Commission, we all know this, since his appointment he has also won a bunch of awards to further solidify the fact that he is not just anybody and he isn’t a man who doesn’t know how to go about working properly.

He is working, we see it. He is speaking up, he is not a hypocritical leader, he speaks for Justice and for peace and oneness which are things that this nations seems to lack most of the time. Reverend Yakub Pam has been one of the most accountable leaders that NCPC has ever had, his accountability is seen and has been recognized by all, indeed he has the traits of an excellent leader.

People have often felt being a religious leader in a political setting woud corrupt the minds of the leader and make the aid leader adopt characters that are unheard of in the religious setting, but this hadn’t been the case with Rev Yakubu, he has proven to us over and again that a Christian can be in politics and still let God use him, still let God lead , a Christian can be in politics for service, to serve God and the people. He is changing the narrative and it is purely amazing.

Humanity is nothing without selflessness, or a dying world redeemable without a savior. Rev PAM is a man with great optimism that brings to the position more than 30 years of leadership experience in the Christian Community, coupled with a deep understanding of promoting Inter-religious harmony and conflict resolution in the Northern parts of the country. Rev Yakubu is a living legend to be reckon with.

Adekunle wrote this piece from Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos.

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Northern APC Youth, women in mother of all rally to Villa, adopts Tinubu as Consensus candidate

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Millions of women and youths from across the nineteen northern states in Nigeria today converged on Abuja and marched to the Presidential villa to demand the adoption of All Progressive Congress, APC National leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the consensus candidate of the party in the forthcoming Presidential election. 

The Nigerians said Tinubu is the only person fit and capable among all those that have been declaring their intention to turn around the economy of the country. 

Led by Patriot Yakubu Dauda, they said the APC Youth and Women in the 19 Northern States of the federation have been actively involved in the activities of the party through several ways that have positioned the party firmly in the hearts of the people.

He said, “We wish to inform Mr President that we have also been actively mobilizing support for the party at the grassroots levels across the 19 northern states in preparation for the 2023 general elections.

“The response of the people has been encouraging. We wish to use this medium to inform Mr President that the APC as a party has continued to have a stronghold amongst the people who have been beneficial to the various social security initiatives implemented across the country in critical sectors such as agriculture, education and health.

“Mr President, in the course of our daily engagements, across the northern states, we have been inundated with an astronomical level of support for the presidential aspiration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His acceptance level amongst the grassroots is phenomenal. One might be tempted to think he has his origin from the North.

“As a group with a vast network amongst youths and women in the 19 northern states in the county, including the Federal Capital Territory, we can say without fear or favour that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is widely accepted as the prime candidate for our great party in the coming 2023 general elections. This is on the heels that he has been able to build bridges across the country in service to the country and humanity through ways too numerous to mention” he added

The group said after extensive deliberations and consultations, the APC Youth and Women in the 19 Northern states, including the federal capital territory, have elected to adopt Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the consensus presidential candidate of the APC in the 2023 general elections.

Dauda saud It is the firm conviction of the group  that the candidature of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is well in place for guaranteed victory for the APC because of his broad appeal across religious groups and ethnicities.

“The candidature of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is such that it resonates with the ordinary man and woman on the street. They see him as their role model, and he has indeed touched their lives in ways too numerous to mention.

“Mr President, the adoption of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tunubu as the consensus presidential candidate of the APC is a national concern for the party and its teeming supporters. They are desirous of not just ensuring the party comes out victorious at the general elections but also a president that would sustain the tempo of your laudable initiatives.

“Mr President, as the leader and father of our great party, we are grateful to God for gifting you to Nigeria when the country was on the verge of annihilation. You indeed remain God sent to Nigeria.

“It, therefore, becomes imperative that our great party presents a candidate in the mould of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has the clout and all other requirements to sustain those laudable initiatives of this present administration.

“Mr President, may we humbly use this medium to inform you that there is a need for your kind and urgent intervention towards adopting Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the consensus presidential candidate of the APC. In our opinion, this would go a long way in positioning the party for electoral success come 2023” he added

Dauda added that there is no gainsaying that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a well-loved and adored Nigerian whose antecedence speaks volumes of selfless service to the country right from 1999 in his capacity as the executive governor of Lagos state.

“Mr President, we must not also forget the numerous contributions of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the formation and sustenance of our great party, as it is on record that he has been selfless without fail since our great party come into existence.

“The Concerned APC Youth and Women in the 19 Northern States, including the Federal Capital Territory, supports the candidature of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the 2023 presidential elections in the country.

“We are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that all stakeholders in our great party would adopt the endorsement of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the consensus candidate of the party for the presidential elections.

“Mr President, we thank you for your selfless service to the country. We pray that God continues to bless you with wisdom and understanding as you pilot the affairs of our great nation” he added

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