By Prof Ladi S. Adamu,

Being a paper presented at the Northern Broadcast Media Owners Association (NBOA) AGM in Kano on 21st February, 2022.

INTRODUCTION

Insecurity can be defined as the state of being subject to danger or injury, an anxiety experienced when one feels insecure. It can also be described as the state of being open to danger or treat. Scholarly, insecurity has been argued as a feeling of uncertainty, a lack of confidence or anxiety about oneself. Other scholars view insecurity as an absence of protection or safety. These scholars argue further that insecurity entails peril, deathtrap; ambiguity, dearth of fortification, and lack of security. Conversely, insecurity is the state of being prone or vulnerable to danger or threat of danger. In the last few years, insecurity in Nigeria has exacerbated beyond insurgency to now include banditry and organized kidnapping. This has put the nation at red alert. Till date, no one has proffered solutions to Nigeria’s rising cases of insecurity. 

Communication has been recognized worldwide as an essential and critical aspect of human life without which interaction between man to man and man and his environment will be difficult. It is cement that binds family together, facilitate good inter-group relationships and solidify friendliness and mutual understanding within the international system. At the heart of this various communication system and incorporating other forms of communication in its service is mass communication which disseminates information to large, heterogeneous audience through the use of the mass media.

In contemporary global world of today where technology has assumed central role in human activities; the relevance and role of the mass media in the society has taken an unprecedented shape fostering peace, building bridges of friendships and at the same time, igniting and escalating crisis as Abdulrahman (2003) posits that , “there is a need to know that in every conflict situation, communication plays a vital and fundamental role in its escalation to a violent or armed conflict as well as being a necessary prerequisite for its prevention, management and resolution.”  

The role of the media in inter-group conflict has been a subject of considerable academic debate.  There are broad and divergent interpretations of media’s role in inter-group conflict. The first view holds that media have stimulated, encouraged and or helped to spread riotous behaviour. The second states that the media have been too compliant with authorities in helping to conceal or misrepresent civil unrest and in so doing have served conservative political ends.  Thirdly, the media have, on several occasions, been criticized for vividly reporting and even for encouraging civil disorder, as in Prague in 1968, Peking and Beijing in 1989 and in Rwanda in 1994.  The direction of comment in the media performance thus depends on the perspective adopted by an observer and on the ideological definition of the events (Mc Quail, 1997). 

Nigeria is faced with an unprecedented wave of different but overlapping security crises – from kidnapping to extremist insurgencies – almost every corner of the country has been hit by violence and crime. Audu Bulama Bukarti, a senior analyst on Sahel security at the Tony Blair Institute, says the scale of the insecurity threatens the very fabric of Nigerian society: “With every attack, human lives are lost or permanently damaged and faith in democracy and the country is diminishing.” 

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Nigeria’s Five Biggest Security Threats:

According to BBC Research, the following are Nigeria’s biggest security threats:

1. Jihadism

Jihadists have taken over some communities in the North East and North West, with several displaced people, and taking advantage of Nigeria’s poverty and other security challenges to fuel its extremist ideologies. According to the UN, by the end of 2020, conflict with the group had led to the deaths of almost 350,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

2. Clashes Between Herders and Farmers

There have been violent disputes between nomadic animal herders and farmers in Nigeria for many years. But disagreements over the use of land and water, as well as grazing routes, have been exacerbated by climate change and the spread of the Sahara Desert, as herders move further south looking for pasture. Thousands have been killed in clashes over limited resources.

3. Banditry and kidnapping

One of the scariest threats for families in Nigeria is the frequent kidnapping of schoolchildren from their classrooms and boarding houses. More than 1,000 students have been abducted from their schools since December 2020; many only released after millions of naira are paid as ransom. Some of the kidnappers are commonly referred to as “bandits” in Nigeria. These criminals raid villages, kidnap civilians and burn down houses.

4. Separatist insurgency

A separatist group called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been clashing with Nigeria’s security agencies. IPOB wants a group of states in the south-east, mainly made up of people from the Igbo ethnic group, to break away and form the independent nation of Biafra.

5. Oil Militants

Well-armed militants staged numerous attacks on oil installations in the early 2000s. In the oil-producing south south region, security challenges are nothing new. It is Nigeria’s biggest foreign export earner, and militants in the Niger Delta have long agitated for a greater share of the profit. They argue the majority of the oil comes from their region and the environmental damage caused by its extraction has devastated communities and made it impossible for them to fish or farm 

Nigeria Media Scene

Nigeria’s media scene is one of the liveliest in Africa. State radio and TV operate at federal and regional levels. There are currently 819 TV and Radio stations in Nigeria today. All 36 states and Abuja the federal city run at least one radio network and a TV station. There are also hundreds of radio stations and terrestrial TV networks, as well as cable and direct-to-home satellite offerings. Similarly, radio is a key source of information.  International broadcasters like the BBC, VOA etc, are popular. However, rebroadcasts of foreign radios are banned. State TV claims it reaches tens of millions of viewers, while the main privately-owned networks are market leaders in some cities (BBC, 2020). 

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There are more than 100 national and local press titles, some of them state-owned. These include well-respected dailies, tabloids and publications which champion ethnic interests. By July 2019, there were 122.7 million active internet users, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission. Mobile phones are often used to access the web. Most internet users are young, educated and urban. WhatsApp is used by 85% of social media users, followed by Facebook (78%). 

Ways the Mass Media Fuel Insecurity

The mass media at times can knowingly or unknowingly contribute to crisis and insecurities through their reportage. Some of the ways they do that include the following:

1. Media Ownership

Media ownership landscape in Nigeria is deeply rooted in ethnic, political and religious contexts and disparities. These ownership patterns affect media coverage in the nation. Similarly, there are visible editorial differences between the southern and northern media. Media ownership in Nigeria is deeply influenced by perceived necessity to fight political/economic opponents, to access public funds through propaganda and politicization of media content and to represent interest of a group. These have served as impediment to adhering to ethical codes of conduct. 

2. Framing of Reportage

Framing of news reports especially casting of headlines and the language used can heighten tension during the time of crisis or upheaval. Also inaccurate reports emanating from figures of casualty exacerbates ethnic, religious and political pressure.

3. Photoshop

The 21st century has seen an increase in doctored or image manipulation of videos and even photography. Also, electronic manipulation by computer software or editing can completely alter viewers’ perception of events on Television programmes. Audio can also be manipulated on radio programmes by use of additional soundtrack. Where the mass media tampers with the footages of event can lead to insecurity.

4.  Political Songs

Political songs are used to satirise or blackmail opponents in sponsored programmes on private radio and television stations especially in Kano and Kaduna. Such songs heightens tension in community which in turn lead to insecurity.

5. Propaganda-Disinformation

As observed by Nwodu, Ezeoke & Ezeaka (2021), the propaganda-disinformation dimension postulates that due to the unrestricted participation in the mass media, most especially the social media domain and openness of various social media platforms, users tend to abuse them by posting content that promote pernicious propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. Propaganda thrives in lies, misinformation, inflammatory language, and other negative communication to achieve an objective related to a cause, goal or political agenda. Pernicious or negative propaganda promotes half-truth and builds a following (Achor & Moguluwa, 2012). 

It has been observed that those who use social media platforms to champion causes and campaign against bad governance post content or use comments that promote half-truth and total distortion of facts. One popular propaganda form used by both government and civil groups are name calling and use of coercion to obtain compliance from target audience.

Those who thrive in propaganda through the media, use different manipulative techniques to sway people’s opinions on contentious issues. Techniques such as loaded words, vague terms, snob appeal, bandwagon, transfer, unreliable testimonial, and name calling. The act of name-calling is a simple and effective means of loaded words usage, which many political groups have used to disparage opposition, quell dissent and scapegoat groups of people (Achor & Moguluwa, 2012).

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6. Arm Chair Journalism

When the media does not go to the field to cover event themselves, and if the rely heavily on purchasing news from wire services, it can lead to poor reportorial, most especially during crises or conflict. Arm chair journalism is worst because, such journalists seat in the comfort or their homes and cook up stories which can lead to chaos in the country or fuel crises because their stories will not rely on first-hand information.

7. Peddling False Information

Mainstream media must use social media tools intensively in order to defend the truth, present the correct information and balance opinions. Another negative effect of the overuse of social media platforms by mainstream media to convey information and opinions, where the mass media gives users with matching political views to exchange one-sided information and opinions that suit their own convictions, reinforcing them even further, even if those were based on false information.

8. Media over-reports or exaggeration

When the mass media engages in sensationalism, this is the term attributed to the style of media that is full of exaggeration and manipulation. This style of journalism can fuel insecurity easily in a society.

9. When the media lies

When the mass media alters truth or outright lies to appease the public image of parties involved, or to induce a current of emotion in the public to sway public action, this can fuel insecurity.

10. Biased media 

Many sources of media are biased. They have political agendas that encourage or discourage various types of thought and action. Using biased opinions without verification can fuel insecurity. There are different types of bias that can be detected in media reporting that can easily fuel insecurity if care is not taken. They include: ideological bias, bias of story selection, bias of omission, personal bias spin, selection of source bias and story placement bias. 

Conclusion and Recommendation

This paper examined the role of the media in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria. The paper emphasized on insecurity and negative media. The paper concludes that there is need for capacity training for journalists on critical analysis and evaluation of conflicts, conflict sensitive journalism, wars, terrorism and extremism. The paper therefore, recommends that professional bodies like the National Broadcasting Commission, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Press Council, the Nigerian Guild of Editors should work with the government, and other relevant stakeholders to develop a code of ethics for reporting terrorism and violent extremism. 

….Prof Ladi S. Adamu is the first Professor of Broadcasting in Northern Nigeria .

– From the Faculty of Social Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Department of Mass Communication, Samaru, Zaria.Tel: 234 80 3310 9560, 234 80 9110 0734 Email: adamusandra@yahoo.com

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