How to contain the existing threats to national security, peace and unity, was in the front burner as stakeholders drawn from the Arts and Culture sector in Nigeria gathered in a one-day workshop at the Rotunda hall of the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, on Thursday, April 18th, 2013.
The Quarterly National Media Workshop for Arts Writers/Editors, the 9th in the series organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), had as its theme, “Culture as a Panacea in the Peaceful Co-existence of a Multi-ethnic nation: The Role of the Media,” and was chaired by an eminent theatre scholar and social critic, Professor Femi Osofisan, of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan.
Delivering a paper, titled, “Nigeria’s Season of Anomie: Fashioning a Cultural Media Tool-Kit,” Professor Foluke Ogunleye, of the Department of Dramatic Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, highlighted the imperatives of the mass media in disseminating information to influence norms, societal rules of dos and don’ts through reinforcements, persuasion and sometimes, outright condemnation and destruction of obsolete norms.
What society expects from the mass media, she surmised, was for media professionals to reflect and then affect the society, as the media had a voice to speak, in order to point out our cultural symbols, values, heroes/heroines and demand certain things on behalf of the people.
Mr. Alvan Ewuzie, Associate Editor of the Sun Newspapers, in his paper, stressed what members of the press must do to build a strong Nigeria, where security of lives and property are guaranteed because the citizens were aware about their cultural values and therefore conform to the set rules of expected behaviour or codes as propagated and transmitted by the mass media.
In his paper, titled, “Culture as a Panacea in the Peaceful Co-existence of a Multi-ethnic Nation: The Role of the Media,” Ewuzie stated that the media should bring to public attention the efficacy of deploying cultural events in fostering unity amongst the multi-ethnic groups with the same potency as football in a country like Nigeria that is challenged by security infractions.
He recommended a 10-point Agenda to media organisations through which the latent power of the media can bring cultural issues to public attention in order to transform Nigeria for good, including funding, ownership, patronage, publicity, and strategic planning.
The limits to the role Arts Writers/Editors could play was aptly captured by Jahman Anikulapo, former Editor, The Guardian on Sunday, Lagos, in his presentation, observed that having been in the media for 25 years, he could, having left the newsroom, confidently discuss the challenges facing arts journalists.
He noted that it is Editors of newspaper titles that determine what news items get front-page or not and that most Editors now reason that a newspaper is purely in the print business to make money, which is very unfortunate, and that unless arts journalists live up to expectation, their desks will always be pushed to the background.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, had, in his welcome address, called on the media to step up its vital role of educating Nigerians on the tremendous benefits of embracing peaceful co-existence through effective reporting and promotion, at all times, our cultural values of honesty, hard work, sanctity of human life, respect for elders and constituted authority, Nigeria’s unity in diversity, and love for our dear country.
In his contribution, Professor Abdul Yesufu of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), suggested that the media, in collaboration with NICO, should endeavour to affect public behaviours beginning with the attitudinal reorientation of Nigerians.
The reactions from many Arts Writers and Editors present for the workshop indicate grave concern that media ownership determines the news angle of reporters, as some employers are clearly or deliberately parochial in their disposition, a flaw, Ben Tomoloju, veteran Arts Writer and former Editor of The Guardian Newspaper, attributed to misguided government policies of corporate ownership of media organisations.
The constraints of an Art Writer/Editor is further complicated, according to Sola Balogun, Art Editor, Daily Sun, because of the real or feigned ignorance by some Editors, on the importance of the Culture Desk in media houses.
Also present at the workshop were Mr. Fred Aja Agwu (representative of the Director General of NIIA), Chief Reuben Ekundaye (NIKE Art Gallery), Dr. Mande Samaila (National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN), Mr. Adewale Phillip (Swift Access), Mr. Samuel Osaze (Coral Arts Foundation), and Bola Arokoyo.
Members of NICO management that attended the workshop, include, Prince Bamidele Olusa (Training School), Mr. Godson Ordu (Finance & Accounts), Mr. Nelson Ebi Campbell (Deputy Director/SA-ES), Mr. Alex Omije (Dep. Director, Protocol), Mr. Ohi Ojo (Deputy Director/Coordinator, South-West Zone), and Dr. Dipo Kalejaiye (Deputy Director/Head, Academics), among others.
Corporate Affairs, NICO