By Adewole Kehinde
National security can also be seen as the protection and preservation of the territory, sovereignty and stability of a country from threats. It entails the freedom to pursue its core values and interest without let or hindrance. National security is a cherished value associated with the physical safety of individuals, groups or nation-states, together with a similar safety of their other most cherished values. It denotes freedom from threats, anxiety and danger.
In a division of labour setting, national security is ensured through security agencies.
The decision-making process concerned with the identification of potentials and actual threats, and the mobilization of resources in frame that promptly ensures the safety and stability of the nation state, while simultaneously, enhancing the promotion of national development.
National interest is settled in Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. The chapter deals with fundamental objectives and directive principles of the state policy. It deals with fundamental obligations of the government – the government and the people, political objectives, educational objectives and foreign policy objectives. Other issues that deal with fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy are environmental objectives, directive on Nigerian cultures, obligations of the mass media, national ethics and duties of the citizens. All these are made up of the national interest.
Before the public manifestation of Boko Haram terrorist activities in 2009, Nigeria had been witnessing series of kidnapping of mostly foreign expatriates by militants in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The militants were said to be agitating against what they saw as injustice against their region. They were initially operating in the creeks but once their activities extended to the streets, they constituted palpable insecurity in the south southern region of Nigeria.
The state of insecurity in Nigeria is made obvious by the alarming trend of anti-social acts prevalent in the nation which in the not-so-distant past, were unthinkable and could not be associated with the country. Acts of terrorism by the Boko Haram sect, incidents of kidnapping in the South-East and South-South parts of the country, including agitations by militants in the Niger Delta have become “brands” of crime that have given a negative identity to Nigeria.
This is in addition to other conventional crimes – theft, arson, violent ethno-religious conflicts etc, which the law enforcement agents battle daily. These acts particularly those that involve threat to life have contributed in creating an alarming state of insecurity in some parts of the country. Various reasons have been adduced as the root cause of violence across the nation. Among these are the multidimensional, multicultural personality of Nigeria, corruption, poor governance, unemployment, mismanagement of diversity and conflict issues in the country.
In the past, relationship between the Police and the media had been marked by periods of distrust particularly during the Buhari – Idiagbon and the Babaginda – Abacha era. But since the return of civil rule in 1999, there has been cordial relationship with the media without harassment and intimidation. With the clamp down and seizures of copies of newspapers, the relationship have again suffered some major setback and indeed reminding us of the “dark past” of the military and obnoxious decree 4 of 1984.
The media have increasingly become important parties in the fight against insurgents because of the growing importance of information management in warfare whether they are non-conventional as the case of Boko Haram.
Furthermore, the Police means and objectives of winning the war against terrorism have changed dramatically. The mass media, particularly the press have undergone some transformation in recent years. These developments cannot be under estimated, from 24 hours rolling news stations, on- line media platforms and websites, the Nigerian discerning public and indeed the world has greater sources of information more than ever before, and the Police has a more complex task in information management and intelligence rather than clamping on the press.
Therefore, the Police and the media must build an enduring partnership and consensus to address the new realities of war-reporting in the interest of national security. The need for emphasis on conflict and terrorism reporting in the interest of the public is essential to any discussion on the role of media in combating insecurity in Nigeria.
The media have been accused of contributing in worsening the state of insecurity and conflicts in Nigeria due to reportage primarily aimed at maximizing profit and increasing audience base. After an analysis of media coverage of diversity and conflict issues by various scholars, such as Pate, Nwabueze and Ebeze, they listed out common practices adopted by the media which tend to contribute negatively to crises situations as follows: “selective reporting of prejudicial stereotypes about groups and individuals;” “reporting inter group conflicts out of their fundamental sociological, economic, political and other contexts;” “shallow and episodic coverage;” “total blackout on some groups, individuals or communities;” “use of inflammatory, misleading and sensational headlines to attract sales;” “publishing inflammatory statements against some people or groups as letters to the editor;” “attributing statements by individuals to groups making generalized statements not supported facts,” and so on.
These are activities which the media need to desist from to make meaningful impact in combating insecurity in Nigeria; otherwise the mass media will continue to be seen as fuelling insecurity.
The role of media in Nigeria’s national security is very crucial. In fact, they are key players in the arena of national security. The media function as watchdogs capable of blowing the whistle to call attention to serious national issues. This implies a clear recognition of the fact that the mass media play an important role on issues of national security. The power of the media to decide what the people should read, see or hear has never been in doubt.
What has been in the centre of controversy is the capacity of those in whose hands reside such enormous powers to use that power judiciously and in public interest. Media professionals have the options to use the power of media instruments in their hands either to serve the nation or indulge in self-propelled interest. The media ought to be objective as they carry out their functions.
Issues that affect the general well-being of the people of the country but which can cause disaffection and disunity should be de- emphasized or played down. The reverse has been the case in many Nigerian publications wishing to make quick sales on the platform of sensationalism and journalist scoops.
In situations where the mass media are used as tools for the promotion of sectional interests, rather than for the promotion of national unity, peace, development and integration, the rate of crimes and insecurity will increase tremendously on a daily basis. The use of mass media for the solidification of ethnic and religious sentiments result to the political and economic instability of the country, thereby stunting national development.
The Nigerian media tended to pose inherent dangers to national security in connection with politics, religion, ethnicity, power and revenue sharing which are crucial to a stable and enduring democracy. On the political sphere, newsmen are expected to report about the activities of the politicians and are expected to feed the public with objective information. The newsmen are expected to nose around for information beyond the ovation at political rallies. Mass media are expected to reflect balanced views of the opposing party.
But most media houses do focus attention mostly on the ruling and bigger parties to the detriment of the smaller ones. Although politicians employ newsmen to give them publicity, the newsmen are expected by the members of the public to do what is right. The mass media could constitute threats to security where they collaborate with the political and bourgeoisie class to further marginalize and exploit the citizenry. This causes serious problems of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, diseases, which have brought about the incidence of armed robbery and other violent crimes, youth militarism, ethnic, chauvinism, religious bigotry.
In a democratic society, the media have a responsibility to subject political leaders and security agencies to public scrutiny and to question their policies and competences. It is important, therefore, that the media and the security agencies work together to educate the public, question government about security policies and hold leaders to account.
Independent and socially responsible media facilitate democratic governance. The media can help expose wrong-doings, identify policy alternatives and enable a society to make informed choices about contending issues. The mass media face challenges in performing these functions vis- à-vis the security sector. The media, along with independent civil society actors, play vital roles in monitoring security institutions and therefore, helping to ensure that they are effective and accountable.
Mass media are vital elements in shaping public debate on security policy and decision-making. They have the capability of educating the general public to follow politics and policies. However, a careful balance needs to be struck.
When media expose wrong-doing or misconduct, they function as watchdogs and mechanisms of promoting accountability in governance. Beyond the watchdog function, by presenting accurate, balanced and timely information on issues of interest to the society, journalists help citizens in making informed decisions concerning who governs them and how they are governed. Journalism provides channels of communication in the society, helping to educate, inform, and exchange information between the public and its leaders.
Journalism thus plays a vital role in identifying what is at stake in a particular policy or decision, in framing issues for the public, analysing the issues and identifying possible solutions and alternatives. To the extent that the media constitute an essential element of informed public and responsible governance, it deserves deeper and more sustained study by those in the business of democracy promotion and good governance.
As noted earlier, journalists encounter several challenges in reporting security-related issues and performing their watchdog function. Journalists need some measures of protection so that they are not unjustly accused of libel, sued or imprisoned for “insulting top government officials and high-profiled politicians” when they investigate and bring to limelight, the corrupt practices of these individuals.
Watchdog journalism also requires that the media should enjoy economic independence and freedom; heavy reliance by a media outlet on state-funded advertising is a source of leverage that can be used to stifle critical reporting. In many democratic societies, the watchdog role of the media with regard to security and intelligence agencies is even weaker due to the comparatively few journalists who specialised in the field.
Recent events surrounding the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K-Idris on Herdsmen attack in Benue, Taraba and other North East zones underscore the vital role of the media as watchdog of democracy, and the essential contribution of the journalists to helping citizens make informed decisions concerning who governs them and how they are governed.
It will be recalled that the Inspector General of Police statement that the killings in Benue was as a result of ‘communal clash’’of which infuriate the people of Benue State especially the State Governor. Even if the IGP was not correct or what he termed ‘communal clash’, the media would have asked him to expatiate on what he meant by that but rather made it the headline on all media; print, electronic and online.
To enhance media’s role in national security, security operatives should work in collaboration with media practitioners as watchdogs. The media should rise to their expectation and use their powers judiciously or else national security will continue to be threatened.
The media and the general public must rise to the challenge of combating the rising security challenges in Nigeria. Both parties should embark on communication–based approaches that would effectively stigmatize such acts in the society. While the journalists and other media workers are urged to engage in responsible journalism committed towards discouraging the acts of terrorism in the nation, the public should step-up the use of citizens or civic journalism through the mass media as a way of complementing media workers’ role in exposing and combating insecurity in the country.
The Dapchi Girls’ abduction was another example where the Inspector General of Police was misunderstood even though the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Jimoh Moshood said the IGP was misquoted by the media. After careful analysis of the interview on Channels TV, the IGP was making reference to the return from Abuja; the released Dapchi Girls that were in Abuja on the invitation of President Buhari but the breaking news was that the IGP has decide to stay back in Maiduguri because the abductors of the Dapchi Girls is about to release the last girl that refused to renounce her Christianity for Islam!
Regular workshops on conflict reporting, journalism ethics, mass media in a multi-cultural society, reporting terrorism, professionalism in journalism, among other topics are essential to continually keep media workers abreast with trends in mass media use in combating insecurity in Nigeria.
This would ensure that the mass media are not used to worsen the problem of insecurity due to lack of knowledge on how to handle this specialized journalism area. The media should take cognizance of the fact that security is not just about the Army, the Navy, the Air force, the Police, the Customs, the Immigration, and so on, but also take into account the whole country’s socio-political and economic systems, researches and all activities that go into normal civilian life.
The mass media should also cover the totality of security sector and security community, non-statutory security institutions and civil societies, as well as the internal and international processes that are germane to security and insecurity issues including the major aspects of regionalization and globalization of insecurity.
The Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris, with his wealth of experience at the United Nations New York, he understood the International Policing Standard handling conflict such as herdsmen attack, kidnapping and Terrorism. No wonder he has recorded the highest number of nipping kidnaping and cattle rustling in the bud to the barest minimum.
As the administrative head of the Nigeria Police, the Inspector General of Police did the right thing by spending a week and some days in Benue and Nasarawa state respectively and ensuring that the DIG Operations, Joshak Habila remained in Benue State to date in order to ensure Peace and Stability returns to Benue State as directed by President Buhari.
The President was very aware that the Inspector General of Police was in Benue because the IGP returned to Abuja on the 14th of January to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day of January 15th, 2018.
Some Politicians who are not really happy with the speedy progress of the IGP might have influenced several media crises attached to the him but we have a listening and considerate President in Buhari who hears from both sides before taking necessary actions. The mass media especially newspapers, radio and television broadcasting in Nigeria need to enhance and sustain the security of the nation. Areas of broadcasting that involve national security matters should be delineated from those that do not; the mass media should never be used as divisive instruments among the people of Nigeria but rather should be used for the promotion and consolidation of national unity and integration.
The media should purvey information with respect for human dignity. Such respect connotes the defence of national values. Information dissemination should be done without malice against a perceived enemy, such that the intention is to embarrass the person. The major aim of information dissemination should be to inform the people better and improve their lot. Gatekeepers must have a sense of national security and seek to improve on it at all times.
Thus, whatever does not enhance the perpetration or perpetuation of our established values should be discarded. Gatekeepers must abide by the rule of law as well as the established ethics guiding their profession. All laws that hinder the performance of the duty of gatekeepers should be repudiated.
It is however fitting to end this piece by quoting the maxim of Pope Gringory XVI, as follows: “but if the truth causes a scandal, then let a scandal arise than the truth is abandoned. So go ahead, publish and broadcast it if it is the truth”
Adewole Kehinde is a Journalists and Public Affairs Analsyt based in Abuja. He can be reached via email@example.com