It is always a delight for me to address the General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON). This year, there is the extra delight in addressing you, because the theme you have chosen for the General Assembly, which is ‘Broadcasting: Between public interest and national interest’, is very apt. I will speak more on this later, but first, let me congratulate BON for this double-barreled event: The 75th General Assembly and the 20th AGM. I wish you a successful deliberation in both instances.
2. Your organization, BON, is a very important body, bringing together private and public broadcast stations, including the terrestrial radio, television, Direct-To-Home, Digital Terrestrial Television and Multimedia Distribution System. The importance of BON is accentuated by the fact that broadcasting is a powerful tool.
Because of its wide reach and immediacy, broadcasting remains a powerful tool, and has a great role to play in fostering national unity and development. Used wrongly, it can also be a tool for disunity, divisiveness and disharmony, all of which are inimical to development.
3. Let me use this opportunity to most sincerely thank all BON members for the great role they played, and are still playing, in sensitizing Nigerians and providing them with life-saving information on COVID-19, the deadly virus that has killed close to five million people worldwide and infected over 200 million people. With no cure yet, the best measure to tackle the pandemic remains accurate
information, especially on the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions.
Broadcast organizations, both private and public, are indispensable to communicating information to the public, and they have done a great job of that, in most cases free of charge, since the virus landed in Nigeria. Thank you for this positive use of the power of broadcasting.
4. I want to implore broadcast organizations to continue to leverage on their power and reach to foster national unity and development. I make this appeal because a section of the broadcast media has been lending its platform to agents of divisiveness, hatred, disunity and misinformation. At a time that our nation is facing a big challenge of insecurity and threats to national unity, divisive and hate messages as well as misinformation being peddled by certain broadcast media constitute a great risk. Apart from during the civil war, I cannot
think of any other time in our nation’s history that the role of the media in general, and the broadcast media in particular, has been more important in dousing tension and forging national cohesion.
5. Anyone who doubts the double-edged power of the broadcast media to foster national unity or trigger disharmony should read about the role of a broadcast station, RTLM, in the 100 days of the genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead in Rwanda in 1994. The station incited hatred and violence against Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the genocide.
6. Today in Nigeria, some broadcast stations revel in lending their platforms to those whose stock-in-trade is to spew hate as well as angry and divisive rhetoric and misinformation. Someone went on national television to say that the army officer that was abducted from the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna on Aug. 24, 2021, had been killed, only for the officer to be rescued alive shortly after. Some broadcast stations lent their platforms to a very senior public official whose stock-in-trade is divisive rhetoric and unjustified castigation of Mr. President. Of course, we cannot forget how a television station reported erroneously that the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja was set ablaze by hoodlums during the EndSars protest, or how another television station reported, also erroneously, that a workman
atop a bank building in Lagos was a sniper. But for providence, these false reports could have triggered an orgy of violence.
7. Let us therefore resolve to use our platforms to serve both public and national interest, rather than the interest of a few naysayers and agents of destabilization. Let us harness the power of broadcasting to inform, educate and entertain our people in a positive way. Let us deny deadenders the use of our various platforms. Let us remember that it is because we have a country that we can have
8. Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are not asking you to shut out those who are critical of government or those who have opposing views. All we are saying is that agents of disunity, divisiveness, misinformation and hate should not be allowed to use private and public broadcast stations to achieve their goals.
9. On our part, we will continue to partner with BON, which we consider a reliable ally, to keep the people adequately informed of the activities of government, and also in the successful implementation of key projects like the Digital Switch Over.
10. On this note, I want to once again wish you a successful General Assembly and AGM
11. I thank you all for your kind attention