There is a war out there, a raging media war against Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the developing world. This war serves only the interests of the west, and thrives mainly on stereotypes and half-truths. The war also aims to reinforce the servant-master ideology of the west unleashed on a people some of whom unfortunately are caught up in the warped subservient mindset. The war by the western media against the developing economies lends credence to the African proverb that a toad will not grow unless it swallows another.
We are not toads and we refuse to be swallowed by the irresponsible reporting of the western media. Recall the Jeff Koinage incident sometime in 2007 when he paid his way through the Niger Delta for his infamous scoop, this was at a time that Nigeria was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising the Nigerian brand on CNN. Jeff, a Kenyan had obviously fallen under the spell of the mighty American dollar and chose to betray his African brothers riding on the ‘bad news sells’ philosophy.
Many western journalists make their living reporting only an Africa that is war-torn, corrupt and beyond salvage. They are the ones pushing the ‘failed state’ agenda for selfish reasons, an agenda that many Africans have unfortunately bought into. Is it not despicable that many Nigerians will use their mouths to describe their country – Nigeria as a failed state just because some western journalist or pseudo development agency said so? When you read some of these reports, you will think that they were describing some medieval tribe. Meanwhile you will find such development workers feeding fat on exotic food at Nigerian hotels, with the men frolicking at night clubs with young Nigerian women they are able to entice with their tainted dollars. One often wonders which Nigeria or Africa they are describing. When we confess and believe negative thoughts, should we be surprised when the ‘prophecy’ come around in full circle?
The flawed indices often used to describe failed states which these western journalists usually categorise Nigeria into should be rejected. Fine, we have challenges but don’t they also? If Wall Street or the London Square Mile were Nigerian financial addresses and our bankers committed the atrocities of the last year or so which caused the current global financial meltdown, would there have been enough phrases left in the dictionary to use in qualifying us?
Was Bernard Madoff to have come out of Nigeria, how would Nigeria have ranked in the next Transparency International Corruption Perception Index?
In a 2007 article, I had joined issues with Michael Peel, former West African correspondent of the Financial Times who had gone to Chatham House in the UK and presented a damning cooked up report suggesting that the UK was losing billions of pounds to Nigerian fraudsters. I wasn’t arguing blindly to say that we do not have people engaged in the unfortunate activity, no, my argument was that a nation of over 140 million hard working people should not just be condemned in such a manner. Not all Nigerians are criminals and fraudsters.
Maybe if successive Nigerian governments have invested in improving media infrastructure at NTA, NAN, FRCN etc and strengthened their operations through hiring and training of staff as proposed by the Sean McBride commission (see UNESCO’s Many Voices, One World report), then Nigeria would have been in a stronger position to tell her own story, and be able to defend her national interests through objective reporting.
Unfortunately, Nigeria, Nigerians and the rest of the world still rely heavily on inaccurate reports from the stable of the global media networks such as BBC, CNN and the rest. Such negative and biased reports have gone on to influence the perception of Nigeria and Nigerians by both Nigerians (unfortunately) and the rest of the world. It is common to hear some Nigerians refer to news reports on CNN or BBC as if those were sacred hence the expressions ‘I saw it on CNN’ or ‘I heard it on BBC’.
Recently Nigerians woke up to behold a scandalous report on CNN where they declared that Lagos was the worst place on earth to work following Business Week’s report of the same title. In that report, they found it wise to interview the Caucasian managing director of a Nigerian company hoping for some kind of endorsement of their baffling report. If you live in Lagos, you must have by now noticed that the Caucasians whose opinion was sampled to arrive at the skewed report will probably not get the 5-star lifestyle they live in Nigeria anywhere else in the world. With an army of servants ranging from multiple drivers to gardeners, cooks and security men, it is not a surprise that many of them once their assignment comes to an end refuse to go back. In the said report, there was no mention of the efforts of Raji Fashola and Lagosians to upscale the state. It is still in the same Lagos state that Nigerian banks that spend hundreds of millions of dollars advertising their services make the money that they hand out to CNN annually sponsoring programmes such as Inside Africa, African Voices etc. Who is fooling who? Traffic congestion was given as one of the reasons as if they don’t have them in plenty in London or New York. Was that not why London’s former mayor Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge? How pathetic and unfair. Who does not know that road works as are being experienced along the Lekki axis and Western Avenue are only temporary discomfort for a more pleasant road experience in the future, don’t people also experience such during major road and construction works abroad?
A day after the Ministry of Information and Communications launched the ‘Good People Great Nation’ rebranding campaign; the usual suspects, BBC in particular went to town with this headline; ‘Theft mars Nigerian ‘re-branding’. Unfortunately, the other news agencies picked this up, likewise some Nigerian news channels and internet websites. Is it not most wicked that this was the only news worthy item in the ayes of the BBC from a national event such as the re-branding launch which was meant to signal a national re-birth, and the one they considered worthy to report to the rest of the world? Are phones not lost or stolen daily in the UK, America, France? Should we now carry placards over that and report it as if it was such a national tragedy? A few years ago, I was sold a dummy Sprite plastic bottle placed in pack for a mobile phone just by the Napoli Central train station by an Italian man who quickly disappeared as soon as he took my money. Would I now assume that all Italians are con men?
Nigerian journalists who string for BBC and the rest of the other news agencies should indeed retreat from selling their country and people short in the eyes of the world, especially during this time that Nigeria is attempting to make a clean break from a not-so-glorious past.
We can not continue to allow this media siege to go on which offends our sensibilities and hurt our pride as a people, in the words of Igwe Joe Odenigbo, an Abuja based entrepreneur, “it is about time Nigerians boycott some of these networks that don’t mean us well”. He may be right.