Time for TV to help the ordinary folks

‘The TV camera can tell a good story in documenting the true story, not the fake ones, the pervasive insecurity in the land, the mass graves in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Maiduguri and some other states of the federation, the bad roads all over, the perennially declining power supply, the hunger – over 133m people plunged into multidimensional poverty, the fuel queues that have refused to go away, and the general lack of direction and hopelessness while top government functionaries flash toothepaste smiles’

THE election season has the magic of driving me to images of the past, a particular story which brings a wry smile to my face. One day at the National Association of Broadcasters Conference (NAB) in Las Vegas, my friend who used to play very heavy in Nollywood, was interested in buying a particular camera lens to enhance the movie output of his company. 

Meanwhile, a guy got his eyes fixed on my friend, perhaps awaiting his final decision. With his patience exhausted, he moved closer to my friend to find out why he needed to buy such lens. Are you a politician? he asked. 

It was my friend’s turn to be perplexed. Without giving him further opportunity to continue in that perplexity, he explained to my friend that the lens was mostly favoured by politicians who were always anxious to double or multiply the attendance in their political rallies. 

Something crept out to me immediately. One. There is a general belief all over the world that politicians were insincere. Two. That politicians were always ready to distort the truth in order to enjoy some advantages or personal gains. 

Oh, like that young man in New York, a Republican, George Santos, who got into the US Congress with dubious credentials, dubious names and dubious everything to the extent that people are saying, “we don’t really know who this guy is.” Does this story have any similitude with something we know in this part of the world?

These are great times for television. Political campaigns are in full steam as politicians move from one end of the country to another, promising heaven and earth and a little slice of the sun and the moon, jumbled together to give a special blend of our politicians’ capacity for abracadabra. 

There is hardly a day without a live telecast  of major political outings with all the attendant crowd. Is the crowd fake or doubled? I am convinced that what we see on televison is real because the people are so boxed into a surreal existence that some elaborate drama which, our politics provides in real life, is needed to spice up the daily drag of life.

I am happy that some of these stations are making some money out of politics to support their operations. The reason being that when an economy is impaired or failing, one of the first sectors to be affected adversely is the advertising sector. Plus making a little money, the broadcasters are doing well in transporting into our homes the escapades and adventurism of some  politicians whose entertainment value makes Nollywood look small. 

Promises are rolling out in torrents. I will build every road in your domain. Every child will be at school. Your people will no more be hungry. Universities will no longer go on strike for a full academic session, and transportation – rail, road and air – will be easy and pleasurable. And the crowd gets ecstatic and delirious!

Is there something we are missing here? Methinks. 

One of the beauties of television is its immediacy and it’s ability to capture that immediacy for today and store it for tomorrow. For this reason, those who make promises are summoned tomorrow for their promises of today. Have our broadcasters been able to do that?

Not a straight answer yet. I think that before the campaigns gathered momentum last year, the broadcasters were given the scare of their life when the government, through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, warned that fake news and disinformation could pose a serious threat to the 2023 elections. 

It was a subtle warning because, even now, the definition of fake news remains only in the purview of the government, who could use it to achieve any end. Most News which do not enjoy the approval of government and those with the capacity to intimidate, are now branded as fake news and some media practitioners may be trying to unlearn what they were taught at school.

Perhaps, in order to validate the position of the minister, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), which he superintends, also warned against fake news and hate speech during camapaigns. Speaking at a sensitisation programme in Abuja, the NBC Director General, Mallam Balarabe Ilelah,  sent out a warning, saying the Broadcast Code has made generous provisions to deal with those who breach the law. 

The position of the broadcast regulator is in order. For as long as I can remember, the commission has always been proactive in stemming the deviousness of our politicians.  Except that under this government, truth wears a coat of many colours that could only be interpreted from the eyes of top government functionaries. 

What is missing at the moment? The boldness to flash the lives and promises of politicians who are strutting the podium with provocative boldness, making promises in order to pile more layers on top of the ones made previously. Unfortunately, the stations have been cowed into caution. Or is it because they are politically aligned for endless flow of lucre?

I appreciate the boldness of some AM TV presenters and those who handle some special political programmes who are still able to interrogate the arrogance of those who claim to have the license to rule. History is documenting even the on-air harassment which some of them suffer.

But I believe that the past remains in pictures. In January 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan had increased the fuel pump price from N65 to N140 by way of resolving the fuel subsiding torment and creating a realistic pricing for the product. There was outrage. Civil society and political groups gathered for 9 days in Lagos, singing and dancing but in very stout protest to what seem a scandalous elevation in price. The government buckled and the price was pegged at N97 after negotiations. Those who spoke in that programme are still alive, a number of them are in this government, fuel queues have lingered in Nigeria for more than a year because the system has failed the elementary process of demand and supply, and above all, nobody really knows the price of fuel now, not to add diesel and kerosine. Some of those who led that protest are superintending the pains Nigerians suffer at the moment!

In 2015, the political campaigns were intense and words became far cheaper than the epidemic pain troubling the nation today. The President was clueless. He couldn’t  even solve the simple problem of power generation or even to deal with his primary commitment of securing the lives of the people. Promises were made. Nigerians were promised a new world and new experiences by a class of people led by a former military leader who, during his first sojourn in office, broke the spine of the nation.

Words are cheap and time goes at the speed of light. Nearly eight years later Nigerians have gotten into a cul de sac, and the coming elections present an exit point. But as the politicians trend around the nation in their flowing agbada, truth seems interred. Unfortunately, poverty has been so weaponised in Nigeria that it may damage the ability of people to make informed decisions and choices based on the scanty truth that is available. 

This is why I appeal to broadcasters that as the nation heads towards the elections, they need to take advantage of their profession and do much more for the ordinary folks out there by following the laws of the land and the Nigeria Broadcast Code to continue to speak the truth that is backed by law. 

It is true that some candidates will not want to speak on certain platforms. It is also true that some of them have cupboards full of dry skeletons that they are afraid of any one capable of throwing light at them without fear or favour. What I can say here is that the journey from 2015 is shorter than the amount of pain it has unleashed on the people. 

It is not evil for key actors of this administration to trumpet how well they have done for the nation and her people. But what is the truth on the roadwork, from 2015 to 2023. The TV camera can tell a good story in documenting the true story, not the fake ones, the pervasive insecurity in the land, the mass graves in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Maiduguri and some other states of the federation, the bad roads all over, the perennially declining power supply, the hunger – over 133m people plunged into multidimensional poverty, the fuel queues that have refused to go away, and the general lack of direction and hopelessness while top government functionaries flash toothepaste smiles. They all need to be recorded, what damage they did to us as a people.

The TV can do so much more for the people in exposing the backside of the politicians. It will not be fake news nor will it fall in the category of hate speech. 

*Aihe writes from Abuja

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.