WHY JOURNALISTS MUST LEAD PEACE ADVOCACY – MR. TONY OYATEDOR
This article was first published in the Sunday Trust Newspaper, on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012.
Tony Oyatedor, the veteran journalist and publisher of Newstime International newsletters. He insists that Nigerian media has the magic wand to bring about peace in the country. He spoke to Sunday Trust. Excerpts
From Nurudeen Oyewole, Lagos.
You have been in journalism for many years, at what point did you choose to become a peace advocate?
Well, like you have rightly noted, I have been practicing for many years before I was called by God to start this advocacy project, and this I have been doing for many years as well. Our organization, the Newstime International Company has been the pivotal through which I have been reaching out to Nigerians and indeed the world on issues that have to do with peaceful co-existence among adherents of various religions. This particular project has taken my team and I across many Nigerian states especially in the north. Aside from this, I also write books, I am the author of the famous book, Leadership which is on sale in many countries of the world. In it, I have predicted many of the challenges Nigeria is currently facing.
So what specifically will you say informs the decision to hold a press conference on violence, militancy, and religious crisis in Nigeria?
What informed our meeting with journalists is based on what has been happening in our country in recent times. It may interest you to know that I had actually predicted some of the things happening in Nigeria today and that we in fact have solutions to the problems. So in direct response to that question, I will say, because of the security challenge in Nigeria today, it is very important that we host the press conference today. The aim is to make it known to the world what has been going on with our country. And you know, journalists have greater roles to play.
You have consistently said the onus of peace advocacy lies with Nigerian journalists, why is this so?
I do not subscribe to the usual blame game. I don’t like accusing somebody of being responsible for one development or the other. Be that as it may, what we intend to do is to make sure that Nigerian journalists join in this solution business for peace in Nigeria. It is not enough for Nigerian journalists to continuously write about disasters, the number of people who are dead, write about violence, and all that. It is now time for Nigerian journalists to partner with good people of God who are working for peace so that the gospel of peace as we are spreading it will spread faster and our country will be better for it.
Every time you write about floods, catastrophes, and all that which denigrade the country, you are not doing yourself any good. There is nowhere in the world where such things are not happening but they play it down a little bit. I am not saying as a journalist you should not write news but I also think it is important that you write solutions.
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Let me cite a personal example in this regard. I stay in Washington DC but anytime I come to Nigeria, I make sure I buy a copy of Nigerian Newspapers every day. It has reached a stage where my vendor thinks I’m crazy for spending so much money on Newspapers. But I’m doing this because I am seeking knowledge. But there was a time my daughter once came home with me and she was picking the newspapers I bought on a daily basis to flip through one after the other. On Monday, the front-page story, “Six people die in an auto accident” she put it down, Tuesday, “Seven people lost their lives in ethnoreligious crisis”. She dropped the paper. Wednesday, same thing, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, same thing. The girl out of frustration packed all the newspapers and threw them away! If you think people are buying your newspapers by writing about catastrophe, and a number of dead people all the time, you are telling a big lie!
So the media is an important factor in the crusade and I hope we all join hands in this campaign so that each and everyone in Nigeria can say we have done our best
Boko Haram crisis has been a recurring decimal in Nigeria in recent months, will you say this is also the creation of the media?
Well, I will say basically this has to do with people having great misconceptions about the terms. There is “haram”, there is also Halal. Halal means good in Arabic while haram means bad. The media should have a way of playing around this through enlightenment campaigns. The word Boko Haram simply means “Western education is bad”
Let’s say you go abroad, you acquire knowledge, and you are using it only for the good of yourself, your wife, and your children, Then Boko will be haram but if you study abroad, come back and make yourself useful and not only to yourself but also to the society, then it will be Boko Halal. If we are to talk about Sir Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, and Nnamdi Azikiwe, then we can say Boko Halal. So we must change the perception and start making it known to the people that when you go abroad and return, you must do well for the people, and invest in the people. Sarduana of Sokoto we were once told, remove the door leading to his room in Kaduna so as to give people access to him. That’s the kind of leadership the media should propagate.
But is the media to be held responsible for leadership inadequacies as well?
In Nigeria, we like to put the blame on people. But I agree that the solution to issues confronting Nigeria starts and ends with leadership. I must ask, When we say leadership, everybody goes to the president. The president cannot do it alone. That is why there are governors, ministers, senators, permanent secretaries, director generals, and every other person including you and me. Having said that, every one of us must publicly repent and turn to God. Let the leaders tell God and the people that they are very sorry for what they have done to this nation. Repent is a big word for change. And how do you change from bad to good or evil to good? It is not about fasting and prayer alone but also about repentance.
Aside from most of the issues so far discussed, how do you see Nigerian media assisting in finding solutions to the problems confronting the country?
It has become pertinent for Nigerian journalists to start writing it in bold language that the only way to have peace in the country is for the adherents of all religions to start reading their holy books. Not just about going to their churches and mosques but getting down to read the books and understand what they are all about. You will be amazed that many Nigerians only run to mosques and churches without really knowing what their religions are all about, whereas all these religions preach fear of God.
But for odds reasons as well, you will discover that many Nigerian journalists do not read and that has trickled down to other members of the populace. In Nigeria today, nobody wants to read but to watch Nollywood movies. When it comes to knowledge, many Nigerians often throw away and I can attribute this to work-shy leadership. What I mean by this is a situation whereby leaders don’t want to work but to look good all the time. We have been giving out copies of the Bible, Quran, Torah, and our newsletters for free and we often put our contact numbers on them, asking people to call us for further information but since 2010, not a single soul has ever called us in respect of this.
The media should assist us in encouraging people to read. When you people start writing about one God and the need for people to start knowing that God through the three holy books, the Quran, Bible, and Torah, you will see that there would be fewer problems.
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