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IGP Idris, National Security And The Nigeria Media (1)

By Adewole Kehinde
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The Police Force is the physical personification of a representative government, the closest manifestation of democracy to the people. It is not mind-boggling to describe the Police Force as the face of a government.

The state of the Police Force; its appearance, psychology and respectability delineate the worth and priority of a nation to a tourist and potential investor.

In America, Britain, Japan and industrial nations, the appearance and setting of the Policemen and women speaks volume, if not a thousand words about those nations.

These aforementioned nations held their Police Force in high esteem and duly reward them with attractive salaries and benefits.

Nigerian cannot be an exception if she is serious about building a respectful and prosperous democratic nation.

The 19th Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K-Idris seems to be the most misunderstood IGP under Nigeria’s democratic setting when it comes to National Security and media reportage.

As we all know, the basic functions of news media are to inform, educate and entertain. Through these functions, they sensitize, enlighten and influence members of the public to participate actively in developmental activities and otherwise causes.

The information disseminated by the news media could be harmful or useful to the society. News reporters have a lot of power. What they write can influence decisions, help form public opinions of people and contribute to the general attitude of readers and life in general.

The mass media have the power and capability to bring about change in society for the improvement of the quality of life and “because the media have this ability to report and inform so effectively, it could be said with great confidence that as change agents, they have the power to alter, even where resistance is strong the way of life of a community positively or negatively.”

The mass media can contribute efficiently to national security, only if they perform their duties in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and the social responsibilities of the press.

Security operatives should work in collaboration with media practitioners as watchdogs. Until news media rise to expectations and use their powers judiciously, national security will continue to be threatened.

The role of news media in Nigeria’s national security cannot be overemphasized. The primary functions of the media in any society are to inform, educate and entertain. Beyond these, they serve as watchdogs of the society, agenda setters and force multipliers. Through these functions, the mass media sensitize, enlighten and persuade members of the public to participate actively in developmental activities. To a large extent, the ability of the media to effectively carry out these functions depends on the amount of freedom they enjoy in societies where they exist and operate. However, press freedom is very crucial to the effectiveness of media in any society. The information disseminated by the news media could be either harmful or useful to the society.

A scholar, Sambe once affirms that “as a reporter, you have a lot of power. What you write can influence decisions, help form public opinions of people and contribute to the general attitude of your readers and life in general.” The mass media have the power and ability to contribute enormously to national security, and this can be achieved through the observance of professional ethics and in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. In other words, for the media to contribute meaningfully to national security there is the need for strict adherence to professional ethics of journalism profession. The media are watchdogs of the society. They set agenda for public discussions on issues of national interest.

The mass media in Nigeria set agenda for national discourse. They have the capacities to manipulate vision and get the people constantly fixed to issues that are given prominence in their agenda. The issues they give prominence are those issues we worry about.

The press is a product of mass opinion. To a large extent, it is the media which create opinions. The media affect people’s thinking and perceptions on issues of national interest through their ‘agenda setting’ power. Individuals are bound to form different opinions on such issues either positively or negatively. One of the basic assumptions about the media is that the mass media have an important influence on peoples’ lives and sometimes change their beliefs and opinions.

A whole nation could become revulsed and react adversely to some national issues. The media can induce panic especially in periods of insecurity. The mass media serve as forums for public debate and discussion of important issues in the society. This is one of the ways in which the mass media help in the formation of public opinion, which is made up of what the majority of the people in a society think about a particular issue of public importance.

In a nutshell, the media shape the direction of individuals’ thinking on issues that concern and affect them in the society. Journalism as a profession has been regarded as the ‘fourth estate of the realm’ and some regard it as the ‘watchdog.’ The profession stands out clearly among other professions. It possesses the potential power to influence, not only the individual, but also the society as a whole.”

The news media are powerful agents of change and agenda setting in society and a major source of information for people the world over. Because of their special power to affect the way people think, feel and behave, the mass media have been credited with incredible persuasive ability to change attitudes and behaviours.

Like a bullet, the message would be received by the individual directly and it would have an immediate and powerful effect on the individual, persuading him or her to behave exactly the way the message advocated. This process is called the ‘hypodermic syringe’ or needle theory because it is believed that the media message acts like the content of a hypodermic syringe, which, when emptied into an audience, would have an instant effect like the drug from a real syringe.

Mass communication messages are passive, and the mass media can, therefore, control and influence members of the audience.

Freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold on to one’s opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information are fundamental human rights. It is also the right of citizens to be informed about the activities of the ruling elites, as this enhances accountability and transparency in governance and promotes democracy.

Equally, certain information about the affairs and administration of government are kept from the knowledge of pressmen and general public for the purpose of protecting the sovereignty and security of the state.

In this connection, Section 39 Subsection 3 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides as follows:Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society – (a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or (b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of Nigeria Police Force or other Government security agencies established by law.

The media are very important assets a society should have. The mass media are by definition, the whole gamut of information dissemination institutions and agencies in a political system. They operate by dispensing information to the populace on all aspects and actions of state and governance. The mass media could be described as the channels or technological devices through which messages are conveyed to a large and heterogeneous audience. They are the vehicles that are used for conveying messages from a source to a large destination. In addition, mass media are the devices for moving messages across distance or time to accomplish mass communication.

In essence, mass media constitute all the means through which messages are relayed from different aspects of the society such as education, entertainment, health, politics, economy, and so on, to a large, heterogeneous and anonymous audience at the same time.

National security has been defined a nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war. Security, in an objective sense, measures the absence of threats to acquired values, in a subjective sense, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked.

The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (1968) describes security as the ability of a nation to protect its internal values from external threats. National security, however, has a more extensive meaning than protection from physical harm; it also implies protection, through a variety of means, of vital economic and political interests, the loss of which could threaten fundamental values and the vitality of the state. National security is best defined as the capacity to control those domestic and foreign conditions that the public opinion of a given community believes necessary to enjoy its own self-determination or autonomy, prosperity and well-being.

It is now widely acknowledged that without a safe and secure environment, there can be neither sustainable, poverty reducing economic and social development nor political development. Therefore, the mass media need to cover all the aspects of security mentioned above in their reportage and coverage.

National security can also be seen as the protection of the lives, rights, dignity and property of citizens. It also means the protection of resources, cultural integrity, territory, sovereignty and lawful institutions of a country. The aim of national security is to secure the just and equitable living conditions for all the citizens of the country. But the leadership of the Nigeria has failed in this respect. Security includes the means at the disposal of the government for protecting the state and its citizens from external aggression and internal insurrection. The state exists for the interest of defense, public safety, public morality, and so on. The freedom of expression and the press is an aspect of national security and it is necessary for a true democracy.

Accordingly, Nigeria’s national security means the protection of its resources, territory, sovereignty and lawful institutions of the country. The aim of national security is to secure the just and equitable living conditions of the country. National security is the aggregation of the security interest of the individuals, communities, ethnic groups, political entities and institutions which inhabit the territory of our great country, Nigeria. The primary objectives of national security are: to strengthen the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to advance her interest and objectives, to contain instability, control crime, eliminate corruption, enhance genuine development progress and growth, improve the welfare and wellbeing and quality of life of every citizen.

Note: Part 2 to be concluded tomorrow
Adewole Kehinde is a Journalists and Public Affairs Analsyt based in Abuja. H can be reached via [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Adewole Kehinde and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."