By Ikeddy Isiguzo
A Presentation at the Maiden Anambra Media Summit of Anambra State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists @ the Professor Dora Akunyili Women’s Development Centre, Awka on 29 March 2017
The intersections among media, power, politics, priorities are often lost in the contending forces they generate. People are just beginning to realise the importance of the media. Sadly, the media are seen essentially as useful for politics, power and not prioritising the needs of a people. It is a dangerous development that affects Ndigbo most. The solution lies in how we use the media – and how the media use us.
It used to be radio, television, newspapers, magazines, billboards, but increasing about anything through which you can pass a message – arts, music, dance, drama, clothing, food, books, films, posters, handbills, tribal marks, culture. The most recent addition is the social media, which require basic knowledge of computer, and content management. We concentrate so much on these that we may forget advertising and public relations.
The most important media content to audiences is news. I got my most enduring definition of news from Professor Swarmi in an Economics class at the IMT, years ago. News according to him is North, East, West, South: everything. Why are news materials about the South East prominent in the media if they are about bad news?
Where do Ndigbo stand in media ownership? How do Ndigbo use the media? How do Ndigbo react to framing, priming, and salience that are lent to news items about Ndigbo? What Ndigbo stories are in the media?
We are aware enough about the reaches of power that we use it to ensure that others do not have access. Power is defined as the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. In our context, it includes particularly the ability to stop others from doing something.
Some media powers are the decisions on who to include or exclude in the story. Sometimes what is not said is more important than the ideas promoted. The range of the voices that are include, the size of the voices, the territory of the voices, the constituencies of the voices, the duration, situation, location of these voices are some of the decisions that interrogate the powers of the media.
Yet as the Managing Director of the Daily Times, Mr. Fidelis Anoisike, said in his presentation, these powers are feeble. I see the feebleness not so much in the fact that withdrawal of resources support would collapse the media, but in the transiency of the media occasioned by the dynamics of technology, and society itself, which mean that the media are under threats of declining to powerlessness as they are fractionalised along function, followership, usage and ownership.
The social media signals the mortality of media power. A small device in any hand can momentarily do more damage than the most powerful broadcast channels. The devolution of media should be of more interest to us as we ponder and wonder about the inroads that the social media are making in our lives.
Media power, power of the media, all stand more in our consciousness in using the media. Do you know that a CV (Curriculum Vitae) could be a powerful platform? Justice Rosaline Ukeje, who retired as a Federal High Court judge, is not a media professional in any known sense of the word. Her CV has an item that is not just historical, but a brave communication that Ndigbo should be proud of, in generations to come. According to Justice Ukeje, she attended the Biafran Law School. Her audacity is a powerful communication, through a CV, that lets us know that Biafra had a Law School. I never knew until I read her CV, and she had classmate who never mention this piece of history.
How do the media help power mongers achieve their objects? How can we use media power? Do Ndigbo know about media power, the power of the media or the media of power?
Activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organisation, group, association; in its full application, politics could be used to destroy others, and hires the media in the enterprise.
Representation of our people is poor in politics as in the media. Ndigbo voices need to be heard more, we have experts, we have expertise. Laziness partially accounts for us not unearthing new experts and give our people more media presence.
The diversity of voices is amazing. There are the poor, the elderly, the weak, the voiceless- whole communities that nobody makes their cases. Many of us do not know what poverty is, millions of children whose future is stunted because the media glamourises poverty.
Media erosion of culture has been enhance with unregulated television and radio signals that bear messages of the new imperialism. Though culture appears to be the base of the new imperialism, it is actually economical. The evidences are that as you watch food and fashion channels, your worldview of food and fashion tilts towards those foreign productions that are imported (economic activities) than domestic versions of those products. Without stepping out of our villages, our people speak like Americans, have picture poses that beat the best actors on fashion parades. We shun our festivals, our masquerades, or at best place them on the fringes of tradition. Media productions like films are purely imitative of foreign outputs
One of the biggest media framings against Ndigbo is that we vote for money over education or other valuable endeavours. We have not done enough to counter these primed discourses about Ndigbo. Neither statistics, nor policies bear this out. The Federal Government allocates our States the marks for entry into its colleges. Even Ebonyi State that is counted among the educationally disadvantaged States does not benefit from scores as low as 2points that used to access admissions in schools where Anambra State pupils should score 139 points.
Yobe (2), Taraba (3), Zamfara (4), Sokoto (9), Kebbi (9). Ebonyi similarly listed with Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kastina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara as educationally disadvantaged, does not get the concession.
Where are concerns about these in our media narratives? How are we fighting for our children, the voiceless?
More importantly, our curriculum should teach our culture, our language. A great area of need, which should be tackled through incentives like scholarships, is the study of Igbo language and culture beyond undergraduate levels.
The Ndigbo narrative is incomplete without Biafra, our glorious efforts to be our own people. How do we tell that salient aspect of our story? Why do we allow others to denigrate it? What are Ndigbo without a chunk of our history? Who tells our stories? How do we protect our culture? Should we be worried about the death of the Igbo language? Should we be concerned about the type of education our children get? How do we manage anti-Igbo issues in the media? I am asking conscientiously.
What are the media? They are platforms for exerting influence mainly by communication, or withholding communication of certain occurrences. What worries me in this aspect of uses of the mainly is that most media practitioners and consumers, do not have appropriate media skills to appreciate the powers in their hands. Most abuses of the media stem from inappropriate media skills.
I dare suggest that priorities (peoples) should be the centre of media use and knowledge. Conflicts in culture and contests are implicated on media use and abuse. The implications are vast for Ndigbo.Cultural imperialism through the media is real. The centres for cultural invasion are fashion, foods, film, music. The entertainment spectrum presents broad platforms for subtle media influences that leave deep marks.
Choices we make as practitioners lead these narratives. Those who do not realise that communication is essentially an attempt to influence others, mostly without letting them know, cannot author the Ndigbo narratives in ways that would benefit our people.
Ikeddy ISIGUZO has been a journalist since 1978 with stops at The Punch, The Guardian, Vanguard, where is the immediate past Chairman of the Editorial. He is currently Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Oracle Today, proudly based in Onitsha