The Nigerian Media As Agents Provocateurs


Babayola M. Toungo



The Nigerian media has gradually but surely turned itself as the number one advocate for the dismemberment of the country.  When I say media here, I mean both the mainstream and the social variants because the lines dividing the two in terms of morality and patriotism is blurred.  The behaviour of the mainstream media reminds me of the pre-genocide days in Rwanda when the media was egging blood thirsty hounds to spill the blood of the Tutsis.  The world holds the Rwandan media 100% culpable of starting the fire that nearly consumed the Rwandan nation before it was doused by the victims of the media campaign of hate.  The Nigerian society is much more complex than Rwanda, and therefore any ethnic conflagration will affect many of us in a very negative way.  The Nigerian mainstream media appears hell-bent in bringing the roof down on all.


The heightened tension in the country is so thick that one can slice though it with a knife, thanks to our ever “vigilant” media practitioners.  Irredentists and ethnic supremacists are celebrated while victims of the hate campaign are denigrated.  Ethnic profiling and stereotyping are now materials for editorials by otherwise respectable media organisations.  The spike in the hate campaign against a section of the country – a people, a religion and an ethnic group – from 2015 cannot be separated from the hate for the president, Muhammadu Buhari, who many believe has no reason to be in the Aso Villa.  Many are of the view that Buhari is an interloper in the Nigerian political landscape.  The table is reserved for only those who have been permanent members since 1960 either directly or through proxies.  Actually I don’t blame them but blame Buhari for allowing them free reign with monies stolen from our commonwealth.


The social media street has been taken over by merchants of hate and those weaned on a diet of hatred masquerading as champions of democracy.  The mainstream media, on the other hand, is always eager to provide platforms for ethnic and religious bigots to pour profanities on Nigerians who disagree with their views (no matter how warped).  Ironically, those who always assert their right to say their minds are always not averse to the abridgement of the right of others who see the world from another perspective.


Sometimes back, a hitherto unknown retired Naval Commodore was given such a platform by Channels Television to come and make fantastic claims and condemn a whole tribe and religion with gusto while the anchors enjoyed the show with glee.  Not done yet, Channels Television gave the same platform to Samuel Ortom, a certified xenophobe, to also pour invectives on the president without restrain.  The same Ortom who has seen a Fulani herdsman anywhere he turns in his Benue state.  He spent the last six years fighting his imaginary Fulani herdsman to the detriment of the people of Benue state.  The venom coming out of Ortom and directed to the Fulani is enough to kill them off many times over.  Yet, the gullible and the politically insane clap for this modern-day Himmler and Goebbels, all rolled into one.


Ortom have been strenuously trying to make the Fulani look like Jews in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s or even closer home, the Tutsis of Rwanda.  The role the media played in both these instances is well documented for our media practitioners to be circumspect about amplifying the opinions of such hate merchants.  I don’t blame the Ortoms and Oluwunmis but the media organisations that make their platforms available to nihilist and help spread their hate-filled invectives.  The media has allowed itself to be used in the spread of hate, as a tool of dehumanising people and inciting one group against another.  The media is the main platform for the amplification of our differences instead of promoting what binds us together.  Such abuses of privileges by a select few, who appointed themselves as the ombudsman of the society must be checked for sanity to reign in Nigeria.


The role the media is playing in Nigeria today is akin to what the Rwandan media did in the run-up to the 1994 genocide – stereotyping people by their faith, ethnicity, or region.  Or muddling the narrative where they feel the truth is contrary to their perceptions.  And all involved in the media industry are complicit – journalists, executives and even owners/ proprietors.  The likes of Ortom, Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho are canonised by the Nigerian media while our governments and security agencies are demonised by the same media.  The security agents, who we run to for protection when the chips are down.


It is unfathomable that the media has arrogated to itself as to who is right or wrong, whereas they are the worst culprits.  Instead of shutting down hate mongers, they choose to promote them.  There wouldn’t have been an Ortom or Kanu without the Nigerian media.  By amplifying their hate-filled campaigns, the Nigerian mainstream media has chosen to be on the side of those whose stock-in trade is the vilification and castigating others who are different from them and set them up for annihilation and destruction.