The Nigerian media and military closed professional gaps on Wednesday, January 26, as the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Lucky Irabor, and editors conferred on effective coverage of military operations in Nigeria at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja,
Themed “The Role of Media Executives and Editors in National Security and Conflict Sensitive Communication,” Irabor said there was need for the media and military to harmonise their operations as both institutions pursue the same common causes of freedom and liberty. Irabor said a more robust relationship between the armed forces of Nigeria and the Nigerian media would build public trust and confidence in military operations and would also help create a ‘nation of our dream’.
“All along, it is we versus them but I am hopeful that at the end of this parley today, you will no longer see yourself as we versus them. Rather, it will be an engagement about us and engagement about what binds us, which is Nigeria. Whatsoever influences one may have outside the shore, either territorial or space of Nigeria, we must begin to understand that you are the best person to keep Nigeria safe. No one outside of this shores loves you better than you love yourself.”
He urged media practitioners to continue to set the right agenda for public discourse, as the media are positioned to keep Nigeria safe.
The Director of Defence Information, (DDI) Major General Jimmy Akpor, in his welcome address, said the conference which was the first of its kind organised by the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Directorate of Defence Information, was in collaboration with The Media Today, TMT, International.
The DDI said the parley, which was mooted by the CDS, was part of the non-kinetic campaigns to tackle various security challenges bedeviling the country. He reasoned that interactions with the media would broaden their understanding of the military thereby enabling them to project positive perception of military operations and engagements to the public in furtherance of national security.
“It is the perception of the armed forces that the media projects, nurtures or reinforces stories that would be engraved in the hearts and minds of the people. This would further determine the level of public support the military would get in executing assigned missions,” he argued.
He said the CDS considered media executives as most worthy stakeholder to confer with, in the quest for national security. He affirmed that the media have a cardinal role to play in this regard and that the leadership of the armed forces considered the media critical stakeholders so the meeting was conceptualised to build sustainable trust and confidence of the media with military operations and engagements.
Akpor said the CDS advocated the society approach, which is the sure way to go in overcoming various forms of security challenges confronting Nigeria. He felt that with collaboration and understanding between the armed forces and the media, both parties would henceforth be on the same page in matters of defence and national security.
“At the end of the deliberations, media executives, editors and bureau chiefs are in better position to set right the agenda for public discourse on issues of national security and conflict sensitive management.”
Charles Odenigbo, a lawyer, veteran journalist and chief executive officer of The Media Today International, TMT, in his remarks, lamented that the relationship between the armed forces and the media is one of contention and tension due to differing institutional culture and goals. He said a legal framework allows government to put claims to issues of national security against press freedom.
He stressed that the non-kinetic strategy of the Nigerian military in partnering with stakeholders in the media industry in armed conflicts, was essential for disseminating the right information to the public. He affirmed that the role of editors in national security and conflict sensitive stories is very important and should have a clear roadmap for determining public and private interests. Editors, he argued, should have clear information backed by facts. He noted that journalists encounter obstacles in accessing security information, stressing that lack of knowledge may also be an impediment.
Yushau Shuaib, publisher and editor in chief of PR Nigeria, delivered the only paper, titled “Fake News and National Security”, which dwelt on fact checking and conflict sensitive communication. He spoke on the negative impact of disinformation and misinformation in the management of conflict and urged editors to fact-check their stories as gatekeepers to avoid the embarrassment of publishing lies.
The occasion was used to honour some media veterans for their outstanding performance while covering the defence and security beats. Among those honoured were Chris Agbambu, Femi Kusa, Ben Okezie, Muhammad Abdulkadir, and Mrs. Muslima Solebo.
Those posthumously honoured were late Ladi Lawal, Suleiman Gambari, and late Joseph Oroye. The event also witnessed the unveiling and public presentation of the Book, “Gen LEO Irabor the Pearl of Defence” written by Mahmud Abdusalam.
The conference was attended by the President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mallam Mustapha Isah, editors, and bureau chiefs of major print and electronic media houses in Nigeria, including online media. Participants also included DHQ Departmental Chiefs and Directors, as well as the Services’ spokespersons.
A surprise highlight of the event was the presentation of a book on the CDS, which he was not aware of. The 119-page book, whose blurb was written by Senator Kashin Shettima, a former Borno State Governor, is titled “Gen LEO Irabor: The Pearl of Defence.”
The book, published to commemorate the first-year anniversary of Irabor as Nigeria’s Defence Chief, was authored by Mahmud Abdulsalam, an Assistant Editor with PRNigeria.
It is an effort to chronicle the policy initiatives and key strategic activities that Gen. Leo Irabor launched, or carried out since he assumed office as the Chief of Defence Staff.
The publication was officially unveiled by Gen. Irabor and assisted by top military officers and editors at the Defence Headquarters.
Explaining the idea behind the book, Odenigbo disclosed that the CDS was ‘deliberately’ not informed about the publication because it was planned to be a ‘surprise gift’ for him, as he marked a year in office.
“Gen LEO Irabor: The Pearl of Defence,” so far remains the first and only bold attempt to dispassionately chronicle, in an in-depth, appealing and elaborate manner, the military strategies and policy reforms formulated by the CDS to add value to Nigeria’s security and defence architecture. The highpoint of Gen. Irabor’s leadership, as encapsulated in this intellectually-enriching and mind-engaging book, is building synergy, partnerships and collaborations with relevant stakeholders in the country, and even foreign militaries like the California National Guards, among others.
“The author has done the Nigerian military hierarchy a great favour by taking up the job of being its publicist: one that has breathtakingly showcased the outstanding efforts and contributions of not only their leader (in this case, Gen. Irabor), but the entire members of the Armed Forces in tackling the security woes bedeviling the nation.”
In the blurb to the book, Senator Kashim Shettima states, “A thorough bred professional, Gen Irabor is a personification of positive traits in the Nigerian military, Verily, he is an intellectual of uncommon courage and sagacity”.