It is so easy these days for anyone with the tag “public affairs analyst” to come to the public space, misinform people, and get away with it. This phenomenon is dangerous for the polity. One challenge is that some of these people look so innocent one may assume they cannot kill a fly let alone deliberately misinform millions of Nigerians. One was on TV the other time claiming that state governors had the powers to secure their people, that he had been saying any governor that didn’t do so should be held accountable. He infers, therefore, that state governors have all the constitutional powers they need. But, do they? This kind of public affairs analyst is dangerous; he misinforms, yet the gullible would have applauded him and the nonsense he dished out as analysis.
I was surprised that the journalists who interviewed this guy didn’t ask obvious follow-up questions. So the interviewee got away with sentiments that were not grounded in the reality of this nation. Do state governors actually have the power to secure their states under the present constitution? People have their different views, and some of them surprise me. One elderly person was saying to me that state governors were allotted funds for security purposes by the Federal Government. I recall asking him if security is all about money, just throwing money at a problem as we usually do. He sidestepped my question.
In the past, I treated issues related to this matter. There was one occasion a known personality was accusing one tribe for all the security problems in the nation as though it was only one tribe that had criminals and other tribes had saints. Regarding his submission, I used a two-part piece here to explain how we got into the general insecurity quagmire in which the nation found itself. I had argued that if the security architecture were right for the nation, no tribe, at least the few criminal elements among them, would have been able to get away with criminality in the first place let alone accuse the tribe of being the cause of all the security challenges.
Another occasion when I wrote severally on a similar issue was when a state governor kept talking about security problems he had, rather than find solutions. He did set up a security outfit to curb what to him was the challenge of herders, even though I had cited occasions when people from his state gave me examples of attacks that weren’t perpetrated by herders. On that occasion I had wondered why the governor wouldn’t take a second look at his security outfit and make it better fit for purpose rather than just say herders were causing problems. It is the job of the government to curb criminals since it is committing crimes that criminals have committed themselves to. This governor’s (now former) situation is interesting for the fact that the setting up of state security outfits itself has its complications, exposing more reasons current security architecture cannot be said to have put state governors in charge of their states’ security.
As it happened it was a question related to setting up of state security outfits which led to the person on TV claiming that state governors had all the powers they needed. I recall that even as the current government arrives power, some groups have been saying publicly that state police is the way out of the security challenges the nation has. Yet, in a situation where the federal police still largely determines what state security outfits can and can’t do, someone makes the assertion that state governors have all the powers they need to secure their states.
As things stand I’m not sure state security outfits have the power to prosecute a criminal except the Nigeria Police come in, because that’s the constitution as of now. In a situation whereby state security outfits arrest but cannot directly prosecute, that is one weak link in the chains of what a state governor and his security team can do. Apart from this, there’re issues regarding state security outfits and whether or not states can purchase firearms. The last time I heard something about this more than a year ago, the Office of the National Security Adviser was saying no state could import arms for its security outfits. These are the same state governors that a public affairs analyst says have all the powers to secure their states.
In its editorial on July 21, 2023, titled, “State police essential to secure Nigeria,”The PUNCH newspaper noted thus: “Latest estimates by the United Nations Population Division put the country’s population at 223.8 million, the world’s sixth largest. Expecting a single police force to patrol and secure such a country is impracticable. The evidence of this is being written in innocent blood being spilt daily, property ransacked, entire communities despoiled and terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, organised crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and cultism across the country. Over 100,000 persons were killed 2009 to 2015 in Borno State alone, said Kashim Shettima, then state governor and currently Nigeria’s vice-president.
“Another 63,111 were killed across the country June 2015 to May 2023 by terrorists, bandits, Fulani herders, communal combatants, cult gangs and in extrajudicial killings by security agents according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker. With 371,000 officers, the Nigeria Police Force is overwhelmed, and many parts of the country lack any permanent police presence. Insurgents of different stripes taking advantage of this have seized control of some hinterland territories, imposing brutal, bloody rule over the locals.”
Against this backdrop, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, was quoted in The PUNCH of the same date to have urged “the National Assembly to initiate the process of amending the 1999 Constitution accordingly to enable each of the 36 states establish their own police forces… Without further delay, the NASS, state assemblies and all stakeholders should mobilise, move quickly and devolve policing before insecurity destroys the country.” The title of the editorial in The PUNCH newspaper describes the current situation of the nation’s security architecture. It also speaks to the absence of a vital security institution that state governors need to control if they must truly have the power to secure their states. The comment of Obasa speaks to what needs to be done. Yet, a guest introduced as “Public Affairs Analyst” on a TV station was saying what he said.
As this man spoke, a few things crossed my mind. One, the man wasn’t just out there spreading disinformation and lies. This man came across to me that time as an ethnic bigot, someone who had an axe to grind with one former state governor or a set of state governors and he took the TV platform as an opportunity to taint their persons. Much of this is going on in our public space these days. Persons are introduced on TV as a “Public Affairs Analyst” and actually they are bitter people with grudges against one person or the other. Often nothing is objective in what they say, and their choice of language gives them away. Some are sore losers in one election or the other. They talk bad of people they dislike, present others as demons, and in the process mislead the public. Yet the guy on TV that time was packaged as someone we should believe. It wasn’t all his fault, but the interviewees who failed to ask him obvious follow-up questions. There’s a pattern to this.
I notice that each time an interviewee has something to criticise about a specific broadcast platform interviewers interject to redirect the discussion. The same happens when an interviewee speaks against a political player that interviewers are close to. But when an interviewee makes wrong assertions about a political actor that the interviewers themselves have their biases against, they don’t interject. Rather they allow the interviewee to flow, spewing misinformation and presenting it as the truth. This doesn’t make an interviewer look good, as one of our responsibilities as journalists is to ensure that what we serve the public is accurate. Any public affairs analyst should also be subjected to the same rigorous requirement rather than use a media platform to misinform Nigerians.
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