A Few Turn-Offs On TV Stations By Tunji Ajibade

Every Nigerian has respect for Coach Fanny Amun. I do too. Amun, once a coach of the U17 football team, the Golden Eaglets, had also served as the General Secretary of the Nigerian Football Federation. He was a member of Channels TV’s three-man panel for a sports programme on July 24, 2016, and since then I’ve been wondering if he’s one of those people one can only like watching them from afar, not close-up. The topic for discussion was how, not long ago, the football federation had announced the appointment of a Frenchman as coach for the Super Eagles only for the coach to disclaim it. The two younger panelists weren’t pleased with how the football federation handled the matter and they said so. Amun didn’t think they should, and he didn’t say it in a suave manner. He was visibly angry, intolerant, parrying questions.

Amun repeatedly said the NFF should be invited to explain what had transpired, so no other Nigerian ought to “come on air and talk bla, bla, bla”, in reference to the younger panelists.

We know Amun is a member of the establishment and he wouldn’t say a word against it, but he could have engaged his fellow panelists better for the purpose of convincing viewers that his view was the best. The younger men showed Amun respect on that occasion, but he showed them disrespect by being so intolerant and patently dismissive. I wasn’t impressed.

I hope the mobile phone company, Etisalat, isn’t teaching Nigerians how to be rude. There’s this aspect of one of its promos that’s not right; I mean the promo with one of our male actors which message was a 250 per cent bonus on every recharge made. In the promo, and as a form of response, one person says, “…see your mouth like swallow, your own phone no get credit now”. This is rude, teaching viewers, as it does, an abusive rejoinder. One can be sure there’re homes where young ones have begun to use this rude response. Yes, the response resonates in our clime, but must we promote it as normal? I state this because the conversation of too many Nigerians is laden with abusive words. Meanwhile, what we should do in adverts is promote ethics and values, the habit of logically presenting a point in conversations, rather than project abusive comments as normal. This sounds better, for instance: “See you wey dey talk, your own phone too no get credit…”

Kaduna-based Liberty TV is irregular in the daily broadcast of its “World News” scheduled for 6pm. On July 29, 2016, the newscast began at 6:06pm. I had tuned in at 5:59pm, and the only reason I didn’t tune to other news stations was because I might forget to return. There was another thing; I wanted to note whether or not the newscaster would tender an apology for the delay. There wasn’t any. On August 3, 2016, the newscast began at 6:04pm. No apologies. The same happened on August 10, 2016 when newscast began at 6:08pm, and on August 19, 2016 when newscast started at 6:13pm. Compare this to August 5, 2016 when AIT began its 8pm newscast at 8:06pm. The television station’s news anchors had said, “I am Kumba Peter and I would like to apologise for the delay in broadcast.” This is a show of respect for viewers. Newscasters at Liberty TV should emulate it.

On August 3, 2016, during AIT’s 8pm “Newshour”, news commentary was the first item. The station’s criticism of Nigeria’s preparation for the Rio Olympics was sharp, and it was in order. But it blamed the President, and I see it differently. We all know that the President gave about N2bn to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development in August 2015 for Olympic preparations. The Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, said in a recent interview (View From The Top) on Channels TV that the President released these funds on the condition that every kobo must be accounted for. No kobo from these funds was expended on the preparation for the Olympics, and how it was expended wasn’t accounted for. For me, what had happened to our preparation was the outcome of the irresponsible manner our sports officials had managed the sector. The blame for this should be placed on the officials concerned not a President who wanted an account of the funds he released. Would any Nigerian also blame the President for Team Nigeria’s kits that arrived Rio three days to the end of the Games?

As Nigerians, we all feel in one form or the other the impact of the tightening of belt that the government has embarked on. But I’m more willing to support the tidying up of our carefree approach to expending public funds than have the government succumb to the blackmail of putting more funds in the hands of corrupt sports officials on the premise that we must be at the Olympics. I think reorganising our nation now in order to reap better in the nearest future is more important than immediate gains that have no roots to sustain them. With the way things had gone in this matter, the government should go after the officials in the ministry who brought this situation on our Olympic preparations. What would assuage the anger of Nigerians is to investigate and drag the officials concerned in the Sports Ministry to court and let the right lessons be passed to all. I also hope this would make the government remove civil servantsfrom sports so that it would be better run as it’s the case in saner climes. Anything short of this means we aren’t ready to move sports forward.

On July 8, 2016, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was on Channels TV for “Question Time” with Gbenga Ashiru. Was that a touch of anger with Ashiru that I caught in the minister’s voice and mien at exactly 4:53pm? Ashiru had asked the minister what he had to say about comments made by people that President Muhammadu Buhari was afraid to go to the Niger Delta, because he wasn’t in Ogoniland when the launch of the environmental clean-up project took place. The minister responded by saying that Buhari wasn’t afraid to go to the area before he became President, so why should he be afraid after he became president. Then he added: “If you carry out a proper mind analysis on this, you will see that this is not a proper analysis to make”. The reader can’t fully grasp the nuance in this statement without seeing the minister’s mien and tone that time. I read his comment to Ashiru as a rebuke. It isn’t only for the reason of being on the side of a colleague that I refer to this matter, I do in order to let the minister and other public officers understand a journalist better.

I’ve seen public figures under different conditions reacting angrily to journalists. It’s a turn-off for the more polished audience. Such a reaction means the public figure hasn’t assimilated the fact that it’s the job of a journalist to ask a question, and even when it’s an inconvenient question, it’s still the duty of the interviewee to provide answers. It’s understandable then that Stephen Sackur of the BBC calls his interview show “HARDtalk”. Those who know are aware that being asked a question by a journalist is an opportunity for them to give their own version of a story. It’s an opportunity to win the public to one’s side. Ask such public figures a question that you expect to get them really infuriated, and they react first with a winning laughter after which they marshal their points, speaking eloquently in a way that rubbishes whatever claims their critics had made; they win fans for themselves in the process. This point is important to me because I enjoy a good conversation, and I would be the first to clap for a sound point that an opponent objectively and logically makes. On the other hand, I find anger-laden illogical reactions a turn-off. After all, as one of Nigeria’s tribes puts it, it’s more profitable to learn how to persuasively talk to convince listeners, than learn to engage in scuffles. This makes sense because in responding to questions about issues in the public space, it’s the mind of the public that’s to be won, not a wrestling bout.