The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor has called for a more robust relationship between the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) and the Nigerian media to build public trust and confidence in military operations. General Irabor stated this at a one-day CDS parley with Media Executives, Bureau Chiefs and Editors with the theme: “The Role of Media Executives and Editors in National Security and Conflict Sensitive Communication” on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 in Abuja. He noted that the engagement between the AFN and the media would help to build a ‘nation of our dream’.
The CDS said the media is a critical component necessary for socio-economic development of the country. General Irabor while urging media practitioners to continue to set the right agenda for public discourse, said the mass media are positioned to keep Nigeria safe. In his words, “I believe that as we further interact, we would be able to dissect the nuisances involved in advancing the course of military/media relations”.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major General Jimmy Akpor earlier in his welcome address, said the parley which was the first of its kind organized by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Directorate of Defence Information in collaboration with The Media Today (TMT) International. The DDI added that the parley which was mooted by the CDS, General Lucky Irabor was part of the non-kinetic campaigns to tackle various security challenges bedeviling the country.
Major General Akpor stated that, interactions with the media executives, bureau chiefs and editors would help in 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. According to him, “it is the perception of the Armed Forces that the media projects, nurtures or reinforces 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.”
The Chief Executive Officer of TMT, Barrister Charles Odenigbo in his remarks, described the relationship between the Armed Forces and the media as one of contention and tension due to differing institutional culture and goals. The CEO pointed out that the legal framework allows government to put claims to issues of national security against press freedom. Barrister Odenigbo 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 lauded the gallantry of members of the Armed Forces in the successes being recorded in the theatres of operations.
The participants at the parley commended the CDS for the synergy amongst the Services of the AFN, which has resulted in more coordinated and successful operations in all theatres. During the parley, Mr Yushau Shuaib, the 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.
Meanwhile, the occasion was used to honour media veterans for their outstanding performance while covering the defence and security beats. Among those honoured were Chris Agbambu, Mr Femi Kusa, Mr Ben Okezie, Mr Muhammad Abdulkadir and Mrs Muslima Solebo. Those posthumously honoured were late Mr Ladi Lawal, late Mr Suleiman Gambari and late Mr Joseph Oroye.
The event also witnessed the unveiling and public presentation of the Book “Gen LEO Irabor the Pearl of Defence” written by Mr Mahmud Abdusalam. The meeting between the CDS and media chiefs, no doubt, has opened a new vista for sustainable collaboration and understanding between the AFN and the media on how best to manage the publicity of defence and national security information.
The parley was attended by the President Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mallam Mustapha Isah, as well as 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.