Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Federal Government on Thursday lamented the alleged misrepresentation of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers by the foreign media, saying it was forced to lobby them to manage the bad press.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during his appearance before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, said the Federal Government had to engage an international public relations consultant to manage the bad press.
“This government has been denied loans because of the misinformation that have been spread out there,” he said.
Mohammed, while explaining the activities of the ministry as part of his defence of the 2019 budget proposed by it, said the Federal Government had to send delegations to the United Kingdom and the United States to execute media campaigns.
The minister was asked to explain the engagement of the foreign media and PR lobby consultancy contracts awarded by the Federal Government.
He said, “The world has become a global village and what happens in Nigeria today reverberates all over the world. And we, in the administration, face a lot of challenges, especially from the comments of the foreign media, from the sometimes hostile positions of foreign governments, even foreign parliaments. So, it is the duty of the Ministry of Information to regularly lobby and address international media in the countries.
“I remember that in 2018 we made two trips to the UK and two trips to the US, and these two trips helped tremendously in actually helping the people in the Diaspora and foreign governments to understand the real dynamics of the herdsmen/farmers clashes.
“Until we got there, the impression held by many of them was that the thing was Christians/Muslims, North/South and that time we had to book for interviews with CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, Reuters and AFP. I think it is an important part of governance so that if you cannot mould their opinions, at least it can give them the opportunity of hearing our own side of the story.”
Mohammed called out some foreign media organisations for their alleged “erroneous” editorials on the security crisis.
“I am sure you have all noticed a lot of very erroneous editorials that have been carried by some highly respected pens like the New York Times, Boston Globe, which do not actually represent the true situation in Nigeria. So, we go there, not just for government but to give the correct impression about what goes on in this government,” he said.
“Until we went there, generalisation was that, what was happening in Nigeria was religious. I always give them two examples to show that what happens in Nigeria has nothing to do with religion. I give them the example of Kebbi State, one-third of all the inmates in Kebbi prisons today are there as a result of farmers/herdsmen clashes, yet the farmers in Kebbi are Muslims and the herdsmen are Muslims.
“In the case of Zamfara State, where we have lost more lives than Taraba, Plateau and Benue put together, to rustling and kidnapping, the rustlers are Muslims, the victims are Muslims. So, we needed to put this in perspective.
“What we are dealing with is largely environmental. A country of 50 million people 50 years ago, today has a population of 200 million. In 1960 what was our population in Nigeria? 52 million. How many are we today? 180 million. Yet, the country has not expanded; on the contrary, it has contracted because we have lost land to desertification, we have lost land to flooding. Yet, 200 million people are supposed to use the same resources of land and water as 50 million people did.”