But did we really learn our lessons from the negativity that sullied the electoral contest of three years ago in 2015? I think many of us did not take on board any self-critical lessons from that period; or have all but forgotten how polarized the country was and the dangers that faced us all. Many discerning observers of the media landscape in general, and of broadcasting in particular, are already afraid and they are saying that unless all of us, and especially the broadcasters, sit up, Political Broadcasting in 2019, will be even more intolerant and abusive of the fundamental ethics and values of broadcasting, than what we witnessed in 2015. Such is the foreboding scenario that His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, speaking at the 2017 NBC Annual Lecture, charged the NBC to invoke the most serious sanctions, against erring broadcasters, in order to curb the trend of hateful political broadcasts ahead of the 2019 elections.
It is interesting to point out, that this workshop coincides with my second anniversary as DG of NBC, having been appointed on May 25, 2016, by President Muhammadu Buhari. And I must confess that since my appointment, if I have gone gray, it is largely due to the challenge of political broadcasting! I say this half-jocularly, but the strains are real. I have traversed the North /East /West and South of this country attending to issues of abuses of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code especially on political broadcasting; or otherwise, trying to make our colleagues walk the straight and narrow path of fidelity to the letters and spirit of the Code.
Every week on my table, I receive reports of various infractions and violations arising from political broadcasts. I am sure many of our colleagues monitored the tensions and desperation that characterized the recent political party primaries. Some of you allowed parties and candidates to begin campaigns ahead of the officially allowed time. On the other hand, some of you are already showing signs of partisanship. Your programmers biases are readily visible for all to see. Rather than act as umpires, we have thrown our hat and hearts into the ring. We compete with our guests in the effort to express our views, pretending to be experts. A lot of our political presenters apparently enjoy listening to the sounds of their own voices. And this seems so obvious in the manner that they rattle on and on, in their programming. Some of us abandon pretenses at objectivity and the fairness doctrine, and invite only Pre arranged and hand-picked opinion molders who do the work of our pay masters. And so by our own lack of professional judgement, we are deliberately or inadvertently heating up the polity.
As a regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission will not idly watch, and allow the irresponsible tendency towards the abandonment of the ethical imperatives of our profession, to push the country towards a descent into crisis. More than ever before, and as we approach the electioneering season that will usher in the 2019 General Elections, the Commission will ensure that broadcasters play strictly by the rules. In the last two quarters of 2018, the Commission has sanctioned over 50 broadcast stations - on violations related to political broadcasting and hate speech. Many have been fined and those who remain recalcitrant shall face stiffer sanctions.
This is the background for the gathering in Enugu this week. This is the first in a series of workshops, that will also take us to Lagos, Sokoto and Abuja. We want broadcasters to be political light bearers in our country, not agents of darkness.
And as part of our engagement in the two days that we are gathered here in Enugu, we shall also present to you a report on a study that the NBC commissioned on hate speech, against the backdrop of the 2015 Elections. It became imperative to do such a study, so that we can collectively understand the tendencies towards an anarchic dissemble that Nigeria was faced with in that election. Our hope is to conduct a validation of this report together with all of you that are gathered here.
I will like to thank sincerely all of you who have come to attend this workshop; I will like to particularly recognize our veterans who have come to share with us their wealth of experience. We have also assembled very distinguished resource persons to engage robustly with us in the next two days. I do hope we would also participate very actively in all the discussions so that we can enrich our experiences, in order to ensure that political broadcasting in Nigeria, would not become a mercenary handmaiden of desperate political actors, but a touch bearer to assist the Nigerian people to make an informed choice, between contending political actors and political platforms. That is the way and manner that we can proudly do our work to contribute to democracy consolidation in our country, as well as making democracy genuinely serve the best interests of the Nigerian people.
It is therefore my pleasure to welcome you all once again to this friendly and lovely city of Enugu. Thank you very much for your attention.