Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday lamented the continued threats of disintegration resulting from the activities of armed groups in the different regions of the country.
Mr. Obasanjo said Nigeria has never been as divided in history, except for the country’s civil war period between 1967 and 1970.
He spoke at the maiden edition of the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ national summit held at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.
The former president, who was represented by Peter Okebukola, a professor, said the media should not fan the embers of disunity but rather take the lead in the marching towards greater national integration and development.
He criticised those calling for the breakup of Nigeria, lamenting that the activities of the Niger-Delta Avengers, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen had fractured the country.
“At no time in our history, except probably during the civil war, has Nigeria been so fractured in the feeling of oneness and belongingness by the citizenry,” he noted.
“In the last four months, we have an average of twenty hotspots across the country with huge potential for national disintegration.”
He urged the media to support the efforts of government in fighting internal security challenges.
“The press should mobilise the masses to strengthen the democratic process and play a crucial role in promoting a culture of tolerance, non-violence and mutual co-existence,” he said.
“For me, this Summit will only be successful if we find a niche for the press in our march to ensuring greater national cohesion, especially at this time in our history,” he said.
“Our strength as a nation lies in our unity and national cohesion and I want to entreat you (the media) to begin to preach the gospel of unity in diversity and unity of purpose and cohesion.”
Mr. Obasanjo also charged the Nigerian media to pay close attention to investigative journalism, as most news headlines lacked credibility and were based on rumours.
“It is unacceptable that a number of media organisations place low premium on investigative journalism,” he said. “These days, many news items that are used as headlines lack credibility and are based on rumours.”
The Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, while declaring open the conference, said it was important for journalists as professionals to always be on guard against forces to take advantage of their power for selfish interest.
“It is imperative that journalists as professionals should always be on their guard against forces that seek to take advantage of the formidable power of the profession for their selfish ends,” said Mr. Amosun.
In his own remarks, Minister of Interior, Bello Dambazau, noted that the power and significance of the media rest on their role of watchdog, stressing that the media through their reports help Nigerians in making informed decisions.
“The media must adhere to the ethics of the profession,” he said. “Where the media is unbiased and balanced in their reports, the people will be well informed to make informed decisions.”