Mar 30, 2016

The Cost of Unethical Radio and TV Broadcasts

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These days I don’t listen to local radio much. There is so much littering of the airwaves on my part of the globe. Every morning, after booting my life for the day, I will tune to local radio. This is notwithstanding the fact that I am aware that everything has become very pedestrian. But I tune in out of fear of missing out on critical local issues that could affect me, after all my life is still ninety per cent tied to what goes on around me. But it won’t be long before I will impulsively switch off, after I would have been turned-off by the usual irritants. 

What are those things that turn me off? There’re often issues that fall short of what one may consider news, bits and pieces that aren’t news-worthy at all. For instance, an old politician calling on Nigerian subjects to have the fear of God. But, one also hears news items that have already become so stale that they shouldn’t be aired as new. These days, getting people to call and air their views on selected topics has become fashionable even when the complexion of the show is unsuitable for such.

The greatest and biggest litter of local radio airwaves is the kind of music that one hears. In the past half a decade or so unprofessional local music artists have increasingly become dominant of the airwaves. This is despite the truth that their materials are demos that fall short of the acceptable standards. Tolerating such shoddy material means that we’ll have to make do with the irritation that comes with hearing them.  When one argues he is asked: “if you don’t play local artists how would they find their bearing?” An apt answer has always been that while promoting experimenting artists one shouldn’t end up exhausting a greater percentage of music time on them. It makes them seem like the professional and the toasts. After all, most of the artists played are satisfied with just that and won't do anything to further improve their conditions. Why can't they be given something like one hour (at most) every day.

The tawdry of these transmission practices compels one to turn to better competitors. In this era of digital satellite competition the pedestrian loses out to the innovative and professional. A large number of radio and TV stations are owned and financed by public money. The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria has its headquarters in Abuja, with at least a branch in each of the 36 state capitals and Abuja. It is the same thing with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). The 36 states also have their own radio and television stations to help air their peculiar activities and policies. That is a cursor to the enormity of public money that is spent on transmission operations. Always, there is the issue of how public agencies can become self-sustaining thereby taking off part of the burden from the shoulders of the various tiers of government who will then be able to heed the other issues that have been left in the cold.  The tradition also breeds a culture of mediocrity, a culture to which Nigeria has become enslaved.

Mar 15, 2016

Getting Your Book to Schools

Your book doesn’t just finds its way into the list of books used by schools. It has to follow a path. This is what I didn’t know. I had taken my book directly to the Federal Ministry of Education. I was at the Directorate of Basic and Secondary Education of the ministry. But the Director made it known to me that they do not have the constitutional right to recommend a book for use in schools. Doing that would amount to usurping the powers of another body. That body is the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). It’s located at village called Sheda in the Gwagwalada suburb of Abuja.

I found my way to Sheda the next day, again not knowing what to expect. There website leaves you hungering for more info.  It was only when I arrived there that I was met with another surprise. For them to appraise your book and see if it’s worthy of use in schools, there is money you have to pay. The pages of your book, including, the front and back covers and their inner sides, are counted. Then you have to pay N100 per page. That means that if your book has 300 pages, you would have to pay N30, 000. After that, copies of your book are sent to professors in universities across the country. The professors are chosen according to the theme of your book. If your book discusses health, your book is sent to a health professor, if it is a book on literature, the book is sent to a professor of literature, and so it goes. The professors read the book and decide if it is suitable for use in school and the level of education to which they find it suitable. They do not only do that, they also make corrections where necessary. So if your book is recommended, you have to effect those corrections and return to NERDC. After that, NERDC gives you a letter stating that the book is good enough to be used in a specified level of education.  You take the letter to the Ministry of Education, from where another letter is written to schools, informing them that they should adopt your book for use in the teaching of students. 

So, when next you write a book and hope to see students reading it, don’t just run to the schools or the Ministry Of Education. Go to NERDC first.

Mar 3, 2016

Time to Pick Out the Stones and Chaff

Imported Rice in Nigeria

While Mohammadu Buhari aimed at the Presidency of the Nigerian federation, he pledged jobs to millions of job-seeking Nigerians among other things. The agricultural sector was one of the multiple areas the eventual president was looking at.     

Rice production is extremely critical to the creation of jobs in the agro subsector.  Nigeria imported about 3 million tons of rice in the 2013-14 period. Between 2012 and 2015, about N474 billion was spent on rice importation, translating to an average revenue lost of N118.5 billion, annually.

The recent fall in the value of the naira threw to the fore the harm rice importation causes the Nigerian nation. It is good that this is happening very early in the life of the new administration. The administration, in an effort to discourage the importation of goods that Nigeria produces or can produce, has made the dollar scarce to the importers of such goods. This has led to the scarcity of the dollar and the rise in its value in the unofficial market. The end result is the 50% rise in the price of imported rice. 

Rather than allowing the Central Bank of Nigeria to loosing up channels of dollar sourcing for the affected importers, Buhari has, in keeping with his vow to create jobs, insisted with sarcasm that “if you think you cannot eat local rice, then it is up to you to source for the dollar wherever you can and use it to buy the foreign rice that you so much cherish.”

The question is: why do Nigerians find it difficult to eat their own rice, despite knowing the huge harm the practice causes our economy? The answer is not far: Local rice is badly processed. The outcomes are the stones and bits of unsorted chaff that makes local rice unattractive, despite its high taste. People don’t want to eat rice and crush stones as they do so. In addition, there are bits of chaff that must inevitably find their way into the pot. Nigerians don’t like their weird texture in the mouth.  The species of rice grown in Nigeria are a spectrum. There are some, whose grains dissolve and fuse into a huge starchy mass after boiling. Nigerians, like other nationals, prefer rice whose grains remain independent even after boiling.

Here, the eating of high quality rice is associated with status. Every Nigerian loves status and wouldn’t want to be left behind. It is the reason why Nigerians have developed shock drains that ensure they adjust to a price increase each time it occurs. There is also that thing about time being a healer. This means that, in time, Nigerians would always get over the economic pains that price increases bring. 

Wise speakers often say that problems are not solved by ignoring them. Consequently, halting rice importation and taking back rice-sector jobs from Asian nations would, no doubt, require the nation to stand up and act as against our attitude of just sitting and expecting things to just get cooked. The Asians, who export the rice we consumed, don’t just sit. They stand up and act. 

Most rice farmers in Nigeria are uneducated and process their rice using crude, and rigorous means handed down to them by unschooled traditions. They need to be told that the inferior processing methods lead to the stones and detritus that make their product unappealing. They need to be told the role they can play towards ending rice importation, and be educated and assisted on how they can play this role adequately. They also need to be told about the annual N118.5 billion that should be theirs, but which are lost to their Asian counterparts, and that they can earn this money if importation is successfully halted. Buhari and his team must also identify unpopular species of rice and encourage farmers to end their cultivation. In working to end importation, we must integrate the support for researches towards improving the quality of rice that is produced in the country. 

Problems are not solved by ignoring them. Nigeria, stand up.

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