BBC Will Make You Say What You Don’t Want To Say – Hon. Shawulu


Continued from last week

As I was saying, Hon Shawulu continued; The picture was exactly what I painted. The caliphate did not hide their passion to maintain their identity. But you get different pictures of the North from the angle of whoever you are discussing with, depending on whether it is the oligarchy or the minorities who from ages had always wanted to maintain their identities too.  So, all these do not add up to ONE NORTH


Yes, that was the consciousness in the North before I joined BBC. First, let me explain that we were not on salaries at BBC; we were paid according to the stories aired. Not the volume of stories that you sent. But selection processes of stories were based on stories on the ground, or on your story ideas which you give them. If approved, they give you the go-ahead. When I started with them, payment was 43 pounds per story and it was 53 pounds by the time I left. But if you were able to do a kind of mini-features with stories, sound bite and pictures, you could get 250 pounds or more. With BBC, I was able to travel around the country. I reported the crisis in Warri, the Ogoni crisis when Ken Sarowiwa was in detention, the crisis in Taraba between the Mumunye and the Fulani, the Zango Kataf crisis, the problem in Benue and a lot of others including the South East where I initiated a lot of story ideas which were embraced. It was highly interesting. That was the experience with BBC.

But I learnt two things; first the person you are interviewing does not determine your questions to achieve your goal because you were supposed to put yourself in that position. This instructs you to determine for the public which has a lot of questions to ask on multi-faceted problems. So, you ask questions for the public.

Second thing I learnt was that we usually knew a lot of things more than we reported because some of the stories had to be 15 or 20 seconds. For instance, you have talked to about 10 people and you have to condense it to 20 seconds, you need to keep many to yourself. But then, it also revealed that when you talk too much, you repeat yourself.

working with bbc: hon-shawulu

BROADCASTERS: Please relate your experience with your colleagues working with such organizations as NTA, Radio Nigeria…

HON. SHAWULU: Yes the first perspective was that the journalist working with BBC does not see himself as an extension of government.  When you see a BBC reporter, one of the uppermost things in his mind is to get from you what you did not want to say, not reporting government to the people.

In Nigeria, even all over Africa, the reporter’s intention is for you to explain yourself and convince the public to follow your” good intentions”.

“So, the journalist in this context becomes a public relations officer and not really the impartial umpire or a go –between the public and the government.

All the years I spent with BBC, I did not see myself as one adversary to the government. I did not see myself as adversary to the public as well. The orientation was that I had to make meaning to what was happening, to the news around you.

“It was strange that majority of listeners were not living in Nigeria, and they had no time for distractive contents. You need to be apt and truthful for them to understand you.

For instance, the problem between the Fulani and the Mumunye people of Taraba, was purely ethnic problem over land ownership. The problem of cattle rearing was not as troublesome as it is now, but churches were destroyed along the line. This shifted it from ethnic to religious problem because there were some Mumunyes that were muslims and there were some Fulani’s that were Christians, in Taraba State. But Majority of Fulanis are Muslims and majority of Mumunyes were Christians. So a fight between them could easily be reported as both religious and ethnic.

It becomes your duty to report objectively, what this side said, what this side also said, and present it properly to whoever is listening for objective understanding.

 But if you follow the media, particularly in Africa, the media follows the political culture of its environment; our reporting is at the same level with our political culture and society.

Today, it is even worse. But BBC kept a standard, such that if you got money and decided to slant a story, it may even be kicked out. Not that they knew you got money. So, many public officials did not like us.

There was a governor who phoned me that he would give me money to visit a particular country and compare it to what we are doing better here. I wish he still have the money for the two of us to go now and conclude his opinion. Most governors then always complained that we are anti-government for being fair to every side.

These are the lines of differences between the way we practiced and that of our other colleagues.


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