The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that to triumph over the challenges facing Nigeria, citizens should overcome their differences in politics and religion, tribe and ethnicity.
Gbajabiamila said one of the ingredients of overcoming Nigeria’s security challenges is information management.
The Speaker was speaking at the 2-day national conference on information organized by the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values chaired by Rep. Odebunmi Dokun.
He said: “As we undertake this crucial assignment today, I would like for us to keep a few things in mind. First is that right now, across the length and breadth of our beloved country, we are besieged by several security challenges that strike at the very heart of our continued nationhood.
“Triumph over these challenges requires overcoming our differences in politics and religion, tribe and ethnicity, and building a national alliance against the forces that threaten us. Information management is central to success in this regard.
“We have to do better at making sure that citizens understand the nature of the problems we face and are kept informed of our wins and losses and the sacrifices made by those who do battle on our behalf.”
Gbajabiamila added that “as technology and new media have democratised public debate to benefit citizens and nations, it has also created the ideal conditions for bad actors to spread misinformation and manipulate people in ways that threaten our societies.”
He said with Nigeria ‘s diverse cultures and religions still working towards achieving a more perfect union, hate speech and other forms of misinformation and disinformation could quickly have a devastating real-world effect.
“Therefore, countering misinformation by whatever proper and legal means are available is not a theoretical question but a responsibility that goes to the heart of our ability to continue to exist as one nation in peace, unity and prosperity.”
He tasked the stakeholders at the conference to be aware that “in trying to prevent the worst consequences of misinformation and hate speech, there is a danger of going too far in ways that smother the marketplace of ideas and deprive citizens of their free speech rights.
“That would be most unfortunate, and as leaders and government policymakers, we must avoid that outcome by all means. To do that, we must focus on building legal systems and protocols that support free expression and robust public debate whilst holding to account those who in service of their narrow interests will seek to subvert our societies and harm our country using choreographed and mischievously curated misinformation.”
He noted that the theme of the conference, ‘Information as a Strategic Tool for National Development,’ was apt and further tasked the stakeholders to look at the depth and breadth of the theme.
Earlier in a welcome remark, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Dokun said “proper information management has not been given its deserved consideration in the Nigerian society, hence it has consistently resulted in unguided environment for promotion of hate speech and fake news that has become the order of the day and accompanied by its negative consequences of setting us against one another.”
He said the theme of the conference is broad, therefore the depth and importance of the discuss could not be exhausted at a forum, noting that the importance of information management to national development could not be overemphasized as its literacy is significant for such in any country.
“Hence, it could be affirmative that through proper dissemination of information, country’s orientation and reorientation policies can be adapted for any planned paradigm shift for developmental purposes.”