Ambassador Yemi Farounbi, a veteran broadcaster, was Nigeria’s ambassador to the Republic of Philippines and concurrently, to the kingdom of Cambodia. Before he became chairman of Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, he was the chairman of Daily Times of Nigeria Plc for four years. In this interview he spoke on the Yoruba leadership crisis and why the media must up its game in Nigeria among other issues.
On Yoruba leadership crisisLooking at the history of Yoruba leaders, the Yoruba’s never had one leader before. Until 1967, even in the great days of the Oyo Empire. The Oyo empire did not include all Yoruba, there were parts of Yoruba land that had their own leaders. In 1967, with the political difficulty the nation was facing, the Yorubas felt threatened that they wanted the northern soldiers removed. They wanted independence of the Igbo. If Igbo were allowed to go, Yoruba will not stay with the Hausa people. This brought about a need for a leader. General Yakubu Gowon almost said the basis for Nigeria no longer existed. Even those who were opposed to Awolowo who were in the NNPP, those who were in NCNC were the ones who moved the motion that Awolowo should be the leader of Yoruba race. By 1978/79, when he became the president of UPN, he laid less emphasis on the leadership of the Yoruba because he knew that it was not possible for him.
Yoruba choose leaders in crisis period
Awolowo, as a partisan presidential candidate, there was an extent to which he could gather all Yoruba under one party. All through the Second Republic, there was more talk of him being President of Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, than being the Yoruba leader. The military came and we faced the problem of survival again. The Obas, primarily the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Sijuade called for a meeting. Abacha had taken over and there was ethnic cleansing of the Yoruba from the army, civil service. Then, we needed a leader to take control during the days of NADECO. Without any meeting, Ajasin was appointed the successor of Awolowo by the Obas. That was in 1995. There was no successor of Awolowo until the Yoruba felt threatened again. The political situation of Nigeria was getting worse under General Abacha. Abiola and his wife were killed. A lot of people were killed in situations that people believed were carried out by the government. We all gathered at Premier Hotel feeling threatened once again. We unanimously adopted Pa Abraham Adesanya as the Yoruba spokesperson. By 1999, politics was in play and Papa identified more with Afenifere by saying Afenifere is AD, AD is Afenifere. So what happened to the Yoruba in other political parties? That weakened his position as the leader of the Yoruba race.
When the PDP governors swept the South-West in 2003, there was only one man standing (Asiwaju Tinubu). They felt that the leader of the Yoruba should also be their leader but he didn’t congratulate them. But, on the contrary they became targets of attack because Papa Adesanya had identified with one political party. Until the great man died, what would have been the allure associated with the leader of the Yoruba was lost. Since we dabbled into having a leader, there has been no consistent method of appointment. It has become difficult to criticize the 47 organizations which gathered and said that they have appointed a leader of Yorubas.
Fulanisation threatened Yoruba If I quote Obasanjo, the Fulanization and radical Islamisation has threatened the Yoruba.
Yoruba are the most hospitable people. In villages, you find Fulani settlements and also in urban areas you will find the Hausa, Igbo have theirs also. With the increasing terrorization by herdsmen, the Yoruba were feeling genuinely threatened particularly when it resulted into massive kidnapping. It became necessary to have a leader and look for one person who will be non-partisan so that the error of Pa Adesanya can be corrected. Not somebody who will identify himself with one political party. I have read his (Prof Akintoye’s) acceptance and his interview where he talked about the emergence of an association called World Yoruba Congress. I have known Prof Akintoye for six years now, I have not found one instance where he has been found wanting in terms of integrity, Yoruba patriotism. More than any of his contemporaries, he has argued the cases of Yoruba loudest and longest. When there were problems in Oyo North he went there. When there were problems in Igbo-Ora he went there. And other places where Yoruba had problems. All these acts made him to be appointed as the Yoruba leader. Those who are complaining, those who belong to the Afenifere (of which he is a strong member) or those who belong to the Yoruba Council of Elders have a right to say they should have been invited. It is not that they would have disagreed with the selection but they didn’t like the process because it was not an all inclusive process.
Although he has made the job easier by declaring the Yoruba world Congress, that will take care of all Yoruba not only in Nigeria even in Brazil where they just decided to adopt Yoruba as a language. I know the Yoruba are troubled and we must accept it. We just heard about the lorry load of plazas coming into Lagos. We can take a sample of the South-West, who are the people riding okada? Are they the Yoruba? I doubt it. Where have they got the money that they bring lorry loads of okada into another man’s land? The Fulani herdsmen can they afford the AK 47 they carry? And we also know that this herdsman does not own the cows he is shepherding. So, the Yoruba feel threatened.
In the political scene, they feel threatened. Under Goodluck Jonathan’s government from number 1 to 87, there was no Yoruba man. The new President, Buhari is a product of Yoruba politics. A man who had lost the elections three times and succeeded in getting the sympathy of the Yoruba and won. The Yoruba are starting to think they are not getting adequate rewards. When I say adequate rewards we must understand the Yoruba. The Yoruba hate to be cheated. Those in APC believe Asiwaju has not got enough rewards for the efforts he put in. The Yoruba are more United despite the difference in religion. The Yoruba are feeling threatened because of three factors. Political cleansing, Fulanization and radical Islamisation.
In the face of that, they know they have to get somebody who will articulate their position, who will motivate them, who will ensure they don’t have an anarchy on their hands. I will say that those who don’t like Prof Banji Akintoye emerging the way he emerged, I know they all belong to Afenifere they ought to be able to solve whatever issue without coming to the front pages of the newspaper paraded again as if Yoruba cannot speak with one voice.
Do you share the view of cultural value erosion in today’s broadcasting?
Yes. This is because broadcasting holds a mirror, a mirror to the society. We say this is what you look like. Of course, it also holds another mirror which says this is what you should look like. It is that mirror broadcasting does not hold these days. It holds the mirror that reflects what it has become. If there is a degradation in the society, broadcasting will reflect it. If there has been a devaluation in morals, ethics, attitudes and behaviours, broadcasting will reflect it. Ideally, it ought to reflect what the society should be. So, it can draw attention to areas that we are not doing well.
Essentially broadcasting is dominated by the West. Today, there are satellite providers that give access to a lot of stations. In those days, there was only NTA and a state owned station and programs being aired could be controlled. We could decide that we will no longer show sesame street because it was an importation of foreign culture. But now if government owned stations do it, what about the private owned stations? Can an individual in his home be stopped from importing foreign values that disrupt our society. There have been arguments about Big Brother Naija. In those days, it would have been stopped. The station management would have stopped it but now we can’t stop it and Nigerians can’t be stopped from watching them because they are not necessarily watching it through the government-owned but watching it by their own decision. All of this has led to the massive erosion of our cultural values. We are no longer what we used to be and not what we want to be also. The local stations have to still strive to maintain ethical, societal values but then how can Nigerians be stopped from a massive importation of foreign values through direct satellite. That is why some are worried that the independence that we fought for can be lost.
Technology has improved broadcasting
On the positive side, Technology is much better. It is easier to do coverage all over Nigeria. It is easier to do coverage using your mobile phone, digital cameras. Where as in those days, it was not that easy.
Secondly, those working in the broadcasting industry are more educated than then. At that time, if you had a good certificate, good face, good voice you’re good enough to go but today broadcasting has become intellectualized. They have come to accept that for you to educate and inform people, you have to be more educated and informed than the people. Though the new school are more educated, they are not as trained in broadcasting. They rarely go for professional trainings exclusively in broadcasting. In those days, we send people to BBC training school, Australia Broadcasting Commission training centre, not to train in the principles of mass communication or linguistics but to train in the act of broadcasting itself. The kind of discipline that was in broadcasting then is no longer there. These days people are educated but have not been trained in broadcasting. The owners of the stations don’t appropriate enough money for it. Now, every program will have a budget. These days, producers are made to rely on advertisers.
Advertisers in those days were attracted by programs that had been well packaged and produced. Generally, in spite of the feeling of nostalgia, I think we have moved forward.
Efforts to restore lost glory in broadcasting
We hope to work in partnership with the NBC in this critical area of training. We are also interested in keeping records. There ought to be a museum. This was how we started, this was the kind of cameras we used, recorders etc. Things are changing and those in the future will not know about the technology we used during our time. We ought to protect history as we are growing. We hope to have a broadcast museum. To show how the broadcasting industry has grown in terms of equipment and personnel. We want to preserve some of those programs we started it. It has been difficult for broadcasting Stations to keep their programs because of funding. The very first television drama in the whole of Africa was in WNTV, in August 1960, called my Father’s Boy. A play written by Wole Soyinka, written and produced by Segun Ogunsola. It is nowhere to be found because it was not recorded. It was done live.
Some of these old programs are things that should be in the museum. So, people can come there and see the way our writers were thinking, the way our directors interpreted what was written and so on.
We will also be publishing books because some of those who were there in 1959 are still alive. We have asked them to write.
WNTV lives on
It will enrich the teaching of Mass Communication. We are doing a book on the history of WNTV. It lasted 17 years. There will be a third book based on a colloquium that will hold sometime in October. It is entitled, “60 years of Television, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
We in the alumni believe that any nation whose best time is yesterday is going to die. Your best time must be tomorrow. Take what is good in yesterday, what is good in today and use them to prepare tomorrow. A purely academic book. And we will be inviting those in Mass Communication and relating industries to write a well researched paper so that we can be assisting the teachers of mass communication.Read Full Story