Mention five states in Nigeria that are considered not peaceful based on public perception? That was the question that shaped the private conversation I had with two veteran media personalities and crisis communication experts this past week. It was an unplanned discussion about the role of media in communicating events and shaping perceptions.
As we are all aware, media communication in our culture is said to hold an influential place in disseminating information, forming attitudes and motivating behavior. However, according to the conclusion in a Conference of Catholic Churches (CCC, no. 2489), ‘’the more our culture moved away from acceptance of objective truth, the more it has moved toward the culture of opinions’’, which in my view is largely shaped by media reports and perception. On Friday, April 6, 2018, Foundation for Peace Professionals (FPP) publicly unveiled the maiden edition of Nigeria Peace Index (NPI) report in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital.
Nigeria Peace Index (NPI) is an independent national peace index that is focused on measuring peace tendencies through foundational indices. Shortly after the public unveiling of the NPI, I was privileged to find myself in the midst of some highly resourceful Nigerians in persons of Alhaji Yushau Shuaib, a veteran media guru and Founder of PRNigeria and Mr Chidi Omeje, Head, Planning, Research and Statistics, Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC). As is the practice in a gathering of individuals who care about direction of the country, it is not surprising that immediately after I get acquainted with Mr Chidi, whom I am meeting for the very first time, we suddenly went into discussing the issues of peace and national security, with the content of Nigeria peace Index (NPI) being a major point of reference.
Before the arrival of Mr Chidi, Alhaji Shuaibu and I have been discussing the findings of NPI in relation to the current dynamics of conflict in Nigeria. While explaining the difficulty one might experience in convincing media to give NPI more attention, he opined that the current dynamics and media perception doesn’t correlate with the findings of the report. To confirm that this perception is popular in the public and media circle, Alhaji Shuibu threw some questions to Mr Chidi, with the hope of contextualizing the current dynamics in relation to NPI findings. Mention five states in Nigeria that are not considered peaceful based on public perception, Alhaji Yushau Shuibu asked Mr Chidi. It was a clever way to bring in a neutral third party into the discussion.
After listing the five states as requested, he was requested to support the inclusion with reasons, which he did excellently. However, when I was requested to list 3 most peaceful states in Nigeria based on Nigeria Peace Index (NPI) and i did, Mr Chidi was surprised, but he didn’t try to disagree. Instead, he wanted to know how we arrived at that conclusion. I quickly took the opportunity of his interest to discuss the methodology used in designing the Nigeria Peace Index (NPI). I clarified that to our understanding, there are differences between peace index, perception index and conflict index. So, what the Foundation for Peace Professionals (FPP) designed was a peace index and not a conflict or perception index.
To design the Nigeria Peace Index (NPI), 5 broad indicators were adopted namely crime rate, level of human rights abuse, level of poverty, level of education and rate of incarceration. Under these five broad categories, there are sub indicators, which include rates of communal clashes, kidnapping, extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrest and detention, armed robbery and many others.
Putting all these data together across the 36 states of the federation gave us the rating of the NPI. Although, the duration of our research is between 2010 and 2016, there are no evidences that there will be sharp difference when data are considered for 2017 and 2018. It is important to note however that, perception of peace is not the same as presence of peace. Perceptions are shaped largely by media reports. The more coverage negative stories from a state get, the greater the perception of lack of peace and vise versa.
It is on the basis of news coverage that newspapers give diet of opinions on their op-ed pages. As aptly captured by (CCC, no. 2489), talk shows on television turned the sharing of opinions into a national pastime. Editors and talk show hosts strive to give us a range of opinions that stretch from one end of the spectrum to another. At another level, people are enlisted to share their thoughts and feelings publicly on any number of social, moral, and political matters. As a result, some people spend valuable time sharing only feelings or uninformed opinions. However, that is not the case with Nigeria Peace Index (NPI). NPI was designed based on facts and verifiable data. It is not about opinion or perception of peace. It is primarily focused on rating the peacefulness of states based on foundational indices of peace, which are verifiable and not tied to singular events.
Upon my submission, we all agreed that such a fact based index needed to be given more attention to improve the general state of peacefulness in the long run. More importantly because, the NPI will help leaders at various arms of government come to term with fundamental issues needing proper attention to guarantee long term peace. Let me conclude by asking a question we can all ponder about going forward. How can media contribute to peace building and prevent conflict in Nigeria?
To me, it is by giving voices to those who are advocating tolerance,peace building and understanding and promoting such other efforts geared towards strengthening the foundational indices of peace. Nigeria Peace Index (NPI) is one of such efforts and we all need to embrace it. Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a Human Right Ambassador and Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals (FPP), producer of Nigeria Peace Index (NPI