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Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

Media Perception and Nigeria Peace Index By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

Mention 5 states in Nigeria that are considered not peaceful based on
public perception? That was the question that shaped the private
conversation I had with 2 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, 6th April 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 5 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 5 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 5
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 2010–2016, 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). He can be reached at discus4now@gmail.com


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