How NOT to speak during national tragedy

on   /   in Nigeria Today 12:25 am   /   Comments

By Tonnie Iredia

How to communicate is not as easy as many imagine. Those who tend to believe that communication is just the transmission of messages from one source to another need to know that it is not that simple because no sane person is likely to transmit messages to other people for the sake of doing so.

Abuja-blastRather, people would be more inclined to transmit messages so as to share ideas and information. In other words, when a message is transmitted from one person to another, it must be for a purpose. It does not appear rational therefore to describe as communication, the mere transmission of messages among sources without evidence that the receiver understands the message of the sender.

To do so, would create an impression that the purpose of the communication is irrelevant. Ample care must thus be taken to ensure that information which is sent from one source to another is capable of being understood by those who receive it.

It is only then that communication can be said to be effective, more so in matters concerning public communication. This is because whenever a public body in a society is mandated to undertake an assignment, it is usually being done on behalf of the people. It is therefore necessary for people to be appropriately briefed on the activities of all public organizations.

But the latter cannot talk to people as if it does not matter whether what they say is rational or not. It is more frustrating if communication offends the sensibilities of people during emergencies. Last week’s bomb blast at the Nyanya bus station in Abuja which killed dozens of Nigerians is a good case study.  As soon the incident occurred, several statements were credited to the Police. The most interesting was the one which said that Security agencies have been placed on red alert throughout the Federal Capital Territory.

What is the meaning of red alert? When did the red alert start? What colour of alert had the agencies been placed before the incident? If the word ‘alert’ means vigilance, preparedness and attention, why was it only being done last Monday?  Could it be that the previous state of alert was relaxed only to be reinvigorated as a result of Nyanya?

If so, it would be useful to know the colour and type of the alert adopted after the bomb blasts of 2010 at the Eagles square on Independence Day and the Mogadishu Military Barracks a few months later. Could it have been different from the one adopted in 2011 when the United Nations (UN) Building and the Police Headquarters both in Abuja were bombed or is the red alert story a poem?

Again, body language/action without saying anything is also a form of effective communication. Consequently, the exceedingly long queues on the Nyanya road since last week occasioned by army check points, tells us that the agencies mean business on that road only after the tragedy!

Well, our security agencies have obviously been stretched since the increasing wave of insecurity became our portion in Nigeria. Many victims of the several bombings are security personnel just as some persons who have died in the blasts may have been their relations.

While we salute them for also paying the supreme sacrifice along with other citizens, it is not in their interest to make statements or tell stories that rubbish their sufferings. They cannot continue for instance to insinuate that they are on top of an unending situation of insecurity and hope to attract public confidence and empathy.

If Nigerians are cynical about the security agencies, the latter must thus find time to introspect and put a halt to their communication model that resembles the famous ‘tales by moonlight’. Oh yes, only very few people understand the story of the handcuffed detainee that sparked off a bloody battle the other day at the state security premises just as only posterity can unravel the truth between the version of the Human Rights Commission about the Apo killings and what we heard before

If our security agencies need to refurbish their communication skills, our political class is a worse offender among those that care less about the sensibilities of people. They politicise everything including tragedies. It was quite annoying during the week to hear the All Peoples Congress (APC) playing politics with the death of another set of Nigerians from bomb blasts.

According to the media the APC Governors attributed the tragedy to what it described as the Federal Government having run out of ideas on how to checkmate terrorists and other criminals. What this suggests is that until the APC takes over government after next year’s elections it would not use its brilliant ideas to save fellow Nigerians now, yet some of the states where the current guerilla war is taking place are run by the APC.

On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sent in a rather childish response that APC was responsible for our current insecurity forgetting that it has told the nation several times about knowing those behind our predicament. If so, why is the PDP unable to bring them to justice? Instead of doing that, the party crafted a poetic statement in which it claimed to have been weeping along with the people.

It is thus necessary to remind the PDP that we didn’t vote for her to weep; we ‘voted’ for her to ensure what the constitution describes as the primary purpose of government- the welfare and security of the people. It was thus apt that the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwaheed Omar reminded the Federal Government during the week to implement the “profound recommendations” of the two committees set up on Boko Haram.

As for the need to weep, many Nigerians including the female delegates at the on-going national dialogue and other women have done well. It is not necessary for the ruling party to join the mourners; rather it should strive to end the spate of insecurity. That would be a better option than what this column once described as “governance by condolence”

 

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