The federal government on Wednesday lamented that Nigerians no longer believe in the leaders they elect and in the concept of nationhood, necessitating the reintroduction of national discourse on reorientation.
The minister of information and national orientation, Mohammed Idris, stated this in an interview with correspondents after meeting President Bola Tinubu at the presidential villa in Abuja.
He observed that the belief in the concept of nationhood and patriotism has broken down, saying that the president has now given him the marching orders to initiate a programme to reconstruct it.
He said: “Well, of course, you know, that the belief in the concept of nationhood and patriotism has broken down in this country. This is not in doubt. We’re trying to rebuild that, to reconstruct that.
“Mr President, give me a marching order to see Nigerians believe in this country again. We’re coming up with a national discourse on orientation or reorientation so that Nigerians can believe in their country.
“You know that people don’t even believe leaders that they themselves have elected. Flags are not flying anymore. You go to the government overseas, you don’t even see the symbol of our collective existence flying even in public buildings.
“We’re bringing that about, we are bringing back this concept of discipline that Nigerians should have. Patriotism. Belief in the nationhood that our founding fathers have told us.
“So it is going to be a new minister of Information and national orientation, and national orientation is going to be at the centre of it.”
The minister revealed that plans are underway to revive the information office in the 774 local government areas in the country to have the required personnel to implement the new reorientation drive.
“Well, the national orientation agency has offices in the 774 LGAs. Of course, there’s attrition now, not all the people that will man these local government offices are there, but we are rebuilding that. We are going to put officers of the envoy around all the 774 LGAs, and we are coming up with a roadmap that will revamp that sector so that Nigerians can believe in their country once again,” he said.
Idris assured that the Tinubu administration will not seek to gag the media, being a believer in freedom of the press himself, but warned that the media must not exercise such freedom with responsibility.
While noting that the government had noted the suggestion by the Nigerian Press Council on registering journalists as a way to sanitize the profession, he said: “Well, that is being looked at. You know that Mr. President believes in press freedom. He believes in the freedom of expression, and he’s not going to gag the press in any way, shape or form. He’s going to work assiduously to ensure that the Nigerian press that has been free is even freer. Yeah.
“But like I said all the time. This freedom also comes with enormous responsibility. You can’t just say what is not right, because you’re enjoying press freedom. There’ll be freedom. But is that responsible freedom.”
On managing the excesses of social media, the Information minister affirmed that even though some of the posts can be unpatriotic, it is a sensitive issue that must be handled with care, stressing that the government must not be perceived as curtailing press freedom.
He added: “You know that is a very delicate line to toe. The government, Mr President and all of us in that sector are committed to ensuring that there’s press freedom. That freedom, like I said, comes with responsibility.
“A lot of things that some of these people on social media are doing are also not very patriotic. Sometimes, you say news that is not factual. But I don’t want a situation where it will be seen that the government is trying to gag the press. I want that to be underscored.
“There is no attempt by the government to gag the press. We’re going to do whatever it takes that is responsible and accountable. Responsible journalism is the way to go.”