A former Honourable member of the House of Representatives and one time National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Hon. Sani Zorro has described the now rested Concord newspapers, founded by the late Alhaji Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, as a game changer that survived without adverts from alcohol and cigarette companies.
Abiola, famously known as MKO by his numerous admirers and supporters across the world was a southwest Muslim Politician, presumed to have won the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections (based on the results announced) before it was annulled by the Gen. Gbadamosi Babangida-led military government.
Hon Zorro said, in an interview with Muslim News “May Allah continue to forgive and bless late Chief MKO Abiola whose Concord Newspaper was actually a game changer. I am very proud to have benefitted from the experience I gathered at Concord Newspapers. I worked there as a journalist.”
According to him, “There was a time Chief MKO Abiola as a matter of policy directed the editorial board and management of Concord Newspapers not to accept advertisements of alcohol and cigarettes in the newspaper. There was a lot of hue and cry. Those who were in the Marketing and Sales Departments were of the opinion that we were going to lose a lot of revenue.
“However, for him as a convinced Muslim, who was always conscious of meeting Allah and accounting for all his deeds in the Hereafter, he decided to say ‘no’ because his decision to ban alcohol and cigarette advertisements weren’t about money. It is about his final reckoning with his Creator who says we should not drink alcohol and who has banned him from advertising or associating with anything that encourages the drinking of alcohol as well as other vices.
“Until he died, he never lacked. He had enough money to bridge the gap of the so called advertising revenue lost in those circumstances. Secondly, we as Muslims are not looking at it from the political point of view. Islam is a religion that discourages inflicting harm on fellow human beings, whether a Muslim or non-Muslim. Everybody knows that there isn’t anything positively derivable from the drinking of alcohol or from cigarette smoking and other such vices except inflicting harm on oneself.”
Harmful effects of cigarettes
Hon. Zorro, who is an indigene of Jigawa state, said the harmful effects of cigarette made tobacco companies to be routed out basically from the United States of America.
He said, “American judges and later other Western judges decided to clamp very extreme and harsh judgments on tobacco manufacturing companies whenever victims of their products took the tobacco companies over the death of their kiths and kins or loved ones. They routed them out, but they have come here to set up their companies in Ibadan, Zaria, Kenya and so on.
“However, we thank God that in terms of policy, even non-Muslims like the late Minister, Prof Olikoye Ransome Kuti banned smoking in public places. He was not a Muslim but he did that out of conviction as a medical doctor who knew the harm that was being inflicted to even non-smokers. Secondly, billboards advertising cigarettes have been banned as well as kiosks and all other devices that cigarette manufacturing companies use.
“It is a battle that is compatible with Islamic injunctions. At any rate, I am not sure if there is anywhere in any religious scripture that encourages drinking at any stage, especially the kind of consequential misbehaviour that is often associated with drinking, which to me, is the same with drug addiction because they have the same negative effects,” he added.
Why some Muslim media owners don’t associate with Islam
The former lawmaker challenged rich Muslim elites to come up with national newspapers like The Concord Press, saying, “The absence of such newspapers has robbed Muslims of getting feature articles and stories about Islam; editorial opinions that are also very robust and enlightening. It would, undoubtedly, have tremendously helped in clearing a lot of ignorance being circulated in today’s media.
“There are proprietors of Nigerian media outlets who are Muslims, but have decided to treat their media as businesses. What they have forgotten, because they are afraid of being tagged and branded as fanatics, is that they have allowed the enemies of Islam to use the same medium to attack Islam and that is quite unfortunate.”
“I would not want to mention names, but of course, it is very obvious that quite a number of these newspapers, television houses, radio stations owned by Muslims have scenarios of this nature. Apart from that, I also feel that we are to do a holistic, national ethical renewal.
“Journalism itself abhors unethical practices, whether in the practice of mainstream journalism, through advertising or public relations. These are the three dominant elements or actors in the media. The journalists that write the stories, do the features; advertisers that display advertisements and then Public Relations Officers who probably are aggregators and planners of things in the interest of the people.
Muslim News will fight Islamophobia if…
The passionate Muslim pen-pusher expressed his strong belief that Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper, as a specialised media, will help in overcoming misrepresentation of Islam if it is supported by Nigerian Muslims.
He said, “Let me also appreciate Rasheed Abubakar and his team for finding it absolutely necessary to come up with this specialised medium that promises to change the media narrative of blaming Islam and Muslims for offences committed in its lofty name.
“Absolutely, it is a Jihad to come up with a medium that will explain Islam to Nigerian Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Why I said it is a Jihad is because Islam is being deliberately misrepresented in Nigeria and all parts of the world. Islam is being projected as a religion of terror, horror and an ideology that promotes violence.
“This narrative has unfortunately turned to the worse for islam which used to be the fastest growing religion especially in the 1990s. This was attested to by many media organisations including the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC).
“Sometimes in the late 1990s, I consulted for BBC on a particular programme which they came to propagate in Nigeria and it was titled ‘Islam: The fastest growing religion in the world.’ That is why I said it is documented that sometime in the last part of the 20th century, Islam was really on the rise.
“Even now, with all the deliberate blackmail and misguided information about Islam as an ideology of violence, Islam has been received very well in many Western countries and also, in this part of the country, Nigeria. So, we are very fine, happy and confident of Islam, despite their misrepresentations. I welcome this publication and I call on Nigerian Muslims to support it.
Reporting Boko Haram
The veteran journalist also expressed dissatisfaction at the branding of Boko Haram terrorists as jihadists or Islamic terrorists, saying that it is a copy and paste exercise on the part of Nigerian journalists who are confused and not sufficiently knowledgeable.
“As far as this branding is concerned, I think there is confusion in the Nigerian media. Now, because of the extent of partisanship, the insurgents in the North Eastern part of the country are branded as Islamic terrorists, because they’re Muslims.
“But those who started the armed campaign against the Nigerian state in the so called Niger Delta in the South-South are called militants. What do you mean? Because they’re not Muslims? It is just a copy and paste syndrome; the words used by the international media, we are greatly influenced by it.
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Former NUJ President also noted that forming a Muslim media body would have been unnecessary if not that it was forced on Muslim journalists, adding that these in-groups influence division and fragmentation.
According to him, “Under normal circumstance, honestly speaking as a Nigerian patriot who does not believe in division and fragmentation, I do not tend to support associations championing primordial or even religious causes. But these things have been forced on us. There is a Christian Journalist Association. They also have Journalists for Christ, etc.
“I think the best deal that we can get is to continue to strive to uplift the activities of the association, propagate what Islam is all about and disapprove what it is not as far as we are concerned. We are in a very turbulent world.
“The 21st century has spelt doom for the entire world. The revolution in ICT even though a blessing to humankind has caused a lot of destruction because it is a medium of exchanging news, views and carrying propaganda, fake news and what have you,” he said.
Speaking further, he urged Muslims to invest heavily in digital education so as to separate truths from untruths, while advising non-Muslims to always verify whatever is told to them about Islam.
“We need to ask Muslims to invest more in digital education that will enable us separate the truths from untruths. I appeal to our brothers who are not subscribers of the Islamic faith not to take and swallow hook, line and sinker whatever is said about Islam because they can verify whatever is said from their neighbours.
“We should be confident and lead by example. Those Muslims in top positions in the media must make it a duty to ensure that Islam is not misrepresented and Muslims are given fair hearing. There must be justice for everyone, not only for the Muslims, but for everyone across the board. It is a costly demand though,” he added.
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