Nigerian banker Erastus Akingbola has launched a radio station that seeks to propagate morals, ethics and godliness as the basic principles for nation-building in a country that forbids outright religious broadcasting - writes Lekan Otufodunrin.
"We want to use the power of the mass media to redress and reconstruct our national value system. We do not preach religion. We preach godliness, morals, ethics and sound value," said Akingbola, the chief executive officer of Intercontinental Bank, who is a Christian.
The station, Inspiration FM, is the newest addition to at least 15 others in the west African nation's economic capital. A 1992 law allowing private ownership has made it easier to obtain broadcast licences and there are about 90 government and privately owned radio stations in the country.
Inspiration FM is the first Nigerian station to promote 'godliness' as one of its objectives. Nigeria's broadcasting code forbids the establishment of stations for outright religious broadcasting to the country's 146 million people of whom about 50 percent are Muslims and 40 percent Christians. Christian and Islamic religious broadcasts are usually classified as commercial programmes and individual broadcasts on television and radio stations require payment
Akingbola lamented what he called the debasement of the country's moral, socio-economic, political and even religious values. He said there is an urgent need to address the situation in Africa's most populous nation, which despite its oil wealth, is beset by rampant corruption that holds back development.
"We communicate the right message that will assist our youth achieve lofty ambitions and greatness through hard work, godliness and civic principles," said Akingbola. "This is our brand identity. At Inspiration FM we believe we can re-mould our battered social character, we believe we can reshape the future of our society for better," he explained. "We believe that Nigeria can be better, indeed we believe in Nigeria. This is our philosophy at Inspiration FM Radio."
Akingbola urged citizens organizations and political leaders to join the station in a campaign to reshape the country, commending recent efforts by the federal government to re-brand Nigeria.
On 6 March, the Minister of Information and Communications inaugurated a 20-member committee on rebranding called the Nigeria National Image Project which is advised by evangelist Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide.
"What they are saying simply is that we cannot continue to put up with the image we exude abroad, the perception of ours as a country of sub-ethics," Akingbola said. "All other arms and tiers of government should key into this initiative of the Federal Ministry of Information. We also enjoin corporate Nigeria to channel part of their corporate social responsibility resources towards development of the right social culture amongst our youth and among the general public."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]