Justine John DYIKUK

Pictures, still or motion, are very important in both private and public circles. Whether these are, posters or pictorials, they are iconic and so, convey deep meaning, which touches on the appeal these pictographic-gallery portray. The divine mandate in the book of Numbers 21:4-9, for Moses to make a bronze serpent, put it on a pole, and make Israelites who are bitten by snakes to stare at the former for healing shows the place of images and what they can do. Even before the advent of western education, the ancients in traditional society carved images of deities or kings and these effigies are kept in special rooms where they were either revered or worshipped. They simply had a spiritual undertone, especially in Africa.

The contemporary African is no less than his forebears in the whole game of pictorial appeal. That is why many will prefer a book that has a picture on it than one that is abstract. The young bear more culpability in pictorials and their appreciation. Does this have any effect on personal or national integrity? The answer is in the affirmative!
This shall be the meat of this piece as it unravels the low and high points of pictorial influence on the individual in particular and the society in general, stating possible ways out of this state of affairs. Setting the ball rolling here involves six factors. This we shall reflectively expose according to the limits of this article.

At the heart of this discuss is the ‘poster-problem’ which is hoax in nature. To start with, it must be acknowledged that they constitute an important vehicle of communicating or transmitting information, portraying the mind of their maker or simply sending messages to whomever their appearance attracts. It is not uncommon to see a display of posters in any Nigerian market. In Northern Nigeria, which is my place of domicile, for instance, the poster market is usually situated on the roadside – reason, one of which is proximity to customers and passers by.

A close look at these posters reveals large portraits of Osama Bin Laden, Muamar Gadaffi, Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babangida or the war between Iraq and Kuwait, Israel and Palestine. I have often wondered why all these but have never dared to ask why! If we expose posters of the aforementioned and the likes of Adolf Hitler, certainly the question one would ask is whether these men were heroes or icons of national or international repute?

In like manner, pornographic posters or materials either revealing naked or half-naked pictures of individuals littered around our public places, leaves much to be desired. Seemingly, innocent yet curious young people passing by are easily drawn and their magnetic eyes like those of Eve on the deceptive forbidden fruit are everly fixed on these porn materials. The outcome, your gaze is as good as mine!

The billboard (or glossy tabloids) with its agenda of sensationalism is another offender. Often, the aim in view is physical and emotional appeal. It is not uncommon to find a young man stumbling upon a stone because he is so engrossed in the gaze of a sensational billboard. Some of these billboards present some kind of false eldorado or blissful experience that is always far from reality. I was passing through the commercial nerve centre of Eastern Nigeria, Onitsha when I saw a large live-size star billboard (without prejudice to the company) with the picture of man in traditional attire carrying the write-up: “I am Nigeria and Star is my beer.” I immediately asked my friend if he thinks it is right to reduce Nigeria to a bottle of star. His answer is debate for another day. However, I think the point has been made.

The internet, another susceptible outfit is indeed a product of our age and time. Talking about our jet age, one Professor J. Isawa Elaigwu remarked, “From the ‘Coca-colanization’ of the world, we have arrived at the ‘CNNization’ of the world.” The global village constantly presents us with digital challenges. The internet, which is supposed to be a blessing to our generation, is becoming a curse. If it is not cyber-crime, it is pornography. Subscribe to it or not, as long as you are an internet user via Facebook, Skype, Twitter, 2go, Yahoo, Google to mention just a few social networks, you are at risk. Some people use this social site as a stronghold for unlawful behavior.

The cell phone, which makes communication and information flow easily, is now becoming a take-away tool for evil. The kind of picture (both still and motion) some people (mostly the young-age, grade six up-wards) post, send to or receive from their friends via BB messenger, multi-media or bluetooth speaks volumes of a generation in need of exorcism.
Generally, most advertorials are often easy prey for fantasy commercialization and sensationalization by means of emotional, fear or positive sensationalism. In mass media of communication, usually pictures are over-hyped to increase viewership, stimulate emotion rather than reason and arouse fear, love, hate, greed, sexual desire or humor. It creates the impression that for your psychological tension to be resolved, you must buy the product. Sometimes it would create fear anxiety in the customer to encourage him/her to resolve the fear by purchasing a said product. In some cases, it attempts to alleviate a person’s anxiety about buying and using a product based on the positive aspects of the product as well as its use to the buyer. The purpose again is to make you loose your emotional hot buttons.

The effects on personal and national life are many and very disturbing. The radicalization of our youth in the area of religious and political violence or terrorism is not unconnected with the kind of people they hold as role models or posters they relish, store in their phones, keep in their wallets, fix on their bicycles, motorcycles, Keke or even vehicles. If we idolize despots or people of questionable character for whatsoever reason, present and future events in our private or public lives will be marred by the illicit principles of those.

The high rate of illegitimate sexual behavior, which includes; gayism, rape, masturbation bestiality, abortion among other bad things, is a knock-on effect of what people feed their eyes with. The pictures you watch are often stored in your brain (memory) and are later displayed hence, immorality – it serves as fuel to already perceived evil.
Sensational pictures on some of our billboards, those googled, sent or received through the mobile leaves many emotionally imbalanced, spiritually dead and morally derailed. While they corrode religious values, they as well distort the individual physically and psychologically too. The eventual danger could be violence, which further destroys our national integration. If pictorial advertorials in commercialization and the mass media of communication works in good faith, society will be the better for it. To say the least, you are what you watch!
Government, civil liberty organizations, civil society leaders, educators; captains of industries, the media, religious and traditional leaders cannot shy away from defending our private or public veracity and corporate existence. Children and young people must be protected from the onslaught of mortal and moral enemy number one, nudity and its attendant evils!

Religious organizations must be up against public display of pictures that offend sensibilities. We should rise up to the occasion and safeguard the dignity of the human person and our own identity as Nigerians and Africans. We should give visual rendering only to good and reputable heroes, heroines or iconic men and women. The private if perverted destroys both the internal and the external. As such, POSTERS and PICTORIALS should PREACH PURITY rather than be a PEST OF PERVERSION. Watch what you watch!

Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest and a Public Affairs Commentator, writes from Bauchi, Nigeria!

Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest, is a Public Affairs Commentator; he writes from Bauchi, Nigeria where he is currently ministering!