Re: BBC, Please give us a tobacco documentary

Tobacco

Sir, Reading the piece, BBC, please give us a tobacco documentary! by one Muyiwa Kayode in The Guardian of Tuesday, May 8, 2018 column, Brand Nation, was a very sore experience for anyone with critical thinking skills.

This was largely due to the fact that the writer in his angst against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Nigerian state and its regulatory authorities decided to look for a soft target to unload upon, and allowed his piece to be riddled with straw arguments and inaccuracies that gave it the coloring of a rant by a petulant child who has just been scolded for mischief but resorted to pointing accusing fingers to another child who he feels is more guilty of egregious violations.

One would have expected Muyiwa, CEO, ‎USP Brand Management, who, in the last seven years, has been responsible for managing the corporate brand of Emzor Pharmaceuticals, to have been more methodical, diligent and thorough in his attempt to excoriate the BBC for doing its job and the Nigerian government for its knee-jerk reaction to the airing of the documentary that indicted his client.

Rather, he opted for vilification of a socially-responsible, legitimate and tax-paying organization, the British American Tobacco (BAT).

For those who might not know, Africa Eye, a new documentary strand from the BBC, and BBC Pidgin, the newest addition to the BBC Africa team based in Nigeria, produced a five-month undercover investigation/documentary project, Sweet Sweet Codeine.

The documentary showcased how widespread the use of codeine had become. Sting operations were conducted on Emzor Pharmaceuticals Industry Limited and two other pharmaceutical companies.

The running time for the documentary is 55 minutes but BBC created a six-minute cut-down version, which quickly went viral on social media.

The government reacted by placing a ban on the sale of codeine as well as began investigations into these companies featured in the project.

It is against this canvass that Muyiwa has decided to paint his warped narrative about how BAT is the Alpha and Omega of the industry and employed a sarcastic tone, which suggested that the BBC must focus its attention on the tobacco industry in a bid to provoke a similar reaction from the Nigerian government.

It is important to point out that Muyiwa’s hatchet job is the product of intellectual laziness.

I will attempt to point out a few of these misrepresentations, which he tried to pass on as facts. The attempt to equate the drug abuse problem and the tobacco use is clearly misguided.

America has a similar opioids crisis; I can’t recall seeing any feeble attempt by the Big Pharma at obfuscating the issues and trying to deflect the scrutiny.

No, they manned up and began to sponsor studies and researches aimed at tackling the problem headlong.

The scrutiny, which the tobacco industry has faced in Nigeria and other climes, is unparalleled. So BBC does not need to do a documentary on the industry or on BAT.

In case Muyiwa isn’t aware, there is an avalanche of media reports sponsored by ever pugnacious and foreign sponsored anti-tobbaco coalition against the company and other big tobacco companies.

Besides, as recently as 2015, the BBC did a damning report on BAT in East Africa. So where, pray, is the validation in his allegation that BBC would never do a documentary on BAT because it is a British company?

Muyiwa should be told that if BBC grants his request for a tobacco documentary or even more documentaries on marijuana and alcohol, it will not deflect attention from the prevalent codeine abuse, which is common knowledge in Nigeria today.

Lanre Odusile sent this piece from Lagos.

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