As 2015 draws closer, the focus in Nigeria is now increasingly set on the performance and professionalism of media operatives. After all, communication media are the mouthpiece and reflector of political activities and public feedback. It is not for nothing that the media is scientifically assessed as the unofficial fourth estate of the democratic phenomenon. After years of voluntary association with the corridors of scientific activities at various levels in Europe, I will dare to add hypothetically that the government of any country can only be as good as the mass media of the country itself.
Precisely this is one plausible explanation for the desolate state of political leadership in Nigeria today. Without straying too far from the subject indicated in the title of this article, I will advise readers to lay their hands on my book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” for details on how the deplorable state of journalism in Nigeria has largely translated into bad governance. One recent case-study in this respect is the demonic onslaught of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram and the media handling of the aftermath of its latest show of shame.
The bombing of the Nyanya motor-park or bus station by Boko Haram in Abuja on April 14, 2014 has finally thrown open many more questions than had already existed only as whispers. It has provided far lesser answers than had existed only as murmurs.
First and foremost, questions on the absence of surveillance cameras have been countered with charges of theft and contract malpractices – a permanent variable in the socio-political and commercial psyche at all levels of the country. To this, there has been no viable answer and the current dispensation is not intent on providing one.
An ex-post revelation is contending that men in military uniforms were sighted parking a vehicle that allegedly accounted for the weight of the devastating explosion at the motor-park. There has yet been no answer provided to this serious allegation. The following photo has been allegedly released by military sources claiming to show the body of a suicide bomber wearing a cabled vest that sparked the explosion.
It is however obvious that the body of the alleged suicide bomber is relatively intact while the bodies of victims of the explosion some reasonable distance away, were reportedly torn apart. There is yet no line drawn between fact and fiction.
This automatically draws the attention of every observer to more detailed and mind-boggling issues surrounding these endless Boko Haram atrocities. It is not lost on anyone that the terrorist group originated from political disgruntlement amongst northern political leaders. The short-changing of the rotational arrangement that would have seen the Presidency returned to the North in 2015 may have aggravated the situation as it did in 2010.
For the records: In 2010, the premature death of a President warranted the ascension to the Presidency by the Vice President. This is a customary constitutional practice all over the world that no rotational arrangement can short-change. Unfortunately, the northern elite stupidly resisted this vehemently and gave the impression that it was born to rule Nigeria for good. This challenged Nigerians to rise to the defense of the oppressed Vice President at the time and encouraged him to defy all rotational arrangements to teach the arrogant Northerners a serious lesson. The result today, is a heap of presidential incompetence, cluelessness, unintelligent leadership and inordinate ambition topped by a lust for power beyond all scopes of reasonable agreements amongst gentlemen of fortune.
In one bold move that many considered late and overdue, the President declared a State of Emergency six months ago, on the stronghold territory of terrorist operations. The move was largely praised. Unfortunately as were many presidential decisions taken before it, this one was also undermined by a characteristically unintelligent politicization. In a move that was largely seen as a swipe against former President Obasanjo, the incumbent President declared an alibi State of Emergency that was to leave all democratic institutions intact. I was one of very few writers who condemned this half-hearted and cowardly move at the time. My article “The many Questions left unanswered by the State of Emergency” provided all the details that needed addressing.
Ever since however, numerous reports have surfaced, of the Nigerian military smoking out terrorist bases and wiping away scores of suspected fighters and their logistics, often quoting unbelievable figures that made Nigerians believe that the end of the terror sect was only a matter of time. While this is often consoling to the weary souls who pray for a quick end to the senseless murders, they are often trailed treacherously, by cries of atrocities against innocent civilians, raised by leading members of the northern elite. This confusing picture sometimes, forces a neutral observer to wonder if the northern elite are not quite comfortable seeing the defeat of this terrorist Boko Haram sect.
Yet this apparent double-posturing and voices of betrayal do not in any way diminish the serious and valid questions raised recently by the Governor of Adamawa State Murtala Nyako. This Governor – no matter his antecedents – has called on his fellow northern leaders to rise up against an alleged plot to decimate the population of the north through willful assassinations in the name of Boko Haram. Many, including myself, may consider this exaggerated, strange and confusing. Yet the reasons he provided are strong, compelling and persuasive.
In the very first place, if the President believed that local political institutions were aiding and abetting the terrorists, why was the state of emergency not designed to also checkmate these institutions from the onset, as the constitution demands? In this show of stupidity, writers such as the legendary Dele Momodu praised this presidential dumbness as a sound measure aimed at promoting democracy with the aim of chastising a presidential predecessor who implemented the constitutional provision to its letters. It did not matter that the constitution with its provisions ought to have been called into question rather than a President who implemented it. Another major failure of the media as a vanguard of public interest!
Looking at claims that men dressed in military uniform positioned a vehicle that was detonated to kill and maim innocent citizens in Abuja and the unbelievable image of a supposed suicide bomber, the suspicions raised by Governor Nyako, of the complicity of the Nigerian military with Boko Haram is merely stating aloud what many politicians have been murmuring along several corridors in Abuja for several weeks and months now.
Many months ago, I reported my private findings in my article “Is Boko Haram just a Label? What Game is playing out here?” Several months of private interaction with Northerners from Maiduguri and other Boko Haram stronghold states led me to just one conclusion: State complicity. I drew attention to the massive mistrust of the Police and the JTF in key northern states by members of the public whose hearts and mind must be won to defeat the terrorists in any meaningful military strategy. Instances were reported to me, in which ordinary citizens were visited at home and gunned down by Boko Haram fighters shortly after the citizens had reported the hideouts of these fighters to the authorities. This is something we all know down south as well. Whoever reports a robber’s or kidnapper’s den to the police often gets killed by the same people he reported before the police comes up to make a show of wielding Kalashnikovs and pump action guns.
What answer has anybody provided to the daylight rampaging menace of terrorists driving in a convoy of no less than 20 vehicles in a city that is under emergency rule without being challenged by the military if there is no collusion? Was this cooked up by Murtala Nyako?
How can terrorists attack a school and go on a killing spree for 4 hours without soldiers coming anywhere near? Even 1 hour is enough time to prompt a robust military response. The kidnap of over 200 school girls from their girls’ hostel (to serve the fighters as sex slaves) does not happen in just 5 minutes. Where was the necessary military response? Most often checkpoints are reportedly dismantled before the passage of terrorist fighters and remounted after the commitment of atrocities. In a recent night raid on a military barrack, Boko Haram terrorists were reportedly fighting using night view goggles with the Nigerian Army left to seek them out with their naked eyes in the poorly lighted compound of the military barrack that sparsely enjoyed power supply. Yet when a Governor cried out that the Nigerian Army was more poorly equipped than the Boko Haram fighters, the Presidency sought the head of this Governor for making a reckless comment. Like the government of the day, there is no doubt that military Generals are also feeding their pot-bellies with allocations meant for equipping the military.
Would it be the fault of Governor Nyako if the Nigerian military is caught lying claiming that it had freed most of the kidnapped schoolgirls and arrested most of the kidnappers? Does this not add to the lie that the Boko Haram leader Shekau has been killed only to see him surfacing in videos once again? Should we blame Governor Nyako for the military’s loss of credibility and obvious confirmation of all the stereotypes that people have always had against it in the north?
Yet all the President does is to let its attack dogs loose on Governor Nyako rather than launching moves to reform the military while the battle goes on! The responsible sense of promising to look into all these questions and truly acting in that spirit is not President Jonathan’s stock in trade. We now have a military establishment that takes the game of lying (to demoralize its enemies) way too far much like the President’s Assistant on new media “Pastor” Reno Omokri who launched a smear campaign against an innocent man to score political points. Just what Presidency does Jonathan think he is running?
It is no secret that President Jonathan has long been toying with this serious issue of Boko Haram from the very beginning foolishly playing the politics of outsmarting political opponents. Letting former President Obasanjo engage in vain, in efforts to nip the project in the bud is one of the President’s silly political games. Ever since, politicians have been fingered in the Boko Haram plot! The President has cried out that there were terrorists in his cabinet. Senator Ndume has been arrested and caught red-handed. An arrested Boko Haram leader has been fished out from a State House in Abuja. Yet no head has rolled. No cry of helplessness has come from the President. Then the President would visit victims on one day and go partying and boozing the next day.
In his abundance of wisdom, the President does not seem to ask himself the crucial question what it will now look like if it suddenly dawns on him to implement emergency rule in Adamawa State as demanded by the constitution only after Governor Nyako has spoken out the hitherto murmured truth. That he will now look more stupid than ever before and become a laughing stock for the Obasanjo that he had sought to chastise if he went ahead to dismiss democratic institutions will never occur to the infinitely intelligent President.
Yet the media is silent and pitiably complicit. There is no mass hysteria in the newspapers and broadcasting organs calling on the government to quit if it is not capable of protecting its citizens. The CIA, FBI, MOSSAD or MI5 can always help him work out security blueprints if he cried out for help. No one is crying out loud in the Nigerian media for the government to produce just one person it has arrested and kept languishing in jail for committing oil subsidy fraud to the detriment of poor consumers. After all corruption and ineptitude are at the bottom of all incompetences in Nigeria including the military. Yet the Nigerian Vanguard came out in an Editorial today April 22, 2014 lambasting Governor Nyako in a one-sided consideration of facts aimed at backing the President in spite of all signs of inefficiency and incompetence.
In the end, we see that the government of Nigeria is only as good as the media that the country has.
Frisky Larr, author, broadcast Journalist, communication scientist, and translator/Interpreter originally wrote this piece for his blog and is now published here by the author’s permission. He can be reached via email FriskyLarr@aol.com