As Nigeria`s embarrassing descent into the doldrums of insecurity has continued unchecked by a government which seems to have its itinerary occupied with chasing rats to places as far away as Liberia, a desperate search for scape goats in on and as usual, it is soft targets rather than the heavily armed non-state actors decimating rural communities across the country that are the center of suffocating attention.
A shattering documentary
On Monday,July 25, 2022, a documentary by the BBC titled ‘The bandit warlords of Zamfara,’ hit the airwaves. In the documentary, Yusuf Anka, a law student from Zamfara State, journeyed into the heart of the darkness consuming his state and unsurprisingly, the shades he has brought back from that journey have at one proven as long as they are lethal.
Featuring interviews, harrowing images as well as startling revelations about a crisis that is quickly snowballing into one of Nigeria`s deadliest conflicts, the documentary has got tongues wagging in Nigeria and beyond, as for the first time, many Nigerians not privy to the clandestine world of state secrets in Nigeria are now empowered by the power that information gives.
Taking umbrage at the documentary has been Lai Mohammed, the Minister for Information, who has already threatened the duo of the BBC and Trust TV, part of Daily Trust, with sanctions for airing the documentary which he has dismissed as “naked glorification of terrorism and banditry.”
Also at hand to bash the BBC for the documentary has been Kadaria Ahmed, a seasoned journalist who has chided the BBC for becoming a tool for terror.
The cost of truth
As Nigeria`s devastating battle against terrorism rages on, the deep sense of frustration many Nigerians nurse wells from the fact that apart from the brutal handiwork of the rampaging killers which is all too obvious in the number of people slaughtered and villages sacked so far, there is way too little information available to Nigerians about the activities of the men who seem determined to destroy Nigeria as it is presently constituted.
Whatever information is available to state actors is usually shrouded behind the iron curtains of official secrets, or carefully kept under wraps with the convenient excuse that properly and adequately informing the public can induce panic.
What little information breaks out in the process is often mutilated into tiny morsels of misinformation and disinformation especially on social media.
The chilling effect of all these is that behind towering walls raised to official secrecy, misinformation and disinformation, the monster that terrorism is has continued to grow, fattened by the confusion which clouds the minds of Nigerians before the clubs fatally descend.
A watchdog in the crosshairs.
There is no doubt that there are in the Nigerian media some unscrupulous elements who have by their deliberately lurid reportage continued to complicate the earnest efforts of media professionals and organizations who only want to tell and show Nigerians things the way they are without the embellishments under which truth is suppressed and people oppressed.
For those who do it as ethically as it should be done, the constitution recognizes their invaluable service to the Nigerian public and guarantees the continuity of that service. They can have nothing to fear. Those who should have everything to fear are those who deliberately rewrite the codes of professional media conduct so as to draw attention to the lies they peddle and the fear they spread.
What interest the BBC can have in destabilizing the country or compromising its war against terrorism is not immediately obvious. An organization that has survived in the media business for dozens of years, telling along the way some of the most difficult stories ever told about some of the most complicated conflicts ever, must have acquired some credibility along the way even if the credibility has come with some notoriety. Fakery does not have Methusaleh `s lifespan after all.
The government should dig further and farther into its rule books to see if the BBC or Trust TV has cooked any of its codes. But until such is conclusively proven, the employees and appointees of the government who have in the past appeared more interested in whitewashing whatever there is than giving Nigerians unfettered access to information must exercise supreme caution in taking on the media.
Instead of shooting the messenger, let the message be taken to heart; let the battle be taken to the terrorists turning Zamfara State upside down. The energy expended in this `marathon of mice’ against the media will be better expended in smoking out and cutting to size all those who by their defiantly degenerate activities are determined to sound the death knell of the Nigerian state.