Draco was the first recorded legislator of Athens in ancient Greece who replaced the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud by a written code to be enforced only by a court of law. He was known for making laws which were particularly harsh.
One would think that at a time when Nigeria is besieged by terrorists, a government which appears overwhelmed would be eager to get a true picture of the situation, so that at least, it can transparently chart an effective course in dealing with a monster that has now grown so powerful that it threatens Nigeria`s seat of power, the president and the governor of one of its states.
However, it appears that for many within that government, transparency about the tremendous suffering Nigerians in rural areas are experiencing at the hands of non-state actors is intolerable.
A heartbreaking documentary
On Monday, July 25, 2022, BBC Africa Eye, a program of the British Broadcasting Corporation, released a documentary titled ‘The Bandit warlords of Zamfara.” For the first time since Zamfara State became the loose cannon of the terrorists threatening to rip up the Giant of Africa, the heart of the darkness was laid bare.
The fifty-minute-long documentary was complete with firsthand interviews, haunting images and startling revelations about the scourge threatening Nigeria out of Zamfara State. At great personal risk, light was shone into the darkness by Yusuf Anka, a law student from Zamfara State who compiled the documentary.
However, if the documentary was light into the darkness enveloping Nigeria out of Zamfara State, that light has apparently been a great source of discomfort for some of those who would rather Nigeria and Nigerians continue to lurch about in deliberately designed darkness.
Shooting the messenger.
After the documentary aired on the BBC, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria`s Minister of Information, slipped out of his slumber to denounce the documentary and the media organizations who aired it. Describing it as `a naked glorification of terrorism and banditry’, he hinted that stiff fines were coming the way of both the BBC, and Trust TV which is owned by Media Trust Group which also owns Daily Trust newspaper. On March 5,2022, Trust Tv had aired a documentary titled “Nigeria`s banditry: the inside story.”
On Tuesday, August 3, 2022, the National Broadcasting Commission whose role has increasingly become that of gagging the citizens of Africa`s largest democracy found its long- compromised voice to announce that it was imposing a fine in the sum of five million naira each on Trust Tv, Multichoice Nigeria Ltd(Owners of DSTV), TelCom Satellite Ltd(owners of TSTV) and NTA-Startimes Ltd( Owners of StarTimes) for supposedly breaching provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, amended in 2020, which is probably the most draconian in the history of the Nigerian media.
The elixir of truth.
It was not the first time. Since Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in the country, a pattern that progresses along the lines of suppressing free speech in the country has been clear for all to see. Media organizations have been fined exorbitant sums for allegedly breaching a code that the administration itself midwifed to stifle free speech. Twitter, a world-famous microblogging platform came under the hammer on June 4,2021. Journalists have been roundly threatened and harassed by agents of a government under whose watch the Giant of Africa appears fated to breathe its last. And for what? For telling the truth about the grave illnesses that ail Nigeria, none more so than insecurity, which is aggravated by the cluelessness and carelessness of those who think they know but actually don’t.
A tragic mistake
In electing Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, Nigerians made a colossal mistake. This mistake was reprised in 2019 and ever since, the country has known very little peace or progress, posting in the process some utterly shocking statistics in many aspects of its national life.
The NBC is very much part of this mistake. While it tries to whitewash the government it serves, and blindfold Nigerians by gagging media organizations, it forgets that Nigerians know that the true picture of their country under the current administration is one painted full of horror.
For the Nigerian media, the task of bringing the truth to Nigerians must continue unhindered.