By Philip Agbese
“To protect and defend us,” a piece published by the Daily Trust newspaper made a show of making legitimate intervention to argue the need for Nigerians ‘to live without bandits, kidnappers and ethnic militias as permanent features’ of our lives. This is a commendable line of thought. But what should have been a profound contribution towards improving institutions in Nigeria was abused as a cover to market other tainted goods, to an extent that what Nigerians need protection and defence from is the kind of writers that put out the piece in question.
Talking about the writer of the piece, the newspaper suffered a printers’ devil moment by crediting one Jamila Abubakar for authoring the article when it has Hakeem Baba-Ahmed all over it. If it was something wilfully done then it testifies to how nauseous the write-up turned out, to an extent that the right author will distance themselves from being associated with the work. Except of course Daily Trust ran short of writers with enough toxic hatred of Nigeria that it had to resort to ghost writers.
The piece, however, got some basic facts right. For instance, it was correct that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim K. Idris’ tenure is up but it moved into the mischievous to make it appear as if there has been no precedence in extending same for IGP’s in the past. The writer went on to create the impression that it is a desirable thing to make major changes to the hierarchy of the police just a few days to the conduct of elections. This mischievous claim is ignoring the fact that critics usually fault even the routine shuffling of police commissioners ahead of polls, which leaves the poser of how people will react if an IGP is appointed with mere days to the election. The same people will rush to raise hell about how the nominee is connected or related to the President in so and so capacity.
The writer got it right that the police has suffered a decline that has shifted the burden of its job to the military and that this has stretched the military beyond what is healthy for the discharge of its own duty. One can only wonder why such admission has never come from this writer in the past. It must be a case of never acknowledging when an institution is taking on more than its own fair share of the job but to only raise hell when that institution is perceived as not aligning with an expected manner of behaviour. If the military has continued to deliver under the circumstances painted in the article, burdened with the police’s share of the work for which its personnel are not trained and with inadequate equipment, then a separate piece should have acknowledged the kind of dedication that makes an institution deliver results in spite of such hardships.
But this is expecting too much from a writer that has issues with Katsina, Zamfara and Borno being the states of origin for the President, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Army Staff respectively, enough to reproduce what was practically acknowledged to be a drinking joint jibe. Other submission made fall in the same band of value, the kind of analysis that take place at newspaper stand after the free-readers must have been done placing their bet for the day’s betting and gambling.
The piece could not hide its main thrust for long as it switched from haranguing IGP Idris to questioning the military’s relationship with the media. It points to the obvious fact that the writer was recruited in pursuit of Daily Trust’s strategy for extricating itself from the cul-de-sac it stumbled into by violating the need to respect national security in the discharge of its constitutionally recognized duty. The military is being lectured to improve its understanding of the responsibilities of the media but when will Daily Trust be counselled to understand the responsibility of the military and how its own activities affect the realization of that responsibility.
“What should or should not cross the line on national security is never static,” the writer further argued. This argument ignored the fact that the line may never be static but publishing a story about an impending military operation against terrorists, short of giving the specific date and time, is not across some imaginary line, it is way outside the arena. A news report after the planned operation could have mentioned how the attack was planned a number of days before it was actually launched but it is not sensible to have divulge that information before the act. A thousand opinion articles will never change this fact just like surreptitiously insisting on the rights of the media will never make it right.
Finally, since the ban has been lifted on campaigning, the closing paragraph of that piece could have been more open in urging Nigerians to vote for a candidate whose eight years in office was spent lining his own pocket. The very process of self-enrichment by those entrusted with public office that laid the foundation for the myriad of security issues plaguing the country today. It is irresponsible to use the quest for security as the bait to lure Nigerians into bringing back the same gang of looters to build the next stage of the apocalypse they intend for Nigeria. After all, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has warned that we are being urged to vote a Lucifer that was acknowledged for eight years in office and more years out of office.
Agbese is a public affairs commentator and strategist based in the United Kingdom.