By Idoko Ainoko
I have a challenge, one that is borne out of the desire to see that Nigeria experiences sustainable peace and development. But the recent happening in the country is quite depressing and an indication that there are indeed those who are hell-bent on seeing to the disintegration of Nigeria for inexplicable reasons.
I am constrained to pen this article after reading the stories making the rounds on 380 Nigerian soldiers tendering their resignation from the Nigerian Army citing lack of interest, poor weapons, unimproved allowances and the continuous loss of soldiers to Boko Haram attacks. I would have kept mute if I wasn’t conversant with the operations of the Nigerian Army in North-East Nigeria.
However, as one conversant with the happenings in North-East Nigeria, I dare say what has been reported in the media is a deliberate attempt to cast aspersion on the leadership of the Nigerian Army by some individuals and organizations against the interest of the country.
My disappointment stems from the fact that these desperate individuals and groups have elected to turn the truth on its head in furtherance of the grand plot to turn the tide against the Nigerian Military in operations in North-East Nigeria.
As a first, understanding the military operations in North-East Nigeria is key to unraveling the half-truths and illogical conclusions been peddled in the media on the operations of the Nigerian Army in North-East Nigeria. The military is engaged in asymmetric warfare and not the conventional warfare. This comes with its challenges, not just in Nigeria, but other climes too. It is also a dynamic war that evolves continuously. This fact must be understood.
I dare not say we are a country of ungrateful people. But I would rather say we are a country under siege from groups and individuals whose primary motive is to return Nigeria to the dark ages where blood freely flowed in different parts of the country.
Whether we like it or yes, we must admit that a lot has indeed changed in the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram terrorism in North-East Nigeria. That the Nigerian Army has been outstanding is not a topic for discussion. This much has seen the numerous successes recorded in the theatre of operations.
I stand to be corrected; this renewed onslaught against the Nigerian Army is targeted at the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. And his crime is the fact that he has taken the prosecution of the war against terrorism in Nigeria seriously. It is no longer business as usual, and it is expected that those that have been benefiting from the heist won’t go down without a hard fight. This summarizes what the whole media campaign against the Nigerian Army is about.
And that fight is evident in the twisting of the narrative with regards to the operations of the Nigerian Military in North-East Nigeria. This time around, they are ferocious and with the buy-in of some allegedly credible news platforms in the country.
As a first, T.A Gagariga, the officer that signed the purported disengagement memo on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff is not a Brigadier General as quoted. He is the commandant of the Nigerian Army Artillery School in Kachia, Kaduna state and a Major General. For those of us conversant with the command structure in the Nigerian Army, the possibility of the commandant of the Nigerian Army Artillery School delving into pure administrative issues in the Army Headquarters is very slim. Does this raise a flag?
It is instructive to state that the campaign of calumny against the Chief of Army Staff is rife. And what is his offence you might want to ask? A commitment to preserving the territorial integrity of the country against external aggression. In Nigeria today, this is indeed a big crime because they want to turn Nigeria into a banana republic.
That some online news portals would allow themselves to be conscripted into the scheme is the more baffling. The likes of Sahara Reporters, Punch Newspapers and Premium Times have gone below the belt if you ask me with the propagation of unverified information, thereby misleading members of the unsuspecting general public. For whatever this is worth, it is a great disservice to the country. This much they must come to terms with in the national interest. They must also realize that those politicians that are bankrolling their activities are fickle and never to be trusted.
There are standard procedures for enlisting and disengaging from the Nigerian Armed Forces, including the Nigerian Army. Whenever such happens, it is usually not a front-page item as these news medium have turned it to be. Assuming the resignation of 356 soldiers is true, the way and manner the likes of Premium Times, Sahara reporters and Punch Newspaper tilted the story would make discerning minds to raise an eyebrow which by all intent and purposes is a hatchet job.
We must understand that terrorism has assumed a new dimension in the country. And this calls for concern because the intellectual arm of the Boko Haram group seems to be swelling daily with the conscription of new members by that all-powerful cabal. So stealthy is the process of recruitment that most of these organizations do not know that their actions and inactions are geared towards fulfilling a purpose, which is chiefly to cause a distraction for the Nigerian Army such as the rumour that is being peddled about the resignation of 356 soldiers from the Nigerian Army citing loss of interest.
I am afraid for Nigeria as it stands, if the media that is supposed to act in the interest of the country has now elected to turn the truth on its head, portrays danger. That these news mediums threw caution in the wind is the more worrisome. I had expected that upon receipt of such sensitive information, before going to press, you must accommodate the position of all parties involved. In this case, I did not see that happen. The view of the Directorate of Army Public Relations was not entertained, let alone captured. What you had were conjectures and anecdotes that portray the Nigerian Army leadership in a horrible light.
I am convinced that anyone that read the story by these mediums would easily see the mischief, the deceit and the desperation to give a dog a bad name to hang it. These mediums and their paymasters would never see anything good in the efforts of the Nigerian Army in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency. It is unfortunate and sad, and a reflection of where we are in this country. Personal interest has taken centre stage so long their palms are well greased. But for how long do they intend to carry on in this fashion is left to be imagined.
There is indeed a need for the Nigerian Press Council to ensure professionalism and high ethical standards at all times. I must say this, the likes of Punch and Premium Times newspapers completely went overboard in this case. I am sure numerous readers of these news mediums would be utterly disappointed.
I am not convinced that any amount of money is worth ones integrity. Like I mentioned earlier, the sponsors of violence and fake news in Nigeria are very fickle. Today, it is convenient for these news mediums to dine with them, tomorrow, it might not be convenient. And that is when the chicken would come home to roost.
For whatever it is worth, spreading and reinforcing fake news is not the way to a better and prosperous Nigeria. Instead, it is the way to Golgotha. This much we must all be aware of and be mindful of our actions and inactions, as well as the activities of the promoters of violence against Nigeria.
Ainoko is a public affairs analysts and wrote this piece from Kaduna.