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Published On: Wed, Feb 26th, 2014

Boko Haram: Between politician, security and the media

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By Adedoyin Adewunmi

Many things happen in the recent weeks on the war on terror. There is nevertheless a symbiotic relationship between the media and terrorism as they both gain from each other. Terrorism is an act which drums fear into people, and this is what terrorists capitalize on to pass across their messages and even though such attacks may be in small-scale, the media easily magnify the unwarranted violence.

When Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state claimed that Boko Haram insurgents were better equipped than the Nigerian Armed Forces and that the nation is at war, one could understand his frustration and that of others. But can such claim be magnified by the press?

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told journalists afterward that the country is not at war. Rather, he said Nigeria is confronted by guerrilla warfare from insurgents who are motivated by ideological fanaticism.

Meanwhile, the Director Defence Information had corroborated the government position that the Nigerian military is one of the best equipped in Africa and remained highly motivated in the war against the Boko Haram insurgents by their patriotic sense of duty, national pride and strict adherence to professional ethics.

Governor Shettima is surely one of the finest governors attending to the needs of his people, condoling and providing succors to victims just as Federal Government agencies like National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) presents relief materials in the aftermath of disasters.

Some statements by politicians easily promote insurgents’ propaganda of being more powerful than a constituted authority. It therefore demeans and weakens the morale of our security forces that are sacrificing their lives for our safety. In fact, in the recent week, 9 soldiers were reported to have been killed but no serious editorial commentaries were made to praise their heroism in their war against terrorists.

All over the world, acts of terror are difficult to contain, and as expected, the Nigerian military has come under heavy fire ever since the state of emergency was declared. The military shut down telecommunications services to curtail communications between insurgents, and there was outcry. And more recently, the Northern Elders threatened to take the Former Chief of Army Staff Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Court of Justice. It seems the military is been buffeted on all sides, and still, it is tasked to fight a war against

those who are not using any rules. One thing the governor fails to realize is that the country is not in a conventional warfare, but fighting a guerilla war, with its unpredictability and despite this, there are evidences on ground to show that the military and security agencies are on top of the situation.

The Armed Forces also are severely constrained because of the fact that civilian casualty is to be avoided whenever they tackle the insurgents and even after the dislocation of the insurgents from their hideouts, the new trend is for them to retreat to neighboring countries after carrying out sporadic attacks and the military cannot pursue them into foreign territories as they are constrained by law and international conventions and this gives respite to the insurgents.

Occasionally, some sections of the media are unfair in the coverage of military’s intervention where they consciously or unconsciously give prominence to insurgents’ propaganda rather than the positions of the military.

In fact the day Governor Shettima made that statement, the Director Defence Information made a statement on the efforts of the military in containing the terrorist. Nevertheless, most of the front page headline heralded the argument

that “Terrorist are better armed and well-motivated!” Can that be true in all senses emotion and sentiment aside?

While the media may not be completely faulted going by their craving for newsworthiness, the spokespersons of security agencies should be more pro-active, sincere and timely in providing information to the media.

It is therefore a welcome development the recent inauguration of Forum of Spokespersons in Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA) by the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki retired. The forum should improve their inter-agency relationship and also with media houses by providing accurate information without the prompting of the press. They should be more pro-active rather than reactionary and defensive on issues.

The military spokesperson should realize that what Nigerians and international community wants is positive development from their efforts. They either speak out regularly or the terrorists may have the upper hand by amplifying their cheap propaganda.

While the military should continue to abide by the rules of engagement, even in the face of a situation that is not normal, politicians and the media need to be circumspect with their actions and remarks on sensitive and national issues.

If the media gave as much attention to the activities of the armed forces as it did to every act of the terrorists, we are sure to have a more balanced outlook of the matter. Meanwhile in the face of the challenges, we need to encourage our security personnel by boosting their efforts and morale with the necessary training, equipment, welfare and other logistic supports.

Adedoyin Adewunmi is of the group: “Youths Against Disaster Initiative”, Abuja.

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