WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
The alleged story of the ENDSARS Lekki tollgate massacre from the onset was an ugly controversy and definitely it gets worse by the day because of the desperate need of some certain interest in the country to forcefully score the goal they set out to achieve from the onset. The CNN unprofessional journalism is yet the new turn of the many twisted events that continue to characterize the drama that was well played out that night.
The entire events and the many episodes of high level orchestrated dramas that defined the protest and its aftermath have evidently become the definition of what Nigeria has become; the extent Nigerians are willing to go to achieve personal goals at the expense of the country. This is not new. Over the decade, some Nigerians have repeatedly manifested their desire to sink the country if need be, on the way to achieve both political and economic control of the nation. We have groomed a nation embroiled in religious and ethnic rancor that more than any other time in our history has divided the country, by creating citizens that willfully and repeatedly portray their country in bad light; religious and ethnic bigots and delinquents who prefer to run the country under the bus if it is needed to satisfy their inordinate ambitions.
As bad and unbecoming of a media house of CNN caliber to have succumb to manipulation to accept and propagate misinformation as regard the alleged Lekki toll gate massacre in Nigeria without substantial evidence of the event as relayed by the network is, it will still be a misplaced priority to get too bothered by the CNN story; the greater problems and the one we should be worried about are the Nigerians who prepped CNN and supplied the materials and narrative it aired, as well as the extent these individuals are willing to go to get whatever it is they want.
The disjointed clips aired by CNN were manipulated, and arranged apparently by some Nigerians; Nigerian politicians and groups who despite the continuous non-existence of clear evidences of what they continue to claim to have happened at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20th, are bent on selling the rhetoric of a massacre by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government. Till date, no real life events of families and friends coming out to claim they lost someone to the event has surfaced, yet they chose to stick to the narrative of moved and hidden dead bodies and a story line of massacre without dead bodies.
I have come to realise how much propagating such fake news of government actions against its citizens could further escalate the fragile – if not lack of – trust for the system and evoke annoyance and unrest among the people. That is the exact game Trump is currently playing in America, setting the people against established institutions, taking away centuries of gain with unfounded and unproven accusations of election fraud. America can never remain the America that set examples for the world, at least not for now and in the nearest future. The fake news has polarised the once united nation, that it has become next to an impossible task to reverse the damage. The population of Nigerians who choose to go along with the narrative of the gross attack on and the massacre of peaceful protesters at Lekki and other parts of the country without evidence grows daily; the gulf between the north and the south deepens by the same rhetoric; political biases and its divisive responses has more than ever climaxed. The nation now seems to be sitting on a tightrope waiting to be demolished by the people’s responses to the fake news flying about the country.
About CNN and the quasi rehearsed script it played to the global audience on the alleged massacre at Lekki, I ought to be surprised but I am not. CNN Nima Elbagir has done nothing strange to the network but followed their tradition of traveling across the globe in search of the next nation and people to pull down on behalf of their pay masters. The minister of Information, Lai Mohammed in a recent report debunking the CNN disinformation, stated that Nima Elbagir has access to reach him yet did not, lending credence to CNN biased reporting, perhaps, following a script to destabilise Nigeria. Lives were lost including 16 police officers, properties were destroyed and many still nurse injuries yet CNN would ignore all that to invent – despite not being present at the event – how the Army shot into the crowd. What worries me about the Nigeria case now is just who those pay masters are. We have seen CNN doing it across the globe, creating fake versions of events or in most cases, creating non-existing imaginary events that have led to the final collapse of many nations till date.
The ruins of Iraq were orchestrated by elements that patronised the much available CNN. It was also CNN in 2002 that shocked the world with the news of “Iraq has tons of chemical weapons;” joined with Fox News, the stage for the bastardisation of that country was set – Iraq was invaded. There was a real massacre of innocent lives. The country was massively destroyed; peace taken away which till date is yet to be restored; only for the same CNN to make a U-turn about two years later, exactly on October 7, 2004, in another sensational headline “No WMD stockpile in Iraq.” But it was too late to save the country from the America-led invasion and no one considered it noteworthy to reprimand CNN for the journalism error it committed in Iraq.
It was the same CNN that turned the once bubbling Libyan nation to the heap of ruins it is today; the network, definitely intentional, created errors of reporting in Libya, portraying the Middle East country in bad light politically and socially, until they provided enough impetus for NATO to descend on the country. Libya, the once economically striving nation has today become the impoverished nation it is today. Researchgate.com hosts a publication on the NATO expenditure in Iraq and the role played by CNN and Fox news; it states “The fall of Gaddafi through CNN and Fox news” and went further to state “Ignorance about the political and social processes in Libya led the CNN and Fox news audiences to accept, without prior or later questioning, the actions of NATO in Libya.” The research concluded that CNN would always launch investigation into chaos and whatever would portray Africa and the Middle East countries in bad light, and it has become clear that with the error in Iraq and Libya, and the aftermath silence against the errors of CNN, its foul and wrong investigations, investigators and reporters would always go unquestionable.
The attempts by CNN to add Nigeria to its list of African countries it captured in bad light did not begin now, because years back, it did a coverage of the activities of MEND guerillas in the Southsouth region. The world woke up to see the report of a CNN reporter that accompanied the guerillas to a camp where they held a number of Filipino hostages. When the heat came on the network to the effect of the staged event, CNN was forced to accept the reality of the fakeness of the report and terminated the appointment of its staff responsible for the fake reporting.
CNN has returned back to do another one on the Africa continent’s most populated country and largest economy. This time around, it was the sensational news of the alleged Lekki tollgate massacre. Alleged credible eyewitnesses, who also doubled as the CNN sources witnessed the alleged massacre and shocked the world with oral but unproven evidence of how Nigerian Army killed 78 innocent protesters who were holding the nation’s flag and conducting themselves peacefully in the public on a day the state government had declared a curfew. That was the night of October 20th; two days after, Amnesty International said it confirmed 12 deaths; the following day, CNN tweeted that the soldier killed 38 protesters without providing any evidence. In reality, CNN took fully, third party reports of what happened at Lekki that night and their trusted sources are the same persons who in a lot of ways are running away from defending their individual reports till now.
For all that CNN showed the world, there was not a single evidence of the killing it so presented and vow to stand by; they are satisfied with the hearsays as long as it marches their preferred narrative.
Equally of note was the UK proceeding of the UK Parliament which was overly caustic and demanding sanctions against Nigerian government officials by the UK government over what it considered as attack and intimidation against the ENDSARS protesters. While not unmindful of the humane gesture behind the respected members of Parliament, it still remains unproven that the Nigerian Army shot at protesters or that the Muhammadu Buhari led Administration ordered the shooting of protesters. In our collective quest to unravel the truth, the UK Parliament is hereby enjoined to seek the objective truth from all the parties involved at the event. For instance, there were protesters reported with images to have died who came out to debunk such and some police officers were killed that were not even considered by the UK Parliament. There were also hoodlums who took advantage of the protest which calls for an objective assessment beyond the rhetoric of scapegoating the Nigerian government and to look at the propagandas of the protest organisers as well.
CNN, paid or not, have shown the same sinister acts they showed in all the nations they have helped destroy. Few days after the alleged massacre, the news network berated the Nigerian government and its Army for the killing of 36 protesters at the toll gate. Then they stood by their reporting. Days later, CNN reported “nobody was killed,” and now, sensationally reporting the alleged massacre that occurred in Nigeria – the 39 figures of dead bodies that became zero have become a massacre.
For those who may be wondering about our concern about CNN disinformation, General Smedley D. Butler, a decorated US marine had in the 1930s exposed a privileged information which remains relevant to the subject matter; he succinctly put it that “War is a Racket,” which is the title of a book he wrote to expose how some vested US interest pursue rogue foreign policy for personal gains and at the cost of human lives in foreign countries.
To put the CNN intervention to rest, the need for the network to substantiate its reporting on the alleged massacre has become mandatory. The Nigerian government, via the panel of inquiry looking into the Lekki case must subpoena CNN to corroborate the evidences in its possession and answer sacrosanct questions as regard the information it shared with its global audience as it relate the Lekki issue. In the event of the failure of the network to make itself available at the panel, the Nigeria government must take appropriate action to sue the network for the direct attempt to instigate division in the country. Until then, both CNN and its prompters in the country will not desist from actions that are capable of bringing us down.
The day the real development of Nigeria will commence will be the day, when we stopped wishing the country to suffer because someone we are politically not in consonance with is on the seat of power of the country. That day, when we recognise that the hatred for the leadership of the country and the delinquent conducts we are always willing to do or get paid to do to destroy the nation thinking we are pulling down an individual are against both Nigeria and the entire citizenry. That would be the day, when we realised that this nation cannot be bad until its citizens have gone bad and the reason why Nigeria is what it is now; the reason why the country appeared cursed and incapable of showcasing the development we want to see is because Nigerians are cursed first and have deteriorated to the point that they become incapable of projecting a blessed society. This is applicable to a worrisome population of Nigeria.
Our day will come when it dawns on us the goal of the epic struggle of those men and women who fought for the freedom of this country; the long, difficult and dangerous walk they walked to the freedom we abuse today. When we come to the realisation that they jettison potentials and opportunities for personal gains for the freedom we grossly abuse today. When we realise the reason they jettison selfishness is because they knew it was the only thing they are allowed to do by the country and the right thing to do. They did not see civil right movements and NGOs as enabling platforms to bring the country down by spreading narratives that are inimical to the development of the country, nor lining their pockets with ill-gotten grants from donors and sources that are willing to pay for the evil services they offer. They realised that the moral arc of the universe is long but it singularly bends toward justice, and they accepted it was their responsibility to, whenever it is necessary, be the ones that bend the arc toward nothing else but justice for the country. Our day will be the day we come to the realisation that we need to, all of us, across all the divides, have been bending and still be bending – against all our political biases and separatism that has made a mess of the entity call Nigeria – the arc of justice one more time and again to obtain peace, justice and glory for the country. When we realise we are the only ones who can push our country toward a more perfect nation and union the founding fathers envisaged.
That represents a total departure from what we use groups and organisations to achieve today against the country. We establish groups and organisations to access both local and international finance to satisfy personal goals while we present laudable justice, development and human right maintenance plans we are not – in any way – interested in upholding. We now use the platform against the country, more often, if need be, to achieve targeted personal goals. That much we saw as it relates to the many versions of the account of the Lekki tollgate alleged massacre.
When I reexamined the entire episodes of the orchestrated dramas that represent the aftermath of the ENDSARS protest, and the international damage we dealt the country by our desires to discredit the sitting government and probably in garnering local and international support ahead of future elections, rather than getting irreconcilably angry with the elements who sold their soul to the devil to be used against the country, in all the capacities they did, I became more resolute in my wish for repentance for all of them as much as I wish this country and its people wake up from their long time slumber and begin to face the reality of nation building based on patriotism, togetherness and eschewing of corruption and parochial tendencies that have over the decades reduced the country to a lame duck nation, incapable of real development and significant growth.
We know the individuals who are hell bent on bringing us all to our knees if they had to, to regain control of the presidency. We know the individuals, politicians and money bags; the Dubai strategists who see violence and wild conspiracies as the only viable path to power and would leave no stone unturned to take that path. They had in the past turned us against one another with the story of a backend INEC server that never existed and a presidential election result that delivered the seat of power to them. We know of the unrepentant, immensely corrupt power drunk persons that would drive us against one another to create a path to become what they want. I do not know how long it will take and at what time Nigerians will wake up to the reality of the people who planned and financed the dark side of the ENDSARS protest and stage-managed the aftermath events to deliver the expectant goals. At what time we will recognise who is behind all the media escalation and unprofessional reporting of the events to boost their principal targets. When we will realise that those celebrities who took over the street for the protest and used their popularity and followership base to ignite the country against the sitting government do not love Nigeria but their pockets and what they did are services for the money they received. This statement is true but does not generalise, because there are few who genuinely wanted the change that is timely; who genuinely wanted to see an end to police brutality and other anomalies in the country. When we will ask the right questions and seek for answers; who connected DJ Switch to the Canadian legislators? Who are the forces behind the sources that fed the CNN reporters with the clips they played with confidence? How much exchanged hands for CNN to jettison professionalism – once again, at the expense of Nigeria’s sanctity.
Nigerians were upset at police brutality in 2020 and marched to take over the street. Yet, about 90 percent of police brutalities were done in the past when they chose to stay mute. Nigeria was brutalised and its capacity to grow and cater for its citizens taken and appropriated by individuals who live among us and who we prefer by choice to praise as we groan under the burden of lack of infrastructure, good education, good and affordable health care, sustainable employment opportunities and security of Nigerians lives and properties. Their acts have forced businesses to close shop and depart the country, turned the youths to lazy entities who depend fully on imported goods in a nation with capacity and resources to produce what it needs; yet, even when we know them and are absolutely conversant with the atrocities they committed against our commonwealth, we remain undaunted in praising them. These people we would prefer not to rise against but making them excuses and defending their right to embezzle public funds. We will go with them to court and continue shouting their praises even as they are confessing to stealing public funds. There was no reason to rise against neither the Obasanjo government nor the Jonathan government despite the obvious maladministration of the country’s resources and the poverty, joblessness and decay in the nation’s social and political spaces under their watches. We are blind followers just like the Trump followers who believe the same mail-in-ballot the president himself has always used to vote and still used to vote in the just concluded election is now a fraud because their principal said so and will do anything to overturn a clear free and fair election result even if the longstanding reputation of the country goes aground.
CNN would not run non-veritable accounts of the Lekki alleged massacres if they are not propelled by Nigerians and groups within Nigerians. If media houses in Nigeria prefer the sensational pull of the version they would choose to work with and would go on air and to the print with untrue and destructive news for all the reasons that favour their businesses. If we do it to ourselves, how do we blame others for doing it to us? It is about us repenting from the harm we are irrevocably bent on doing this country. And I would like to seize this opportunity to commend a group, the Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group for also taking a swipe at the shoddy, unbalanced reporting of CNN over the alleged Lekki massacre. The group has also threatened legal action against CNN if it fails to retract what it describes as propaganda against Nigeria which is what it is. Accordingly, no originality in what CNN aired. The impression they try to portray has been that the Nigerian government is dictatorial and ordered the killing of innocent protesters which is untrue. Someone sarcastically puts it that according to CNN, Nigerian government ordered the Army to shoot at 10,000 protesters and massacre one person. CNN fails at balancing its report and claims with facts. President Muhammadu Buhari would not forever occupy Aso Rock, but the damage we do the country today because we hate the president for no cause will stay on with and mar the nation.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!