As if they ran this government from the moon, totally oblivious of what goes on here on the scorched earth, the President of our country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan told an international audience last week that as far as the Boko Haram insurgency is concerned, they should not take the Nigerian media reports seriously. Does he not know what is going on in the country he rules?
In this extraordinary but not unprecedented attack on the Press, the President at a meeting of Nigeria’s Honorary International Investment Council said that “we are improving on security.
“For about a week now, there have been no reports of Boko Haram seizing more territory. Rather, we are steadily pushing them back. The impression being created by sections of the media that the situation is worsening is not true.” Really?
Is this the reason why things built up to such a pass that lives and territory are being lost?
Is it silly to assume that our leader is “protected” from some of the shocking but true accounts of victims of violence, the internally displaced persons on what they saw and what is happening that this self-styled man of God will dismiss the reports as being media creations?
There have been complaints that the unfolding disaster in the North-East is barely noticed by the global community. The world appears fixated to ISIS in Iraq and to Ukraine. To get the same impression from those who rule our country is doubly compounding. Muslim and Christian victims of the violence agree on one thing: their government is not only unresponsive but possibly complicit in what is going on. The President has himself spoken about fifth columnists in his government.
In a published article by a senior member of the Adamawa Peace Initiative, API a certain Dr. Francis, an internally displaced person (IDP) from Mubi told a meeting at the St. Theresa Cathedral on November 20 that: “months ago the military came, went house to house, and collected all small arms including cutlery. So before Boko Haram came, they disarmed us. They came and took it all. We had no way to defend ourselves and had to run for our lives when they came.”
Alhaji Salihu at a meeting at the Muslim Council told the same story on November 14: “They searched house to house, some of us have cutlery and bows and arrows… everything, they collected everything including cutlery. The soldiers collected everything.”
For most Nigerians, five years of insurgent attacks have been a sorry and sobering spectacle and not a media creation.
A week to this famous London speech by their leader, Nigerians fleeing the Boko Haram attacks in thousands – the UN says a Million-and-a-half rendered homeless nationwide- are IDPs that had massed in Yola, taking shelter as internally displaced persons. Authoritative figures showed that the Red Cross had housed and was feeding 5,000; the Catholic Church, 29,106; Kinjir Foundation, 2,276; Iliya Adamu Developers (IAD) a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO was catering for 1,548; New Gospel Life Centre, 260; Assemblies of God, 1,201; Centre for Women and Adolescent Empowerment, 969 and the Jama’atu Izalatul-Bid’a Wa Iqamatus-Sunnah (JIBWIS), 1, 855.
The Upper Room Chapel, a Christian worship centre had 1,343; Bole Community, 801; Elkizya Yaruwa A Nigeria (EYN) Jimeta, 1,356; International Rescue Commission (IRC)/State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), 6,111; American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, 2,166; Higgi People Initiative (HPI) Yola, 6,163; and Other Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative, API, 273.
These figures, which were themselves put together by the API also indicated the following IDPs: Printing Press Staff, 345; Jama’atul Nasril Islam, 17,290; Muslim Council, 3,493; Margi Community, 5,500; New Arrivals Across the Bridge (EYN), 50,000; New Arrivals Jimeta, 30,000; New Arrivals, Yola, 30,000 and New Arrivals with Individuals, 10,000.
Apart from showing a lack of empathy, the assertion that “no territory” had been seized by Boko Haram is astonishing. How and why was a rag-tag army of cultists allowed to so flagrantly mock the sovereignty of Nigeria and taunt the state in the first instance?
Mr. Jonathan must know that every day of the insurgency takes a toll on the authority of the state and of his government.
When a terrorist group kills, maims, loots and seizes territory on which they raise own flags, the state can ill-afford to dither or appear to do so.
This government must be held squarely accountable for the farce that has unfolded in the North-East where a culture of impunity, belligerence and seeming complicity is taking root.
The media are no more than a reflective mirror upon society. If Mr. President doesn’t like what is in the mirror, he should first of all listen to the cries of his people who are suffering in silence. Next, he must act to change the unwanted reality, which the media merely reflects. Come down from the moon, listen to the people and see what is going on. Then do something to end it. The media must not be anybody’s whipping boy.