Re: We need better arms to fight Boko Haram

In Nigeria today, wonders shall indeed never end. I have longed questioned the role of the media in National Development, as well as the role of the media in the war against terrorism in Nigeria. I recall that at a recent forum, I had spoken how the Nigerian media have played a pivotal role in assisting the Nigerian Military in the fight against terrorism and the need to do more. However, this is not saying there are no bad examples in the Nigerian media space. Some engage in acts that can be best described as unprofessional and an embarrassment to journalism in Nigeria.

Without mincing words, the recent report by Punch Newspaper titled “We need better arms to fight Boko Haram-military commanders” is one of the ways the media in Nigeria have failed to live up to expectations in the course of National Development.

As futile as the attempt by Punch newspaper to promote a particular interest, it indeed behoved on myself as one conversant with the operations of the Nigerian Military in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria to question the narrative pushed forward by Punch Newspapers which in my opinion is aimed at misleading the general public while promoting the interest of their paymasters.

As a start, there is no iota of truth in the said report. This is so because the emphasis of the usage of Shilka riffles purchased by the administration of former President Shehu Shagari to prosecute the Boko Haram war is a very puerile attempt at creating a sensational headline in a bid to sell the paper and appease their paymasters. The Punch newspaper has now abandoned editorial integrity for a plate of porridge. If this is not the case, one wonders how and why such a report laced with half-truths would be given the clear for publication.

Unless Punch newspapers want unsuspecting members of the general public to think or believe that since after the administration of President Shehu Shagari in the 2nd republic, the Nigerian Military has not made any effort at upgrading its military wares. But again, on May 21, 2019, the same Punch Newspaper carried a news story that goes thus: “Banditry: Army Gets New Weapons.”

In the said story, it was reported that the Nigerian Army had taken delivery of new arms and ammunition purchased to tackle banditry and killings in the North-West, as well as the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East region. It further highlighted that “Although the army did not disclose the financial worth or types of the new ammunition, sources said the military hardware included long-range artillery weapons, ammunition for infantry ground operations and special facilities for Special Forces to conduct night offensives.”

Let us assume that the above was the only time the Nigerian authorities ever made purchases for arms and ammunition, it has ultimately brought out the mischief in the recent publication by Punch Newspaper. However, that is not all on May 18, 2018; it was on record the Nigerian Military received consignments of arms and ammunitions that consists of rockets, bullets, and projectiles, as well as spare parts for operational vehicles.

Again, on October 18, 2018, it was on record that the Nigerian Army received large consignments of ammunition to enhance its operational capabilities and combat efficiency as reported by most dailies across the country. This is aside from the fact that the Nigerian Army has embarked in the production of light tactical vehicles and other weapons at the Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company (NAVMC) to assist in addressing internal security challenges as well as its ongoing operations in northeast Nigeria. And the list goes on.

In the light of the above-stated facts, one wonders what the sponsors of the ridiculous story in Punch newspapers aimed to achieve. In my opinion, it is indeed an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians and an affront to some of us that are conversant with the efforts of the Nigerian Military in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.

The worrisome part of the whole story is that Punch Newspapers allowed itself to be used as an avenue to spread mischief that is capable of heating the polity. But the plot failed woefully. I would want to suggest that the story was smuggled into the Punch news medium without proper scrutiny to ascertain its factual accuracy. But again, this is the reality of the times we are in, and it calls to question the role of the media in national development.

I am tempted to state in unequivocal terms that this is nothing but the handiwork of some members of the opposition that are still rueing their loss at the recently concluded general elections in Nigeria. Since they openly vowed that Nigeria would not know peace, when such half-truth stories hit the airwaves, it only reinforces their desperation and desire to see that Nigeria does not make progress. But again, they failed.

The pertinent question is for how long would we continue to allow these unscrupulous elements to heat the polity just because of their selfish interests? And for how long would the media allow itself to be used as agents of destabilization against the unity of our country?

This is nothing but shame and a massive dent on the image of Punch Newspapers with all of its years of experience in journalism. This deplorable news report is a severe intellectual and civic let down for Nigeria in that journalism, which traditionally relies on the bedrock ‘verifiable fact’ for its credibility and acceptance, has been taken over by falsehood and rumours due to a culture of brown envelope journalism or ‘cash for news reports’ as evident in this Punch Newspaper report.

The management of Punch Newspapers must, as a matter of urgency constitute a probe on how such a story was published without verifiable facts. They must question Olusola Fabiyi, Ifeanyi Onuba, Tunde Ajaja, Olaleye Aluko, Jesusegun Alagbe, and Kayode Idowu, on how they came about the story in the interest of the sensibilities of the generality of Nigerians. This is indeed a great disservice to Nigeria.

Kolawole PhD is a University teacher and wrote from Keffi.

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