Red Cross and a handshake beyond the elbow

By Timothy Onwe

In the over a decade, I have contributed to the national discourse, there has never been a time like now that I am writing with so much pain in me. The anxiety stems not from bodily harm, but that of disappointment from an organization that is on the ground in over 90 countries and prides itself as neutral, impartial, and independent.

This same organization, for inexplicable reasons, has so decided to veer off its core mandate of helping people affected by conflict and armed violence to delving into propaganda, illogical conclusions, and outright insinuation at the detriment of peace and tranquillity.

That organization is the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its recent report that over 22,000 people are missing in North-East Nigeria as a result of the counter-insurgency operations of the Nigerian Military. I was dazed and could not come to terms with such disservice to Nigeria and Nigerians.

In my opinion, the ICRC went overboard with its statement, and I think the relevant authorities in Nigeria should do well to refute its report for the sake of tomorrow because if this is allowed, then we might be creating a monster that would constitute a clog in the wheel of progress in Nigeria.

As a start, the report by the ICRC is false. There is not an element of truth in it, and this fact must be clearly stated for all and sundry to understand because as it stands, quite a number have been misled to believe that the Nigerian Military has not lived up to its billing in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.

Secondly, I believe that something is amiss somewhere for the ICRC to condescend to the level of impartiality and lack of objectivity in its framing of issues. I say this because, as one conversant with the counter-insurgency operations of the Nigerian Military, the ICRC report is a disservice to the on-going efforts to bring to an end the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria.

How the ICRC got to this level remains a topic of discourse. However, in the context of the counter-insurgency operations in North-East Nigeria, the ICRC got it wrong either by omission or commission. The tripod of neutrality, impartiality, and independence was missing in its entirety in the report by the ICRC.

This is on the heels that questions have been asked in certain quarters as regards the sincerity of purpose of international NGOs in the war against terrorism in Nigeria. And with this coming from the stable of the ICRC, that suspicion has been heightened. There is every reason to suspect that there is some interest working against the interest of Nigeria, and these interests come under various nomenclatures.

These interests look for willing tools to propagate half-truths and cause a distraction, especially where the Nigerian Military is making gains. Countless examples buttress this fact, and the recent outing by ICRC is an addition to that league of soldiers that want to see to the destabilization and disintegration of Nigeria.

The ICRC as an organization has failed woefully in this attempt because the attempt, as despicable as it is, is feeble and of poor taste. Unless they want to feign ignorance of the search and rescue operations of the Nigerian Military that has yielded tremendous results with the rescue of thousands of women and children that have been united with their families.

Like I stated earlier, I am in pain because I am still trying to figure the level of the conspiracy that has gone into the plot to discredit the counter-insurgency efforts in the country. I won’t say I am entirely disappointed, because in recent times there have been quite some revelations on the activities of some acclaimed NGOs such as Amnesty International and how they cut corners in return for pecuniary benefits.

I am therefore emboldened to state that the ICRC is no different from these groups that have deviated from their core mandate. For the ICRC, it is indeed a shame that should give critical stakeholders in Nigeria a cause to worry as to how these terrorist groups have been able to infiltrate the ranks of some credible international NGOs to actualize their nefarious agenda.

If this is not the case, how could one phantom that an organization such as the ICRC would be in the business of spreading outright falsehood without minding the implication of their actions? Some might want to argue that there is always a first time, but, no, because this is a wrong first time that dampens the morale of the military authorities and rubbishes all the gains made so far in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.

The concept of psychological warfare, which is the planned tactical use of propaganda, threats, and other non-combat techniques during the war, should open our eyes to this stark reality that we are confronting and the angle the ICRC is coming from. They have been compromised, and this much is glaring; hence, the propaganda aimed towards giving the Boko Haram terrorist that advantage they could not gain in the battlefront due to the resilience and commitment of the military authorities in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.

I could have fallen for the gimmick, but I didn’t because I am conversant with the happenings in North-East Nigeria, however, what about those out there not conversant and have been misled by this sheer propaganda?

This is my suggestion. The relevant authorities in Nigeria must rise to the occasion and nip this anomaly in the bud before it gets out of hand. They must begin the process of countering the narrative that is being pushed forward about the credibility of the military authorities in its counter-insurgency operations. And for the ICRC, this is a handshake beyond the elbow.

There is a need for retracing of steps in the interest of the sensibilities of Nigerians they have attempted to insult.

Onwe is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja.

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