It was a gory video! Like all videos these days, it went viral faster than the Wuhan virus and struck at the very heart of our current vulnerability – FEAR!
It may be cynical, if not sadistic to question the authenticity of the video clip – were the bandits acting, or actually doing what they were videoed to be doing? In these days of “deep fakes” a video analyses – call it fact checking – could prove something else. Experience, fake news, and social media have thought me a huge lesson: not to accept ANY information on the digital superhighway at face value.
In war, and not least in the season of politics such as we have now, all things are fair. And like politicians, terrorists are adept at deploying propaganda spun through media channels to their own advantage. But disputing the veracity of that video is not the object of this brief.
Like the tragedy It is, that video floated from the kidnappers’ den and rendered many a tender heart sleepless with trauma and emotional wreckage. It was a clip of the captives from the Abuja-Kaduna train attack held since March 28, being physically assaulted and brutalized by their captors.
The terrorist must be grinning from ear to ear in self-satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment to have achieved such a great impact with a mere video clip less than two minutes long. Whether their video was acted or real, it infused every sensible person with a feeling of terror and foreboding. It also sparked a possible intended outcome for the terrorists, as the very next day, relations of the victims took a protest to the Ministry of Transportation.
The protest ought to have been taken to the Ministry of Defence or the Defence Headquarters. What is at stake is basically a security issue, and the Ministry of Transportation may not have the wherewithal to address the issues except, perhaps, to negotiate payment of ransom with the bandits. And ransom is what the bandits want. Money, which one of their ring leaders in Zamfara, told the BBC cheekily, they would use to buy more guns …and of course, kidnap more people to stay in business.
The dominant emotion seems to be that if the government-controlled security agencies can’t rescue the captives four long months after they were abducted, then government should tuck tail, meet the terrorists half-way, pay the ransom and secure the release of the captives.
The outrage caused by that video has been massive. So is the media frenzy at escalating the threat made by the terrorists in their video that they intend to abduct President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. Between the mainstream headlines and the virtual ones, it is difficult to distinguish which were more vehement and trenchant.
The media support (for want of a better word) to terrorism is worrisome, to say the least. Fox News, CNN or The New York Times (for example) would not headline their stories with threats from some criminals that they intend to kidnap President Joe Biden. The BBC would not break the news that some Scotsmen or Welsh agitators intend to assassinate Her Majesty the Queen of the UK Prime Minister.
Here we make light of glorifying brigands with screaming headlines and sensational stories that only stoke our own fears and embolden those selfsame enemies of our common good. Newspapers and broadcast stations subdued the report – many ignored it altogether – that declared Nigeria as the 27th largest economy in the world. To the contrary they would blow the fonts out of proportion when the reports are saying: “Nigeria is the poverty capital of the moon”!
The hypocrisy of the Western media in contextualizing their domestic events as national interest and security, and in amplifying such events in third world countries has contributed much in destabilizing communities and entire countries. And the malady is made worse by the nuanced and warped interpretation of the notions of freedom of information at the expense of national security.
Between January and June 2022, there have been over 300 mass shooting incidents in the United States, including 14 on the weekend running up to the 4th of July, according to the Gun Violence Archive. But it is only in Africa that the BBC has an “Eye” that sees terrorists and bandits.
If the above stats aren’t staggering enough, consider the import and the breakdown: “Mass shootings, where four or more people — not including the shooter — are injured or killed, have averaged more than one per day so far this year. Not a single week in 2022 has passed without at least four mass shootings”. Yes, the report you are reading above, I beg to repeat, is referring to the almighty US of A!
By no means, this is not to support our government at states and federal levels abdicating their responsibilities. It is to remind the mass media that the “oxygen” supplied to criminal elements by amplifying their nefarious activities has gotten to the point of more than enough. Should the country come crashing down like many broadcast stations now make it a duty to amplify and emphasise, media houses will NOT remain standing.
The same negative energy used to promote negative vibes can be used to garner patriotic and positive vibe for national development. After all, part of the responsibilities of the media is to mobilise, and not to incite – as much of contemporary reportage now represents.
The hemp inspired bravado of outlaws has thrived because as a people and as government, we have failed to take critical steps at critical junctures. But the sensational coverage lent them by media reportage is beginning to bother on sabotage.
The media frenzy in feeding public fear with news of insecurity now outweighs the real threats. Rumours arising from fake news and outright fabrications given life by media speculations are disturbing. No day passes without information on social media group chats about phantom attacks and hordes of bandits riding into the FCT on motorcycles with the usual weapon – AK-47. Everything that looks like a gun seems to be an AK-47, but this is an aside.
But then the government needs to do something drastic. And whatever they choose to do might involve collateral damage. Otherwise, the brigands keep gaining elbow room and winning the propaganda war. They keep getting free publicity in local and international media like the BBC Africa Eye documentary.
If government wins the hearts and minds of the Nigerian public on this campaign against terror and insurgency, they would have gained public confidence even when international meddling organisations – again backed by the media – begin to scream about the rights and liberties of those who do not respect the rights and liberties of peaceful citizens.
– Julius Ogar writes from Tahir Lane, Utako