By: Philip Agbese
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” ― Alexander Pope
Even when we had always known that half knowledge is dangerous, nothing proves it better than the present scenario of the patriotism context between the Nigerian Army and Premium Times, an online newspaper.
The Nigerian Army had written to the newspaper to threaten legal action if it does not meet its demand to retract libelous publications against the Army Chief, Lt TY Buratai and the Army. The newspaper recently upped series of publications that the army perceived as not only targeting it and its leadership but also deployed in support of Boko Haram terrorists given the timing of the news stories.
Premium Times replied with a salvo from its counsel asking the army to withdraw its accusations, which it described as threat to its staff or face legal action after seven days. It went on to lay claim to being more patriotic than the army, which it accused of infractions spanning back as far as the 1967 civil war.
Naturally, the faceoff has attracted a lot of public opinion and the side that gets more sympathy is not a subject of guesswork. Esprit de corps came in to play and in no time some media organizations that do not want to lose on the action reproduced Premium Times’ response and the movement to defeat logic picked pace.
This development is the tragedy of our time, whereby the media that has the responsibility of promoting national cohesion has been drawn into the murky fray of the behind the scene wranglings in the quest to defeat terrorism. While openly taking sides is bad enough for the publication, what is even more dangerous is the false premises upon which it is basing its action because of the half knowledge that is propelling its current campaign; Premium Times would like its numerous readers to believe that it is a champion of the freedom of expression as applicable in other climes.
But what Nigerians need to fully appreciate is that the folks running Premium Times have deep ties with Americans and other western interests. It is therefore natural for Premium Times to want to hold institutions and leaders to account using the American cum western benchmarks, afterall it is what promotes the growth of democratic system worldwide or so do these folks think based on the knowledge uploaded into their brains by foreign partners and donors. But this is half knowledge. The other half of the knowledge, hidden in plain sight, is that the media in these other countries place national interest above all else.
For instance, as far back as 2003 the Bush administration ordered the Pentagon to prevent any news coverage of the bodies of US troops being sent home from Iraq and that ban was not to be lifted until 2009 under Barack Obama. In the years that the ban subsisted no US media went on the kind of bender that Premium Times engaged in with the Nigerian Army.
This is the same country whose media always cite technical problems each time their aircrafts are downed in enemy territory as a way of supporting their troops and not give morale to the opposing sides. Because of its half knowledge however, Premium Times has taken on a Messiah Complex and wrongly expects that it should be praised as the crusader for freedom in Nigeria while on the contrary it exists solely to sustain the western brainwash that would keep Nigerians colonized in perpetuity.
The professionals at Premium Times also failed, because of their half knowledge, to offer instances in which any of their foreign collaborators were able to hobnob with al-Qaeda and ISIS on the scale they report for Boko Haram without consequences.
The Army’s allegations against the publication appeared far fetched but its response through the letter has clearly dismissed any doubt that it has an agenda. If the name “Nigerian Army” were redacted in that letter one could easily think Premium Times was referring to an army made up of foreigners – an army of occupation – and not one enlisted into by fellow Nigerians who give up luxury and comfort to fight terrorists.
It is claiming to be patriotic even with the overwhelming evidence that its “exclusive” stories severally sold Nigeria’s armed forces to terrorists. It did not addressed this in the letter just as it omitted to mention that other organizations had in the past accused it of using its correspondents as spokespersons for Boko Haram since Abu Qaqa and Abubakar Shekau lost their voices owing to the decimation of the terror group. Premium Times however found it necessary to insult our collective sensibilities by expressing fears that its writers could be found guilty and executed based on the Army’s allegations.
To those who bothered to read between the lines such fears gave the hint that the army’s accusations are spot on.
This makes it nauseating that Premium Times continue to equate itself with the selfless services rendered to Nigeria by the real journalists of the days gone past. They continue to hype past experiences of seasoned journalists as if these persons have any iota of resemblance with the newspaper’s actual current modus operandi that has done much to abuse the pen profession.
They talk about fighting for democracy yet can only pay attention to pushing contents that are paid for even if by terrorists’ affiliates; hiding such under the wrap of “advertorial” does little to lessen the inherent abuses. They want to measure themselves with troops from among the 300,000 armed forces who keep sleepless nights in the thickness of Sambisa Forest to keep the remaining 80 million Nigerians safe in their various homes.
Maybe Premium Times’ brand of professionalism has taken its staff and management away from the reality of terrorism before the coming of a professional and seasoned military leader and war strategist like Lt. Gen TY Buratai who turned the table against Boko Haramists and their newest client.
Col. Ali and many others paid the supreme price yet the Nigerian Army or their families never went to town to make noise about being the guardian of our democracy. Premium Times has attributed everything about the media to themselves as if it’s few years of teething existence is enough to emasculate all fine gentlemen and women who have made their marks in this professional calling and still believe in the current leadership of the Nigerian Army.
The Nigerian Army is however not without blame. It accorded Premium Times too much recognition and expected its neocon agents to be amenable to logical reasoning. Instead of its letter giving notice of intention to sue it should have simply served the necessary court documents after it must have instituted legal action, which would have saved the rest of us this circus show that the newspaper is putting up.
If those to whom it matters must thus know, there is no need for patriotism context as the military and the decent section of the media have their roles to play in ensuring that Nigeria comes out of the current challenges stronger.
While Premium Times struggles to justify the largess from its foreign partners that are interested in Nigeria’s destabilization, Nigerians should find direction in the words of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, whose message for this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day best summed up the issue: “Nobody would have imagined where we would have been if our military do not rise to the occasion every time that we face threats of internal and external aggression. These men continue to face the fire to ensure that the people of the North-eastern part of the country are not subjected to the unreasonable dictates of Boko Haram insurgents.
“It is for these reasons that on occasions like this when we remember our heroes past, all men and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces who laid down their lives during the first and second world wars, the Civil War, the various internal disturbances like the Boko Haram, the entire country should unite to appreciate our military and pray for safety as well as victory for the men still at the battle fronts,” he concluded.
Agbese writes from the United Kingdom.
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