NIGERIA’S Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, needs our prayers. I know this might elicit curiosity, but let’s even say that he is neither distressed nor distraught, but I insist that he needs our help. The man needs help because he is in a very difficult situation like many other individuals in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. We all as Nigerians also need prayers because we are subject to the whims and caprices of this government. There are many Nigerians in the same shoes as Alhaji Lai, those of them are in government but out of favour with millions of other Nigerians.
A common contention in Nigeria is that a friend in government is a friend lost, and the reasons for this sad reality are obvious to those who have friends in Nigerian government. The low hanging reasons are that first, your friend will change or alter his circle of friends and become largely removed from his traditional circles. Secondly, his reasons for very many actions while serving in government would change based on new reality and realisations. Nigerians, just like many other idealistic citizens of the world, want the best for the country and themselves, but they are not getting it from this government. The disappointment is huge because Nigerians had eagerly sought Buhari, found him but are now dumbfounded.
There are many actions – economic, infrastructural, security – of this government that have irked Nigerians but are endured. For many months, especially at the outset of this tortuous journey with the Buhari government, there was belief and people held tight unto their hope that the government would improve their lot. But rather than get softened, the leaf of the coconut gets hardened the more. The litany of woes is needless, but one that stood out like a sore thumb and that couldn’t be born beyond this time was police brutality. And that was a trigger!
No one man knows it all… And as the Yoruba say “we may not be knowledgeable in many things but we know that a man slaving for another has no money.” Police brutality around the country is one of those common occurrences in Nigeria. Most of the time, the incidents are usually swept under the carpet and this has remained so for so long. If nothing else points to this, and if we have characteristically moved on after the famous “Apo Six” incident, the current revealing claims at the various judicial panels on police brutality give an insight into what Nigerians have been going through.
Police brutality laid the foundation for the thoughts on Alhaji Lai Mohammed today. We may not know as much as Alhaji Lai et al, but we know that excesses of many of our policemen in and out of duty have been like a recurring decimal. We may not know many things that the Minister of Information know, but we know that there was cause for CNN to do a report which threw spanner in the works of the various spins of the EndSARS protest stories that the government has been pushing.
On Thursday, the consequences of the EndSARS protests were further stretched to new levels when Minister Lai Mohammed addressed a press conference in Abuja. Some touched the ground and then the tongue with their forefinger to swear that the press briefing was as a result of the report by CNN. The popular TV channel held in its report that protesters were shot at with live bullets by soldiers who were deployed at the Lekki toll gate, among other explosive contentions. But the Minister said the press conference was “on the EndSARS and its aftermath” and through it, the Federal Government and Alhaji Mohammed, dragged Nigerians into what could turn out to be a messy media war with a foreign media outfit.
CNN had done what it said was an exclusive investigative report which threw light on many contentious areas of the Lekki toll gate shooting. The government will have none of the report, insisted that the soldiers used empty ammo and called CNN names. Alhaji Mohammed capped the invectives with a threat that CNN should be sanctioned. The Nigerian government said “CNN engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and journalism” but the organisation responded almost immediately, saying “our report was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it.”
A Nigerian with the tweeter handle, @aproko_doctor made a humour of the brickbats when he said: “If CNN was a Nigerian company, you would have seen military personnel at their gate under lock and key today. That’s the kind of government we are dealing with. The kind that suppresses truth. The kind that dismisses evidence over words. Gives you an idea how Nigeria is run.”
Watching our Minister of Information and Culture react to some of the questions that followed his address at the press conference, one would see a picture of a helpless man. That is one of the reasons why I think that Lai Mohammed needs help and prayers. He knows that we cannot go on like this as a country, but he cannot say so. He is not tongue-tied because we all know that he is eloquent, but he is tongue-tied because he is politically affiliated.
For instance, he and the concerned members of government know that if there were policemen, say in the form of Amotekun, during the EndSARS crisis, it wouldn’t have been that easy to loot and destroy all those property in parts of the country. Amotekun is a pointer to what local policing might help achieve, and it is a common knowledge that a local police in Lagos or Benin or Ibadan would have prevented mayhem in the form that we witnessed it.
There are several things that we know are wrong with the Nigerian federation, but we are still groping and hoping. One of the reasons we are still where we are is because Nigeria is not structured properly, and we cannot be talking about a proper country when we are tied down by a constitution that is not just subjugating the states, but is also making them poor. Until we say enough is enough, we will still be dancing around like a circus, which we currently are.
Nigeria will go after DJ Switch…
Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report yesterday. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going round and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organisation. The first instance, CNN which touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, sadly relied on the same videos that have been circulating on social media without verification. This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that. Were CNN reporters and cameramen at the Lekki toll gate that evening? If the answer is no, on what basis were they reporting? Relying on second or third hand information and regarding it as
We are expending so much energy and resources to cover the truth when we actually need a little effort to put things right and truly show that we can make amends. The government wants us to move on as if nothing happened, but that’s not how to grow.
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