“…among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.”
(Andy Ward,”The Idler” magazine,11/11/1758)
By Yinka Odumakin
THERE is no debate that Nigeria is at war and consequently “truth don die” (apology to Femi Anikulapo-Kuti).
And nothing typifies the obituary of truth in our country today than official reactions to the Boko Haram war going on in the North East primarily with occasional forays into other zones of the north and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT).
In the build-up to the last elections, the party in power made all sorts of promises believable only in a republic of idiots. One of such was the promise to end within a month Boko Haram activities when elected into office. They created a narrative that somehow encouraged Boko Haram while heaping all the woes of terror on the “incompetence” of the former administration.
It was Oscar Wilde who said when the gods want to punish us they answer our prayers. APC was elected on the basis of these promises and eight months down the line, it is either they are distancing themselves from those promises(the way ministers are disowning their budgets!) or spewing untruths to a hapless people as a face saving measure.
It is a travesty of some some sort that an administration headed by a man full of integrity whose sobriquet is ” Baba Gaskiya” (the truthful one) among the millions of his admirers is now renowned for cheap propaganda and sickening lies just to avoid the discomfort of the truth.The President has taken some attacks over certain comments he made at different fora because he would speak the truth as he sees it not minding whose ox is gored. It is this contradiction between his moral cognition and the depravity of his environment that made my good friend Hillary Okoronkwo to call him “the Jesus of Abuja without disciples”.
A ministerial tour: The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gleefully announced to the country on 28 December,2015 thus: “Today, I can report that the war against Boko Haram is largely won.
“I can confidently say this because just recently, I led a group of 33 journalists from both the local and international media to the hotbed of the insurgency, that is, Maiduguri, Kondugua, Kaoure and Bama.
“Today, I can report to you that the entire 70 plus kilometres stretch from Maiduguri to Bama and all the way to Banki which leads to Cameroun and the Central African Republic are in the hands of our gallant troops.”
He said the military presence could be felt “every few metres along the road; at a point along that road we were just a kilometre to Sambisa forest. They have so degraded the capacity of Boko Haram that the terrorists can no longer hold on to any territory just as they can no longer carry out any spectacular attack.”
A few days after this boast, Boko Haram struck mercilessly prompting commentators to say that the minister had technically reawakened Boko Haram with his premature victory party borne out of the haste to play Comical Ali.
The activities of the terror group has since not ceased. While Boko Haram continues its bombings and killings every effort go on at the level of officialdom to sustain the untruth that the group has been routed.
Baba Kaka Garbai, the Senator representing Borno Central on February 6, 2016 addressed a press conference where he put a lie to all the claims about Boko Haram. He made a shocking revelation about a devastating attack by the terror group in which scores were burnt alive:
“They actually got the signal a few days before the attack that the insurgents were likely to attack them, they reported to the constituted authorities but nothing was done.”
A lie and misconception
He said it was a lie and misconception that the insurgents have largely been overpowered by the military, insisting that: “It is a wrong assumption that most of the local governments in Borno are recaptured from the Boko Haram. In reality this is not true in the sense that apart from Maiduguri Metropolis, Bayo and Kwaya Kusar, these are the three local government that are under the occupation of the Nigerian government where the military and police are maintaining law and order.
“Mobbar, Abadam and Kala Balge are 100 percent occupied by the insurgents. There are some local governments that are partially occupied by the insurgents especially as the local government secretariats have been liberated but their hither-lands are still controlled by the insurgents.”
Garbai gave an instance of Konduga which was liberated but still has many communities in the local government area under the insurgents.
He also said “though Gwoza town has been liberated there still remain six wards in Gwoza local government area still occupied by the insurgents.”
He said: “From my count, only three local government are fully liberated, 21 local governments partially occupied by insurgents, that is there is still some level of Boko Haram occupation side by side the military or any other constituted authority. The local government fully occupied by Boko Haram are Abadam, Mobbar and Kala Balge.’
He advised that: “We should not live under the illusion that Boko Haram are decimated or weaken, these are not reality and neither a true reflection of the reality. The reality is that most of the local government in Borno is partially occupied by Boko Haram.”
A few days after the Senator spoke,Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno stare coming straight from Saudi Arabia told journalists that the Senator was not giving a true account of Borno situation . The governor who said Borno State was better now than it was six months ago, said: “As the Chief Security Officer of Borno State, I can tell you authoritatively that no local government is under the occupation of Boko Haram.”
He added: “Our military deserves commendation, because all my local government areas have been liberated; only a few insurgents that remain in the Sambisa forest where they continue to launch some pockets of attacks as a result of the bombardment that is going on in their hideouts.”
I was on a Bel-view flight to Abuja the day after the governor spoke with a good friend and brother of mine. There were quite a lot of friends and acquaintances to exchange pleasantries with on the flight including the man just denied the governorship seat in Kogi by high wire politics, Hon. James Falake, Mr. Steve Orosanye, Mr. Kayode Komolafe of Thisday, Prof, Ishaq Oloyede, among others.
As we took our seats on the plane, there was a gentleman sitting next to me holding a copy of Daily Trust which reported the governor’s statement. I whispered aloud to the man that whom shall we believe now between the Senator and the governor plus Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his response sent cold shivers down my spines. “Don’t mind those sitting down in Abuja talking nonsense. I came to Lagos to process the papers of my solider-son who was killed in Borno. He was less than a year in the Army.”
Dissecting the truth
The situation in Borno is a classic case of what the Yoruba say of the situation where the face of the farmer is all swollen but all the insects that sting in the bush say they are not responsible for the farmer’s plight because they have been on siesta.
Our fathers from the depth of their wisdom say that the conversation with a man accused of having scrotal elephantiasis should not be more than four sentences. That if a man is said to have giant testicles and he says it is not true, he should be asked to display his downside which he should do with alacrity. Case closed!
Knowing the truth in Borno is very easy like the proposition a gentleman made before the army dispelled the rumour by Alhaji Lai Mohammed that Jonathan bought “fake weapons”. The fellow asked the minister to stand on a podium at Eagles Square and some solders should test those weapons on him!
In like manner Governor Shettima and Alhaji Mohammed should undertake a victory tour of all the local governments in Borno state on live camera and with only their regular security aides. If they return without any incident, then Senator Garbai should be arrested and prosecuted for rumour-mongering. I can’t get the words of Amilcar Cabral off my mind “Tell no lies,claim no easy victory”