By Ochereome Nnanna
THE All Progressive Congress, APC, Federal Government’s chief spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was recently described by the regime’s most vociferous critic, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, as “our mendacious Minister of Information, lying Lai Mohammed”.
Taking into account the Kwara-born politician’s widely acknowledged tendency to employ the art of dissembling and deception in putting out information to the public, it is difficult to fault Fani-Kayode. It is difficult to wave this appellation aside as merely another hot gas from a “still grieving wailer” as presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, would like to say.
Lai actually preens with pride at the notion that he is an accomplished “propagandist”. Propaganda and politics go hand-in-hand all over the world, but a smart government spokesman knows when to play politics with information (propaganda) and when to be sobre and give the public truthful and credible information. Lai Mohammed and his APC Federal Government do not seem to know where to draw the line.
Immediately I saw the headline: “Federal Government Deploys 100 Aircraft Rescue Abducted Dapchi Schoolgirls” all over the front pages of the newspapers and on the social media, I knew this was another diet of glorified falsehood. When this came up for a hot debate in my tennis club, most of us argued heatedly that it was not possible. Does the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, even have 100 aircraft that can be deployed to search for missing persons? I doubt it. We are still jubulating that the Donald Trump Administration has agreed to sell twelve pieces of Super Tucano attack helicopters to us, but they are not for search-and-rescue. At this point a member pointed out humorously: “perhaps they mean Ed… Airways” (witches).
It was not only Minister Lai Mohammed that was credited with the assertion that 20 military aircraft had already been deployed with “80 more on the way”. Even the National Security Adviser, NSA, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, was quoted as saying the same thing when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Ibrahim Geidam in Damaturu after the abduction of the 110 students of Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi.
The Nigerian Air Force through its spokesman, AVM Olatokunbo Adesanya, however rebutted the story attributed to Monguno, explaining that the NSA “spoke about the number of sorties (flight missions) so far conducted by the NAF aircraft in the course of searching for the missing girls within the period. Obviously, the number of sorties does not equate to the number of aircraft deployed”.
The mental picture of 100 aircraft being mobilised to search for the girls was cleverly packaged to give a grandiloquent twist to the rescue effort in order to divert attention from pathetic bungling that led to the abductions in the first place. The Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction was a carbon copy of the Chibok girls episode which took place almost four years ago under the regime of Goodluck Jonathan (and for which, in the main, the regime was sent packing by Nigerian electors). Lai Mohammed and his cohorts laboured to present this regime as “moving the earth” in responding to the abduction unlike the previous time when doubts existed as to whether Boko Haram actually abducted the girls or they were used by some APC politicians to blackmail the Jonathan government as alleged in some quarters.
The shock, for me, is that the abduction was allowed to take place at all. The late Dr. Michael Okpara was fond of saying: “first fool no be fool. Second fool na him be proper foolish”. Legendary British politician, Winston Churchill put it another way: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. It is only a fool that allows the same thing to happen to him twice. The Buhari administration should have known that the main reason that Boko Haram could not be defeated by Jonathan was because they had the Chibok girls in their custody.
When he rode in triumphantly into power in “shining armour” on 29th May 2015, Buhari recognised the albatross posed to the nation by the Chibok girls kidnap in our anti-terror war, and he pledged that he would not consider declaring victory against Boko Haram until the Chibok girls had been rescued or accounted for.
Almost three years on, what have we seen? Two batches of the Chibok girls numbering about 160 have been rescued, allegedly in exchange for undisclosed amounts in ransoms. Boko Haram obviously collected these monies and used them to rearm and replenish their “decimated” fighting corps. By giving them money in exchange for the girls, we have ended up indirectly sponsoring or financing Boko Haram! Smart guys as they are, the insurgents decided to target another batch of schoolgirls, this time in Dapchi, Yobe State.
I laugh when people say Dapchi was “considered a safe place”. Nowhere in the North East can be safe to keep students in boarding houses without adequate security! Boko Haram has spies, affiliates and sympathisers everywhere in the North. When the Army withdrew from the Dapchi School what did it expect? Any moron would know that Boko Haram’s sympathisers even within the Army would inform them that the coast was clear. It will be interesting to see what the committee set up by the president to probe abduction will report, but personally, I smell sabotage.
Lai Mohammed and other spokespersons of the APC Federal Government (including the Army) told us several times that Boko Haram had been “so decimated that they no longer have the capacity to stage attacks”. We were even told Boko Haram “no longer occupies an inch of Nigerian territory”. Just about a few days to the Dapchi abductions, the Army announced the “complete defeat” of Boko Haram. Lies, lies everywhere! Citizens are lured into a false sense of security, and Boko Haram reaps bountifully its grim harvests.
How lower can we get?