By Prisca Sam-Duru
Nigerian journalist and CEO of Radio Now 95.3FM, Kadaria Ahmed, received what she called a mix-bag of commentaries for accusing the BBC Africa Eye of fuelling terrorism in Nigeria through its latest documentary, titled, ‘The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara’.
Nigerians, who lashed at her for turning against the BBC, are angry because her Op-ed about about the documentary, was believed to have spurred the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed into announcing sanctions against BBC and other affected media. In addition, they believe that the BBC’s documentary only confirmed their conviction that government knows the terrorists’ hideouts but are unwilling to deal decisively with them.
So far, government has gone ahead to carry out its threats to sanction the media in question but Ahmed who raised the dust before the Minister came up with the idea of sanctions, does not support the move.
She said: “I’m totally against sanctions, I don’t believe in muzzling the press. I don’t believe government should be in the business of trying to threaten media regardless of the mistakes media make. But I also believe media should be able to hold itself accountable. Our job is to hold power accountable.”
In an attempt to make people understand her position on the matter, she said to her interviewers on Arise Television during the week that, “In a place like Nigeria which is deeply divided, there’s a lot of fracturing that is going on, there are a lot of divisions; people are traumatized. So they want government to take responsibility for the things they are getting wrong but what that trauma does sometimes is that it makes people want to vent.
“Our job is to be that balancing act, reporting in a way that enables you put the public interest first.
“In the case of this particular documentary, I wasn’t criticising the entire documentary. I was criticising specifically the elements in which you saw terrorists who are still at large, who are basically not sorry being given airtime on an international platform. This is not social media; I mean this is a reputable platform that gives credibility to people.”
She goes on to suggest better ways through which the BBC would have passed its message across like, putting the terrorists in silhouettes or darkening their faces. Another issue that informed her comment on social media regarding the BBC interview with the terrorists traumatising Nigerians according to her is the issue of double standards.
“How many of their own terrorists and their own criminals do they actually put on their own domestic TV shows? If you notice, I did not excuse government. I even saw a ridiculous comment that I’m a defender of terror because I’m Fulani. I’m ethnically the same with these people but I’m the one telling you not to give them air time. In fact you that are saying that they should be given air time in my view, you are the one promoting terror.
“I am asking for responsibility because at this very difficult time, we might be the last guard against a traumatised public. They’ve already been badly let down by the Muhammadu Buhari government which has failed woefully to do its job; failed woefully, there’s no if what, and whatever about it, it’s a total failure when it comes to security. ”
And now you are saying that in addition to dealing with the trauma of knowing that their country is not safe and the government whose primary responsibility is the provision of security which has failed, they’re dealing with that; there’s fear already, they’re not moving around their businesses, they’ve been traumatised and now they have the additional fear of understanding fully, thanks to an international brand that the people terrorising them are invincible and they are going to see them again and again on national and international platform.”
For all Nigerians care, ‘The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara’, is an exposé of government’s ineptitude and should aid in apprehension of the marauding bandits if government is ready to carry out it’s responsibility. Kadaria couldn’t agree less.
“I wish the interview would result in their capture. For example, we all thought the government didn’t know where these guys were then, an interview like this might be exposing them, but the government knows where they are. Not only those two that made it to the documentary, literally every terror group that is operating especially in the North West, we know exactly where they are. So, the inability of government to deal with them has nothing to do with the lack of knowledge, it has everything to do with incompetence”.
She however insisted that even if BBC wanted the terrorists to be heard, they should have presented them in such a way that wouldn’t glamorise them, or make them seem invincible, or allow them to boast and brag.
“I think as journalists we all know it’s not an easy call and I’m not suggesting it is easy but I’m saying the sort of care they take when they do these sort of stories domestically they have a responsibility to take the same care,” she added.
Ahmed who maintained her position as a big fan of the BBC having been trained by the organisation, further disclosed that “My issue is this specific program, BBC Africa Eye because it also has a pattern, like I said in that article, time and time again we’ve seen them play around with the ethics, they have dubious editorial judgement in terms of the way they do stories in Nigeria and I have no apology for saying that”.She condemned the government for its response on the matter, noting that “They are not doing a very good job”.
The way forward Ahmed suggested is for “Nigerians to tell politicians that it is time to have bipartisan approach to insecurity because that’s something that’s going to consume us. It’s not asking who is PDP or APC. The politicisation of insecurity portends a serious danger to Nigeria because we are dealing with an existential threat.
“I’m not too sure we will get to election which is what people are holding on to, hoping that new people will come in. What happens between now and elections? It’s a long period. We’ve never had it so bad and if they (politicians) are not careful, under their watch, we are losing this country”, she stated.
She suggested that “They could go behind the scenes and persuade the president who’s not been well, to go on sick leave for an extended period and allow somebody else to have a go because by his own admission, he’s saying, ‘I’m not too sure there’s anything more I can do’.”