Before delving into the issues, permit one or two diagressions. I started my journalism career as an intern at The Punch. But Weekly Trust was my first place of work after school. I am proud to say that I was among the team that gave birth to Daily Trust. The children column being sustained in what is today known as Daily Trust on Saturday was my idea. Therefore, I have some kind of emotional attachment to the place. And at the risk of sounding immodest, I know the place well, even though I left the place about 20 years ago.
Although, I do not know the army as much I know Daily Trust, I am however again proud to say that I am one those behind the decision by the army Directorate of Public Relations to hold regular interactions with senior editors and journalists on the war against Boko Haram, with the sole aim of bridging the information gap between the media and the army. Before then, Boko Haram enjoyed better space in the media than the military, largely because army at the time was not forthcoming with information. In sha Allah, God sparing our lives, at the fullness of time, I shall reveal how I had risked my life so we may put an end to this Boko Haram menace.
Back to the issue at hand. I want to say without reservation that the invasion of Daily Trust offices by the military yesterday was comdemnable, absurd and not the type that should be condoned in any sane and decent society where the system works, no matter the level of provocation.
Assuming, but without conceding that Daily Trust may have committed any infraction, the military ought to have followed the due process, get a court order and allow the Police to carry out whatever task that may needed to be executed. In fact, the military should not have gone anywhere near the media house, considering the experience of 2014, where newspapers were been impounded at will under the immediate past administration.
However, I also believe that if the army had even engaged the management of Daily Trust over whatever misgivings they have concerning the story, it perhaps would have resulted in a win-win situation, rather than showing its might, which is capable of eroding whatever sympathy the paper hitherto had for the army in this war against Boko Haram.
I have had people within and outside the military querying why the political editor would be the one to author such a story. The answer is simple! He was the immediate past Bureau Chief of Daily Trust in the North East. He schooled there. He still has strong links with Maiduguri. He left there about three years ago. I left Maiduguri 14 years ago. If I still maintain strong links there, how much more of someone who just left three years ago. But for my decision to cut off professional ties with Boko Haram sources in 2012, while I was still in Kaduna, as political editor of The Sun today, I probably would have still be supplying my paper with exclusive stories from that end. I will return to the reason for my action at a later date.
Is there anything wrong with the story? Yes. It may not have revealed details of strategy as such, but it gave the enemy the information to prepare for our troops. Sadly however, the military and even the government in the past, have by themselves officially given out deadlier information to the enemy through their press releases. Why for instance will you announce the nature of equipment and number of troops you are deploying? Only recently, we were told that our soldiers fighting the war now wear an alarm trigger. Is that not revealing too much? But the information was officially released by the relevant authorities.
Again, before the Baga attacks, didn’t the same Daily Trust published the story of the impending attacks? What did the military do with that intelligence?
I concede that the military needs the support of not only the media but the entire populace to win the war against Boko Haram. But it cannot get it by bullying, intimidating and harassing us. It can only get it through confidence building. If however, it has any credible evidence that any journalist is sabotaging its operations, it should go through the process of the law and let the law deal with such a person, but not to be a judge in its own case.