In defence of Lai Mohammed

I sympathise with Lai Mohammed, our very resourceful Minister of Information but a victim of President Buhari’s self-inflicted crisis of legitimacy. Transiting from a creative party spokesman that battled PDP in a fiercely fought 2015 election, to a government information minister, it was obvious he would be haunted by his past. And serving an elected president with a mindset of an emir exercising authority based on tradition was to be an information minister’s nightmare. Of course, it did not take long before defeated and injured PDP and its powerful media re-christened Lai Mohammed “Lying Mohammed”.

Unfortunately precisely because President Buhari and his loyal gatekeepers did not understand that communication, which Karl Deutch (1963) describes as ‘nerves of government’ and a guide to statecraft for the modern prince, has implications for perception and interpretation of government messages, he reappointed Lai Mohammed as minister of information.

With a ministry of information no one believes even when it says the truth and a president that has nothing but disdain for public opinion and who often behaves as if he is answerable to none, the governed loses faith in the government and the result is crisis of legitimacy. The EndSARS crisis and its fallout brought it out very clearly that President Buhari’s government faces serious crisis of legitimacy in the. southern part of the country.

Evidence: Six soldiers and 37 policemen killed, 196 policemen injured 164 police vehicles destroyed and 134 police stations razed”. Then there were about 57 other civilians killed, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt or looted, 243 government facilities burnt or vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted” and the 1,957 prison inmates set free in six states of Lagos, Edo, Abia, Delta and Edo and Ebonyi.

Few people in the south and even in the north where we have free reign of terror with senior police officers kidnapped for ransom have faith in government. Even when there was no evidence of massacre, those obsessed ‘with massacre without blood or bodies’ just didn’t want to believe. Lai Mohammed had challenged promoters of ENDSARS campaign that accused soldiers of mass killing of innocent peaceful and unarmed protesters to produce evidence of mass murder. No one turned up.

We have a superior social organisation in Africa where according to Hillary Clinton, former US secretary of state and President Trump’s opponent in the 2016 American election, “it takes a village to raise a child”, than an atomised western society. It is therefore unimaginable that someone would lose his child and would not cry out after two weeks. Yet no one believes the military’s claim that “soldiers were present but fired their weapons in the air and used blanks, not live rounds” at Lekki Toll Gate.

Lai Mohammed, echoing military’s claim that they did not shoot at protesters, appealed to anyone with information about anyone killed at Lekki Toll gate should head to the judicial panel “with available evidence as against CNN’s “first world case of massacre without blood or bodies”.

But Nigerians without faith in their government insinuated soldiers carried corpses of their victims away in trucks without proof. And CNN said because the military admitted it had live bullets and blank bullets, they must have killed some people. It claims its “investigation included evidence that bullet casings from the scene matched those used by the Nigerian Army when shooting live rounds. Their crooked logic is that some people must have been killed.

But, not too long ago, the same award-winning CNN reporter that wrote Lekki report without visiting Nigeria, writing on the ongoing war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, referred to Hodeida front lines, where shells of millions of dollars’ worth of abandoned American armoured vehicles litter the road as a “graveyard of American military hardware”. American senate member of defence committee admitted neither the government nor the American army knew anything about how the arms got to “militias which is expressly forbidden by the arms sales agreement with the U.S.”

But CNN which did not call for sanction against American government is now blackmailing Nigeria claiming “A US State Department spokesperson told CNN on Saturday, that they were “closely following the Government of Nigeria’s response” to the events at Lekki Toll Gate adding, “We urge that the investigation be thorough, impartial, and appropriately transparent and that perpetrators be held accountable.”

But the same CNN that now claims to infallibility only on October 23, was said to have tweeted from its verified Twitter handle that “the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday October 20”. And that was not the first-time activities of CNN would come under scrutiny. It was once accused of paying for and staging a report that showed 24 Filipino hostages being held by masked gunmen in the remote mangrove swamps of southern Nigeria.

One-time Minister of Information Frank Nweke Jr had back then said “We have evidence that some of these people were actually paid to put up a show,” a charge Jeff Koinange, CNN’s Africa correspondent who wrote the story also then denied. But we must remind ourselves that while Nigerians believe CNN cannot err, over 72 million American Trump voters consider everything from CNN as ‘fake news’.

We have our own problems. But we are not a Banana republic but a sovereign and independent nation, governed by established institutions. Only last Monday, embattled EndSARS activist Olowoyo Moyinoluwa Victor, accused along others still at large, of setting ablaze the building of the Nigeria Police station, in Ikere Ekiti on October 20, was granted bail by Magistrate Abdul Lawal on liberal terms. It is perhaps only those who made fortunes from EndSARS crusade through sponsors identified through their bank that are sneaking out of the country to seek asylum claiming they will not get justice in Nigeria.

Today, except for the Coalition of Civil Society for Human Rights and Good Governance Africa, that condemned (CNN)’s report alleging massacre of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, on October 20, Lai Mohammed is the last man standing defending our sovereignty and appealing to the sense of patriotism of our youths seeking foreign help to distabilise our nation. Buhari’s other ministers and self-serving governors that presided over hoarding of COVID-19 palliative are talking from both sides of the mouth.

I think what the minister is telling those who are currently sitting on the fence or inviting outsiders is that Nigeria has always confronted its own demons. We fought our civil war alone. If America and Britain that initially sat on the fence eventually joined, it was for the fear of Russia. Nigeria’s civil society groups and the press forced Babangida, the evil genius to step aside. We ended Sonekan’s illegal Interim contraption. When Abacha held the nation hostage along with the winner of a free and fair election for five years, America did nothing. NADECO fought him paying heavy price.

America only helped itself by ensuring that following Abacha’s inexplicable sudden death at the presidential villa, they ensured MKO Abiola who was in high spirits when he was brought out of detention, drank tea before he collapsed and died with the US Undersecretary of State and UN Secretary General as witnesses.

If Buhari is holding us hostage today with his much talked about provincialism, mismanagement of our crisis of nationbuilding and his incompetence, a people deserve the leadership they get. We must as usual be the architect of our own fortune since 2023 is just around the corner.

America with its threat and Britain with its last Monday parliament resolution are driven only by their nations’ interest. Foreigners and foreign powers cannot love us more than ourselves.

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