The Kankara Debacle

There are so many takeaways from the debacle we all witnessed last week at kankara in Katsina state of Nigeria.

…”ONE nation bound in freedom, Peace and Unity.” Wait a minute, did I read that right? Freedom? Peace? Tell that to the Chibok girls’ parents and siblings, to the many in various IDP camps in northern Nigeria.

Preach unity to a president that will rather address a group of teenage secondary school students in his native vernacular (Hausa) language than the official (English) language of the country.

Some say that by so doing, he feels at home and gives the boys a sense of comradeship; others are even of the opinion that it’s because none of them can speak the type of English that can guarantee any of them a credit in WASSCE and consequently gain them a university admission.

I wonder if they are also being taught physics and chemistry in their native language? Whatever be the case, preach unity and “one nation” to the many teenage boys in the southern part of the country who do not hear Hausa and as such, will feel aloof of the pain and admonitions of the president to the released( or rescued) Kankara school boys.

So much have been said of the failure of the government to secure lives and properties in Nigeria, all pleas and entreaties to the president to effect due changes in the composition of his service chiefs or to support and implement a community policing model have fallen on deaf ears;

The fact that Kidnapping for ransom has become a norm within the northeastern and northwestern regions of the country and the caricature of governance and public relations. Sadly, It is the latter that I really wish to talk about.

How long will spokespersons at various levels of government continue to make a mockery of themselves and the governments they claim to serve? Recently we have heard a lot of complaints coming from the federal government about the negative and corrupt impact of fake news in our society, an outrageous “social media bill” was recently passed by the lower house seeking to monitor and restrict social media usage as a means of curbing what they term fake news. 

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However, what we see is that most often than not, state actors are the ones who are more given to purporting fake news and misinformation all in the name of “protecting” the government.

As soon as the news of the kidnapping of hundreds of science secondary school boys in Kankara was emerging, albeit with unclear reports and details, Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in an apparent “media damage control” act, told the nation that only 10 boys were kidnapped.

Did anyone tell Garba Shehu that in doing his job, Nigerians expect him to be omniscient? Or in playing his media role to the president, he is at liberty to feed the nation with doses of fake news the likes of which he cries out against daily?

Or better still, maybe the mouthing of fake news by the government spokespersons had always been a case of being served your own medicine? Regardless of what you seem to believe, somehow it seems that those who are privileged to be in power at any level seems to lack the basics tenets of public relations or better still, they wrongly assume that with their offices, also comes the saintly power to make “truth” to become whatever they say it.

As if the uncertainty created by conflicting reports from different quarters of the same government as to the exact number of students kidnapped was not enough, the main shredding of public relations and public trust in government and governance came in the aftermath of the very welcomed timely release of the students (albeit at any unimaginable cost).

First, the katsina state government went ahead to say that the release of the boys was facilitated by Miyetti Allah, then the national leadership of the group, Miyetti Allah came out to say the group had nothing to do with the kidnapping nor the release of the students.

A day later, the Nigerian military, whose Chief of Army staff, (COAS) was rather taking a selfie at his “python farm” while the boys were in detention, came out to claim that the boys were rescued by its men of “operation Hadarin daji”.

Furthermore, there’s a more comical version of a governor in a northwestern state who sat down in his government house, took up his phone and called the so called bandit kidnappers simply instructing them to release the boys; to which they quickly answered “yes Sir” and went on to do just that.

Again, the Katsina state government, in the days following the release of the school boys was quick to announce that no ransom whatsoever was paid to secure the release of the school boys; claiming instead that moral persuasions by the state government got the kidnappers to soft-pedal and release the boys.

However, in a rare moment of clarity, the president went ahead to say on national TV, that some form of “settlement” was given to the abductors. Settlement can of course mean anything, but rumor mills have this particular settlement amounting to millions of USD.

In all of these, one can’t help but wonder if those in power actually do believe that the rest of the masses have little or no brain matter or are less deserving of the very basics of courtesy?

The absence of unambiguous answers to very straight forward questions about the abduction is the biggest driver and motivation of conspiracy theories surrounding the kankara saga.

How can any government explain the mutually contradictory claims from its own agencies on an issue of national discourse?

Perhaps, now it’s all evidently clear from the kankara debacle that ever since and now even more so; agents of government are the most purveyors of fake news because the timing has never been so short or so perfect to hack Abike Dabiri’s verified twitter handle, make a tweet – a sterile government propaganda about the premature release of the Kankara school boys and of course have her recover it – that will be some KGB or CIA level stunt.

Let someone please remind government spokesperson in Nigeria, that as humans, it’s okay to make mistakes and apologize for it. That not knowing or waiting to get clarity regardless of the pressure (for high level jobs come with high level pressure) is also allowed in public relation.

Let it be known that more than the votes, a government also requires the peoples’ trust in its leadership and there are no easier ways to erode that trust than through propaganda and lies.

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