In two separate newspapers articles published in 2006 and 2009 in the New Sentinel and Sunday Trust, and credited to one of us, the manner Boko Haram’s total disregard for civil values was the point of discourse. The report in question warned that government’s disregard of this rebellious inclination of the group would amount a calculated catastrophe to society. The authorities ignored this at society’s general peril.
Last week, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) of Nigeria urged Nigerians to simply ignore radio Biafra, a broadcast platform that has committed time energy and resources to peddling resentful communication about Nigeria and her constituted authorities. The Management of NBC claimed that they were aware of the pirate radio station that is “transmitting seditious and divisive content contrary to the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and law” and they are “working with security agencies to track the source of the broadcast.”
Nnamdi Kalu, the name behind the radio and who is fondly called director, is not going about his objective in a manner that should not agitate well meaning members of the public. As it seems, the radio is winning many admirers among Southerners in Nigeria on a daily basis. According to a random survey for the purpose of this article, an increasing number of traders, men and women in villages, schools and in commuter buses tune to 97.6 band width. In Aba, Abia State the radio’s audience is growing steadily among young people.
A public commentator known on tweeter as “Onye Nkuzi” (@cchukudebelu), recently dissected this phenomenon, lamenting on twitter that ‘the Nigerian State doesn’t have a narrative to challenge alienation – we’ve seen it in the North East and Niger Delta. It pops up again.’ Radio Biafra, like the ongoing insurgency in northeast Nigeria feeds on alienation to peddle a culture of violence through retribution of real and perceived injustice.
Meanwhile, it serves every society well to pay due attention to signals and other sub-signals with the potentials to erupt into other disturbing cauldrons of widespread violence. In Asaba, Delta state, an Igbo man brought the consciousness of radio Biafra to one of these writers one evening in the southeast with frightful alacrity and implored everyone present there to tune to the station.
As soon as the right bandwidth was accessible, the voice of the ‘director’ Nnamdi Kanu was coming forcefully over the airwaves. It was an arresting almost hypnotic voice to say the least, but it was not the voice that was the problem but the substance of what he said and how he said it that calls for concern.
Many unsuspecting listeners with a warped history of what led to the Biafran civil war in 1967 and its concomitant effect of seeming irreconcilable differences listened spellbound as the voice of “director” resonated over the waves with ceaseless histrionics. He seemed tireless, with his commentaries on a wide range of subjects all geared towards the need for the burdened southern region to secede from the north and “the hypocrite southwest” to quote the words of the radio’s presenter.
Our investigations have observed most painfully that the director has a growing influence on the minds of many from the other side of the Niger. The danger in this is that people in that region are beginning to accept whatever he says as the gospel truth, to the unreasoning mind, the director, as he chooses to be addressed is framing the minds of many of his listeners and predisposing them to dangerous tendencies. Without going into specifics to underscore what one is trying to say, but relevant authorities should know the danger of collective mind-set propelled towards a particularly dangerous direction.
On a bus from Asaba to Onitsha, the bus conductor was busy regaling passengers the resurgence of the Biafran agenda; Biafran currency; Biafran flag; Biafran identity card and how personnel of the Nigerian Police tactfully accord great recognition to Biafran I.D cards and are liable to set one free of any offense the moment one brandishes the I.D card. The bus conductor was very vociferous in his claims and an attempt to draw passengers attention to the folly of these claims, one suddenly realised that the commuters were more given to emotion than reason and to avoid the rising belligerency of some of the passengers including the driver one was compelled to channel the discussion to safer grounds.
Late Muhammad Yusuf, the founder of what started as a band of fundamentalists in Maiduguri that transformed into a dreaded global Jihadi movement, did not have a radio of his own. He relied on cassette recordings of his messages which was influenced by hardline do Salafi teachers the likes to woo youths to his flock. However, both late Yusuf and now Kalu, have one thing in common, in as much as their messages are in sharp contrast of one another, they both have the undivided attention of teeming youths in their regions.
It is important to note here that ‘terrorism’ means different things to different people. While a weighty number of people in the Muslim world do not view groups like Al-Shabab, Taliban, Islamic State and their affiliates as terrorists, majority consider them as full blooded terrorists. The same with the Biafran movement, a growing number of people consider the rebellion as an inalienable right that may offer Igbos freedom from the superficial Hausa/Fulani hegemony.
Indeed, Radio Biafra is a ticking time bomb, while we must accept that some of the claims made by late Yusuf over a decade ago, and now by Kalu on the air waves have merits like that of the alienation of people, a fact which is very obvious to any discerning mind but the general thrust of radio Biafra’s mono cast is more emotive than rational. Hopefully the new government of Muhammadu Buhari should get set to combat some of these obvious imbalances and marginalisation which underpin the restiveness.
The Hutu power radio and the resultant Rwandan genocide that heralded the 1994 Rwandan genocide should be a relevant example of what dire propensities could result to if such hate rendition is left unchecked not only by Kalu but championed by different groups across Nigeria. As persons with background in media studies, we need not overemphasise here the power of the media and its inherent capacities as willing instruments to be commandeered to negative or positive ends. But suffice it to say that the power of the media should never be underestimated, at least not in this case. Every serious federating unit should be mindful of the insidious influence of proponents of divisive rhetoric within their midst and their potentials to nurture and fan the embers of schismatic discords and prurient chasm in their unit.
Salkida and Chinedu are both journalist from north and south Nigeria respectively.