Reminiscences of the War against a Journalist

On this day, last year, I was declared wanted by the Nigerian Army. The official release from the Military High Command was publicised in international and local media. The Military statement declaring me wanted was in spite of the fact that I was in constant correspondence with security leaders in the country, including the Army. Not once was I ever invited for any reason by the security forces and there was a hesitation on my part.

Surprisingly, I had been considered a useful party by successive governments, on account of the professional access I have with the leadership of the insurgents. Arising from this, I had been asked on several occasions to meet with government officials for critical consultations on finding a solution to the myriad of challenges on this. On each of these occasions the military was involved in all levels of consultations. For instance, a few months before I was declared wanted, I was involved in an operation with the military, which involved having me flown from Abuja to Maiduguri in a C130 for the very first steps in the sensitive negotiations for the release of the Chibok girls.

On arrival to Nigeria in September 2016 from the UAE to clear my name (by the way, I was given money for air tickets by the government), I was met by military officials and driven to the Directorate of Military Intelligence office in Abuja. Amazingly, they were asking me of how I built contacts with the leadership of the insurgents and why it seemed to them they had a tremendous trust in me, things I believe I had written about severally and which remain in the public domain. I was released after 17 hours without charge. The military authorities found no grounds of indictment, but have been tongue tied in declaring this to members of the public. And the local and international media that feasted on the Army signal declaring me wanted have yet to seek information from the Army on why they let me go.

Well, not to forget that several years, specifically seven years before this, while still working as a reporter for the Daily Trust in Maiduguri, the Borno State Government had declared me persona non grata. I was bundled into an aircraft from a detention room and warned never to show face in my home state. What was my offence, you would ask? I saw the activities of this same sect turned insurgents more newsworthy than official press releases. I had been reporting their doctrines and threats and had wondered in my reports why the national intelligence community did not seem to see the unfolding conflagration that was all too evident to me. So, when the military crackdown against the sect came, they considered this also an appropriate time to rid journalism of this reporter. I was marked for elimination without trial. But I was divinely saved. Even then, the Governor wouldn’t bear the pain of living with my reports, even if they were the truth.

These series of state designed war of attrition against my person and family are clearly unprecedented. I realise that the state together with her military machinery does not brook any idea of placing before members of the public a counter narrative of the insurgency and human calamity from which individuals could make comparisons and draw conclusions. Irrespective of the fact that I have a professional cover to do what I do, even institutions and personalities in the media have gravely chosen to sacrifice me in their cowardly bid to sound and act politically correct. I consider this sad not because I have been betrayed by my chosen profession, rather I feel sad because journalism has betrayed the public and sold her birthright for a mesh of porridge. Journalism that ought to be the watchdog has chosen to be the lap dog. An entire national media would not see the escalating human tragedy unfolding steadily in the North East, Nigeria because they would not wish to be seen as another Ahmad Salkida.

As at date, there is not a single shred of evidence to sustain the ugly narratives that the media in their illicit romance with the government have woven against me. There has not been one pointer to any professional misconduct against me. Yet officials and the media generally would not publicly admit this because part of the wider agenda is to demonise me into shame and silence. However, I am glad that I have never lost sight of my philosophy, which is; ‘integrity is the most valuable article of trade in journalism,’ and as a matter of fact, I have improved in my ability to write and report on the human crisis situation in the Lake Chad region despite growing threats to my professional calling.

Long before now, I learned that nothing else other than truth fit to stand alone without any support. Everything that officials have said against me have needed further propaganda and even much more misinformation to give it support. On the contrary the things I write about have stood on their feet alone and time has repeatedly vindicated the truth. They may besmear my person and seek to put me out of professional and legitimate source of livelihood, but my position, as long as it is aligned to nothing other than truth shall always be vindicated.

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