MILITARY AND THE PARABLE OF THE RAPIST
Out of the blues, in the last week of May 2014 till the first week in June, the Nigerian Military has waged unrelenting attacks against the print media in Nigeria. Same time, the chronically ineffective and professionally inefficient National Broadcasting Commission of Nigeria [NBC] issued a set of outrageous [mis] orders directing broadcast media owners to submit the list of their guests scheduled for live program hours before the commencement of broadcast of such programs. About same time, the decadent Nigerian Films and Video Censors Board failed to issue certification for the introduction to the Nigerian film market of the iconic movie adaptation of the book by the young and upwardly mobile writer Chimaamanda Ngozi Adichie titled 'Half of the Yellow Sun'. The Abuja based censors board which by all indications is living on borrowed time given that the militarized atmosphere under which it was established has been taken over by the democratic experimentation.
The Video censors board said it was unable to issue certification for the film produced by the highly rated UK based but Nigerian born Producer Mr. Biyi Bandele Thomas to be viewed in Nigeria fully because it contains certain aspects which in their warped imagination may instigate unrests, [whatever that means]. Half of a Yellow Sun's film adaptation has already been previewed and widely acclaimed in international cities such as New York; London and Canada. So the month of May 2014 and early June 2014 can be perfectly captured as the period of infamy and another surreptitious attempt by the Nigerian military to drag the hands of the clock back by say one hundred years.
The manner and strategies of the attack of these media outlets were so crude and primitive that even President Vladimir Putin of Russia will be smiling that at least he has some friends in far distant land called Nigeria who are professional military officers but who would at the slightest 'provocation' deploy their arms and ammunitions bought with public funds to attack the same people who are the real owners of the Nigerian sovereignty. The Russian leader, a former secret service officer is known as the World's most notorious tyrant and anti-press politician in contemporary time.
The story of the attacks masterminded by the hierarchy of the Nigerian military against the Nigerian media sounds like the parable of the serial rapist who would not let his conscience call him to order unless he is either caught by the long arm of the law or he continues in his acts of treachery and infamy. The Nigerian Military tried as much as they could to explain away the massive undemocratic and unconstitutional attacks against specific media publications such as Leadership, Nation, Punch and later extended to all print national newspapers by saying that it was just doing the routine stop and search for certain materials that would undermine national security.
This explanation turns logic on its head because in a democracy, the accuser can not be the prosecutor and judge in his own case. If that despotic scenario is allowed to be perpetuated then we can as well say good bye to anything we ever know as modern day democracy and civilization. The constitution in section 22 clearly recognizes the media as the conscience of the nation and in section 39 guarantees freedom of information to all Nigerians and therefore the Nigerian military under any guise is not permitted legally to stop the circulation of any media print run without a valid and binding order of a competent court of law in line with section 6 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria of 1999 [as amended].
These atrocious criminal acts of media repression which represents everything that is bad and despicable was even explained by the minister of information Mr. Labaran Maku who happened to be a former media practitioner as if he is not aware of the far- reaching implication of letting the military destroy and ruin the forth estate of the realm. The extent of rot that would follow the sinister attempts by the military to muzzle the press is that government of the day may have given authorization for the institutionalization of impunity, lawlessness and the resort to self help and this goes a long way to give further weapon to the evil practitioners of jungle justice.
What will the Federal Government tell all those in the riotous crowd of irrational public who take delight in lynching any suspected criminal? At the last count in recent time, over two dozen suspected kidnappers have been lynched to death by riotous mobs without letting the law to take its full course. Now with the rampage of the military against the media, and the lazy justification been bandied about by state officials, it goes without doubt that those who carry out jungle justice also have government backing. The other day the Director General of the National Orientation Agency was quoted in the media as allegedly praising the villagers who reportedly lynched some suspected armed insurgents.
Any wonder then that these acts of lawlessness by the military have found willing allies in government? If section 6 so validates the constitutional supremacy of the law court as the only independent arbiter in all disputes, why then will the government stand by and seek to justify these acts of infamy and injustice against the media? Again, as I had written above, the actions of the Nigerian Military in stopping media houses from reaching their readers with their newspapers and at the same time bringing up some irrational and spurious arguments to justify these outrageous and primitive acts of mischief is like the action of the serial rapist who while committing the atrocity of rape and sexual violation of the victim may be thinking that he is deriving maximum pleasure from this infamy not until he is either called to order by subjecting his crime against humanity to the heavyweight of the law or he may as well continue in these atrocious acts believing that might is right.
The Nigerian Government must stop justifying acts of irrational attacks against the media by the military because the implication is that if they succeed in muzzling the press which is a strategic tool for sustaining the current democratic experiments then they will go for the jugulars of the civilian administrators of Nigeria who were democratically elected. Section 22 and section 39 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 [as amended] as I said are very clear on the fundamental freedoms guaranteed to both the media and the citizenry regarding freedom of information.
The most interesting dimension of all these acts of treachery by the Nigerian Military is that these criminal acts are all happening right under the nose of these same civilian leaders who were elected by the people in line with the constitution which is now being raped by the Nigerian Military.
It is to the credit of the current Head of State that the legendary Freedom of Information Act materialized after several attempts failed under previous administrations in the last fifteen years. Why is the current government allowing certain public servants in military uniform to rubbish the much esteemed legacy of this government? By the way, the Military is also an institution and a creation of the constitution and so I am shocked that in this twenty first century Nigeria, that the military seeks to take us back to the medieval period whereby the emperors elevated their selfish interests to the supreme laws of their respective constituencies.
The Nigerian Government must caution these military operatives to stop taking the laws into their hands and to seek for legal redress if they perceive that the media has violated any of their legal interest but it is certainly not against national security interest for the media to focus on some acts of suspected corruption that may have happened in the military since no institution in Nigeria is above the law. As my Igbo people use to say please let President Jonathan remove the hands of the monkey from the soup before they change to human hands.
The media must be given their fundamental freedoms to carry out their constitutional duty by check mating those who are put in public offices who should discharge their respective duties in line with the tenets and letters of the law and the constitution which is the grund norm of the land and which must be respected by all and sundry.
Written By Emmanuel Onwubiko