Open Letter to presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina
Dear Femi Adesina,
SINCE I am a victim of association to one of the most vilified and scandalised Nigerians through media trial, this Open Letter is the best opportunity for me to put some issues in proper perspective following some of your public remarks about your old friend.
As you are aware, I have been actively involved in cementing relationship between the media and security agencies in the recent past.
Immediately after my premature retirement from the public service by the Jonathan administration, I was invited by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), under Col. Sambo Dasuki (retired), to help in changing the negative media narrative on Nigeria's counter-terrorism campaigns. It was at a period when the Boko Haram was having the upper hand in the propaganda campaign of the war against Nigeria with a section of the foreign media castigating Nigerian troops as “cowardly” “undisciplined” and “ill-trained.”
Among other things, I have the responsibility of consulting for the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA), then Chaired by Major General Chris Olukolade, which has membership from critical public institutions including the military, security, intelligence and response agencies. We also created and sustained web portals for providing accurate and timely information to the public.
I must commend Mr. Femi Adesina for playing greater roles on the success of our campaign because as the President of Nigerian Guild of Editors, you also encouraged Editors to support our activities through occasional self-censorship to manage negative terrorists' propaganda.
Being one of the closest Editors to former National Security Adviser, you were always sincere and frank when you met and discussed with Dasuki. You never hid your hardened support for the candidacy of General Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC). I remember your annoyance over security clampdown on the media and when you sought Dasuki's intervention for compensation for media organisations over their loss rather than engaging in prolonged court cases. I was with you on that occasion in his office.
Apart from interfacing between FOSSRA and media representatives at different levels and locations, which you encouraged, Sambo Dasuki too, as National Security Adviser occasionally hosted Media Debriefing sessions where sensitive information was disseminated with supported photos and video clips. Many of such sessions were classified, not for publication, where atrocities of terrorists; the gallantry of the Nigerian troops and sophisticated equipment deployed for counter-terrorism operations were disclosed or shown.
I am glad that not only were you adequately informed of those success stories of Jonathan administration's war on terror, you even took the pain to pen an opinion article eulogising Dasuki for keeping to his promise of clearing all known terrorists' camps before the handover to the new government.
As a respected columnist, your article of May 1, 2015 on the back page of the Daily Sun with the title “A little Late But Not too Late,” clearly exonerates Dasuki from some allegations and also reveals some concrete facts of achievements that were not being reported in the media.
It is therefore, baffling that the same Femi Adesina, could brazenly contradict himself shortly after gaining public office in his official statements.
Some of us who know your cordial relationship with Dasuki and information at your disposal are indeed baffled by your dramatic turn-around in so short a time.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to point out that not all funds in ONSA are meant for arms procurement. As you are aware, under its Special Service Office (SSO), funds are expended on training, espionage, communication, special interventions for special causes including NGOs. One of the successful programmes under ONSA is Soft-Approach to countering terrorism, of which deradicalization without the use of force through economic empowerment, education, communication, rehabilitation and counselling were part. The Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE) was conceived from the Soft Approach.
As a media consultant who has distributed over 1000 releases on behalf of the military and security agencies, I can state the following as a fact from official documents and releases:
On August 6, 2015, through PRNigeria, Dasuki named and provided pictures of sophisticated weapons bought for the military, which included: “Alpha jets, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) APCs, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, advanced artillery pieces, assorted arms and ammunitions, highly sophisticated surveillance drones, T72 Battle Tanks and modification of F7 supersonic jet fighters.” Even in his official response to your statement against him on November 18, 2015, Dasuki mentioned official acknowledgements of delivery of some of the equipment by the security chiefs.
It is therefore laughable when critics claim that no weapons were purchased when a video from Boko Haram leader Shekau displayed captured sophisticated weapons after alleged mutinous soldiers fled Baga
At the twilight of Jonathan's administration more than 22 towns in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states were recovered and confirmed with video and pictorial evidences through military press releases. Some of the towns recovered before the coming of President Buhari included: Abadam, Askira, Baga, Bama, Biu, Buni Yadi, Damboa, Goniri, Gujba, Gulani, Gwoza, Hong, Konduga, Kukawa, Marte, Madagali, Michika, Monguno, Mubi, and others. A clear testimony to some of the accomplishments was the official DHQ release dated March 16, 2015 with reference No: DHQ/ABJ/901/32/DDI and a title: “Troops Finally Rout Terrorists from Bama and Last Stronghold in Yobe.”
Even though when you confirmed in the same article while you were still a columnist that “Sambisa Forest is falling” it was actually stormed by Nigerian troops where about 300 kidnapped women and children were rescued with video evidence before the emergence of the current administration.
In an attempt to indict Sambo Dasuki, some media leak unethically expose expenditures of sensitive agencies like National Intelligence Agency, Department of State Service and others to public ridicules. This is unfair. It was for sensitive nature of issues that we guarded the recruitment of Special M Forces to help in the air while Nigerian troops recaptured the ground. Some would rather call our technical Advisers as South-African mercenaries. Even when Nigeria financially supported some neigbouring countries to participate in the Multi-National Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) it was deliberately done because they were initially reluctant as foreign powers were not helping Nigerian troops.
Since Dasuki and others are now being arraigned in court, rather than the continued media trial and planned secret trials, let the trial commence in open court to enable prosecutors and accusers present their arguments to remove facts from fictions and reality from illusions.
Sir, as you know that I have tremendous respect for you, I strongly urge you to use your good office to protect the integrity of critical institutions like security and the media from public ridicule as some patriotic officers, media organisations, and publishers are already being indicted without fair trial in the court of law.
While I vouch for your professional integrity, you know for a fact that Dasuki is kind and obediently loyal in and out of office. You know that for sure, Mr. Femi.
As we end 2015, I pray the year 2016 will not be one of media circus but one in which the rule of law will determine official actions and suspects of all kinds will have their rights under the constitution respected. This is my last article on this issue and I do this with the best of intention to protect our institutions.
Mr. Shuaib, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Abuja.