By Aliyu Abdullahi
A journalist uses his power to influence correctly, since content is created by people and not some stoic, perfectly impartial, and unbiased entity: There will inevitably be those that will act selfishly and impede the divulgence of the truth, a journalist can act selfishly and unpatriotically- some might use their pen to leverage human emotions that elicit strong reactions, for the purpose of benefiting themselves and their publications, and it is precisely because of the influential nature of journalism that we need journalists in this country.
As Edward Bernays said “Small groups of persons can, and do, make the rest of us think what they please”. Such is the power that a journalist hold, the defenders of the fourth estate of the realm.
Last weekend made it four years since the abduction of the famous Chibok Girls by the dreaded Boko Haram sect. A journalist, Ahmed Salkida displayed such power whether positively or negatively when he made some startling revelations through his Tweeter Handle about the current status of the remaining Chibok Girls in an attempt burst the bubble and as he claimed “for the Parents of the abducted girls to know the truth”.
His revelations raised more questions than answers. He claimed that out of about 113 remaining girls still in captivity, only 15 are alive so far as most of them were killed during the several bombardment of the terrorist cell by the Nigerian Armed Forces over time. He went further to state that even the 15 that are alive have since been married off and the difficulty to securing their release from the Boko Haram leadership who are now their terrorist spouses. The later claim is a notorious fact to us.
The government through the Presidential Spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu and the Military Command has since came out to refute such claims from Ahmed Salkida majorly because he was not privy to the ongoing negotiations and efforts on the release of the girls which the Nigerian Government has been putting through credible third parties which involves International Organizations among other players.
Now, the questions to ask, which I am sure worries many other Nigerians, particularly the parents of the remaining girls are these: First, is it logically possible for Ahmed Salkida to come out with such certainty without entertaining any doubts whatsoever about the number of the girls that died and those that are alive when we have heard from the freed girls that these girls were divided among several factions of the Boko Haram cell?
Secondly, is it even possible for one of the factional Leaders to have such knowledge absolutely, and could Ahmed Salkida’s real or perceived connection to the terrorist group provides better and superior intelligence than that of the Nigerian state along other countries that are helping on the intelligence front such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Lake Chad countries among others, with all their level of intelligence sophistication?
On the claim that the girls were killed from bombardment, was it not the caution and risk assessment by the Nigerian military that made the use of force in securing their release almost a non starter to pursue as we were informed several times.
The government knew where the girls were located but it was too risky to plan a rescue operation hence the pursuit of the option of negotiations through credible third parties that has since yielded result when over 80 of the Chibok Girls were released under this same Government that Ahmed Salkida claimed has killed the girls from military operations.
Not forgetting President Muhammadu Buhari’s position on this as he had often said, the priority of his government is to secure the release of the Girls alive, safe and sound.
Did Ahmed salkida consider even for a moment that his actions could jeopardize the ongoing negotiations for the release of the remaining girls even if there were only 15 of them left as he claimed? Why could not he share his concerns with the government in order not to endanger the lives of many others the government is trying to secure?
What about hope? Did Ahmed Salkida consider the parents of these girls that are being tethered by the tiniest rope of hope and what his revelations could do to them in hearing such information with an air of authority and finality from him?
What about the Bring Back Our Girls (#BBOG) Campaign that comes out in their large number for a daily sit out to demand the return of the girls, did he wanted them to stop by giving up hope? What about the millions of Nigerians praying fervently for the return of the Girls, should we all give up and accept Ahmed Salkida’s weekend tweet as the gospel truth and continue to go about our business as life goes on?
Are we not entitled to our hopes, miracles, and above all trust in a government that has not lied to us about their efforts in the release of all persons under the captivity of Boko Haram terrorists?
Is the government not entitled to some benefits of the doubt on this matter especially as they have delivered over and over on this promise when over 80 of the Chibok Girls were released and of recent 105 out of the 110 Dapchi Girls were also released through the government’s efforts. Should not we as citizens trust in them, and as journalists, shouldn’t we support the government’s effort by passing over to them any relevant intelligence we might have gathered through our sources to aid their decision making process, or should scoring points, limelight and attention seeking dictate our ethics and professionalism as journalists?
Let us now speak to the motives of Ahmed Salkida. What did he hoped to gain by this revelation, considering his accounts of events are best described as hearsay in a legal parlance, since not one of these events happened in his presence.
So how absolutely sure can one be when you are reporting events that did not happen in your presence? Some could argue that Ahmed Salkida was looking for a payback for not being part of the government’s negotiating team, or is it a case of a weekend spotlight, or perhaps some political undercurrent is at play especially in a time like this when we are approaching an election in the country?
I want to give him the benefit of the doubt by thinking this is the case of an overzealous journalist that stepped beyond the realm of professionalism in trying to be the society’s watchdog.
A journalist uses his powers to influence correctly…
*Aliyu Abdullahi is a lawyer and a Journalist, and can be reached on his twitter handle @AliyuAbdullahA