By Richard Murphy
One of the strategies often adopted to wear the troops of an opposing army down is to direct a campaign of disinformation at them. The objective may include creating a sense of division within the targeted army, greater return on investment will be anticipated by pitching the troops against commanders or vice versa.
In the age of the explosion of “fake news” as a phenomenon, it is easy to confuse this weaponization of information with being fake; but targeted disinformation is not necessarily false but could rather be truthful words or the actual account of events twisted to such an extent that there is no longer any semblance between what the audience reads and what actually transpired.
As the face of Nigeria’s fight against terrorists and separatists, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai must have been reminded of the efficacy of this strategy. He was recently presented as not having any confidence in his own troops.
His charge for soldiers to be committed, when he spoke during a leadership workshop at the Nigeria Army Resource Centre, Abuja, was twisted out of contest to the point where it appeared he had indicted every single soldier in the country.
Yet a thorough review of his speech at the workshop meant to address the menace of a few uncommitted personnel, with theme, “Lead, follow or get out of the way” will show that the report that eventually made it to the public was cast to commit mischief.
It is noteworthy that while several publications were drawn into publishing the warped perspective of Buratai’s speech, it was the Sun Newspaper that fired the first salvo to launch this offensive of disinformation.
In this, these other publications themselves became victims of the Sun’s agenda. The agenda is one aimed at weakening the Nigerian Army to give advantage to the terrorist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other separatist groups to which it is beholden.
Sun Newspaper may successfully pull off an air of respectability but it has not been able to conceal that its claim of being a national publication is merely a marketing ruse to make money from the very Nigerians its management and staffers passionately abhor.
This hatred for Nigeria is what was extended to the Army, which the Sun will love to see incapacitated so that the defunct Biafra, cherished by IPOB and IPOB sympathizers like the Sun, can thrive.
The slant of the story as reported by the newspaper in question is nothing short of a payback to the Nigerian Army’s Leadership over the role it has played in putting IPOB in its rightful position.
The least the publication can be accused of with the way it reported that event is that it was gloating over what the people running it must have confused for a schism in the army.
That is why it rushed to town to interpret the riot act read by the Chief of Army Staff to a few non-complaint personnel as an admission that the entire military is broken.
Only a media organization that has lost its moral compass as the conscience of society will contemplate pulling such scam on its readers and it takes one that is beyond redemption to actually pull off the stunt.
For lack of a more suitable description, what the Sun newspaper did was the height of irresponsibility because it was practically using propaganda to give Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) the upper hand in order for the army to be in disarray.
This will in turn make it easier for IPOB miscreants to have a field day in carrying out their criminal activities. What is lost on those pursuing this agenda is that ISWAP will eventually become a problem even to the phantom Biafra Republic they are hallucinating about.
Unfortunately, this irresponsible behavior will not go away overnight because of the history and composition of the newspaper, which has on its nominal roll the highest number of religious and ethnic bigots that ever worked for a media house in Nigeria.
It is the reason that stories published in the sun are cast to hurt the interests of other ethnic nationals in the country and have now escalated to begin targeting national institutions like the army.
The saving grace is that Nigerians are not dumb like the people at the helms of affairs at the Sun newspaper think. It was so easy to read between the lines and know where the venom against the army is coming from.
Since it is not possible to make the Sun Newspaper conform to journalistic standards without triggering a mass outcry about media repression, a viable option for the Nigerian government and military is for them to excel in ways that will frustrate whatever agenda the newspaper is implementing.
It should, by continuing to give Nigeria a world class army, teach the Sun a lesson in how not to be an unpatriotic news outlet.
As for General Buratai, who was targeted by that story in his official capacity as COAS, he must not water down the discipline he is known for instilling in troops while cheering them to victory even in the face of the most daunting challenges in the theatre of operation.
It is appropriate to conclude this piece by noting that the Sun Newspapers has squandered whatever goodwill remains attached to its image. It lost this goodwill at high noon and cannot now attempt to use the Army to rise at night.
Murphy wrote this piece from 3 Ambo street, Calabar, Cross River State.