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“Forgotten Soldiers” and a tradition of exploitation 

Slavery never ended. It only transmogrified.  Instead of the conquering powers sailing in ships for many months to come shackle captives, our media help out in this betrayal – offering themselves up for pittance to engage in the largescale brainwashing with the gobbledygook approved for pushing out by the propaganda fronts of imperial entities. They masquerade as NGOs and not just their partners in psychological enslavement buy into their intellectual constrictions, they also recruited other influencers to drive and herd the rest of the population into that “think collective” to ensure issues are only viewed from a narrow prism of preconceived stereotypes.

Knowing the dynamics of this induced mass perception of key issues with a view to entrenching stereotypes – both of self and of the society that is the subject of conquest, it is not surprising that the military as an institution was the choice candidate for the low intensity war on the psyche of the Nigerian nation.

The efforts struggled to cast aspersions on the Army as an institution that does not care. The International Centre for Investigative reporting (ICIR) through its “Forgotten Soldiers” series, a five part affairs, apparently wants to paint a picture that would make Nigerians hold their military up to a different light, which would no doubt yield a wrong perception of such a vital institution.

Once the wrong perception is created then citizens can erroneously, thinking their judgement was made on the credibility of unbiased media, begin to act out the fantasy of the original sponsors of the content they have ingested in error. ICIR, even if enshroud in a wrapping of Nigerianness has a large dose of foreign sponsorship. The concept of the piper dictating the tune has not been done away with. Of course it gets partner organisations that ran its name almost as a footnote in publications that have no other purpose than to provoke a wave of Nigerian refugees’ surge, similar to what international NGOs have gifted the middle east.
The Cable and not a few online outlets lent their platforms to these reports. It must be stated that organisations are at liberty to carry content that satisfies their editorial objectives while paying the bills. Whether these imperatives include a liberty to endorse half-truth by publishing it is another thing entirely. What is evident is that the rank of online newspapers that have been recruited to the other side of the equation, the one that thinks the military must be demonise for every failing of the larger system, is swelling. Mention must be made here that the “Forgotten Soldiers” business is an escalation of other stories carried in the Cable’s sister or partner organisations, which had left too many of these mouthpieces sounding like looped soundtracks as they jostled to see who would be the first to indict the military for high handedness and committing extrajudicial killings.
It is therefore not surprising to see the said series presenting issues that predate the current dispensation in the military, from 2002 to 2015, as if they were instigated by the current management of the military contrary to the fact that Nigerians reel daily from how the immediate past administration and military leaders held bazaars. It is ironic that international NGOs, possibly not too different from ICIR, are swooning today over the members of the now infamous government – they are either selling awards to that regime’s most senior officials or they are acting as their mouth pieces to bellow about how rights are being trampled in the course of recovering the money that should have addressed the problems being faced by the injured soldiers. Had the right thing been done by these yesterday’s men we possibly may not have had today’s wounded soldiers that are now being objectified and exploited for boosting pageviews.
So the reality of fettered minds remains that some few chaps scattered across tastefully furnished offices around the world are using Nigerians to exploit what the tragedy of the dead and injured have become. They again play up the glaring deficit of cutting edge technology that beset us to the point where we have to keep relying on other nations for basics like prosthetics and of course knowing that the bionic version is something that we have only had the benefit of seeing on sci-fi movies.
A report that truly meant well would have exploited how to stimulate debates about the imperative of assigning increased resources for research in bionics and prosthetics.  If Nigeria must reach self-sufficiency in some key areas, then some of the early batches of artificial limbs would take a while to be at par with the ones from other countries. Of course the government or military should not use this as a basis to drop the ball on their part. Allowing this to happen will be placing more ammo in the hands of those who have resolved that they will use all available means to cause disaffection among Nigerians – or at least ensure people continue to arrive at conclusions with national consequences based on flawed information.

To further neutralise the potential for this kind of mischief in future. The military should continue with probes that are ongoing to expose those whose actions as individuals caused the mess that is now being used against the institution. While sanctions should be meted out to anyone found culpable in the failing that provided fodder for the report, the reality and possibility that the conditions of the wounded soldiers are the products of the amount available for their welfare must be addressed, which means increasing funds for treatment and rehabilitation should be better prioritized.

Since ICIR and the Cable have indicated they have even more to come in other parts if the series Nigerians must be prepared for an onslaught meant to hijack their minds as there are no indications both meant well. They want the military to fail. The population would do well to interrogate why their alliance is disturbed by the successes being recorded in combat with Boko Haram or in any other troubled spots in the country. They should demand proof that both organisation genuinely investigated anything because of the sheer feel of blackmail and mischief around the series.

We must recall that the Nigerian Army, in its demonstration of having nothing to hide, recently granted an unfettered access to one Samuel Malik of ICIR to the theatre of operation with the aim of “showcasing the immense contribution of the Nigerian soldier to the fight against terrorism”, only for them to hit below the belt with a publication openly tried to do damage. It is really sad and unfortunate that the NGO and its ilk are so determined to cast Nigeria in a bad light despite the concerted efforts aimed at stemming the tide of insecurity, which inevitably makes one question the so-called international nature of ICIR, and to ask where else have they worked or disturbed apart from Nigeria? What is the motive of their pay masters?

Kolawole PhD is a University lecturer and contributed this piece from Keffi, Nasarawa State.

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