The Military, Media and National Security: The Way Forward
By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje
John Boyd an American military strategist and essayist once said: “Machines do not fight wars. People do, and they use their minds and the destruction and distortion of the enemy’s will to win and perception of reality through ambiguous posturing, and severing of the communication and information infrastructure should be the driving force in mental warfare.” This in my view underscores the strategic role of the military and media in the war against terrorism in Nigeria.
Indeed in the past, relationship between the military and the media has been marked by periods of distrust particularly during the Buhari-Idiagbon and the Babangida–Abacha era. But since the return of civil rule in 1999, there has been cordial relationship with the media without harassment and intimidation. The recent clampdown and seizures of copies of newspapers, the relationship have again suffered some major setback and indeed reminding us of the dark past of the military and obnoxious Decree 4 of 1984. Regretably, this acrimonious row is being driven by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North and the perceived negative reportage of the military engagement strategies with the terrorist and also the unfounded notion that media is being used by the opposition party to heat up the polity. However, the media in contemporary Nigeria, is undeniably the most responsible arm of the state. The social responsibility role of the media, which essentially includes impartiality and self censorship mechanism in my view is the key driver in setting agenda for public opinion and the military do not have the monopoly of what constitutes national interest.
This article explores the way forward in forging a strategic alliance and indeed partnership between the military and the media towards a better relationship in fighting insurgency and other criminal gangs in Nigeria. The experience of the military across the world in the fight against insurgency and separatist movements and the Boko Haram in the case of Nigeria has shown that victory on the battlefield is not simple as defeating criminal gangs by force of arms but rather success is defined by public perception, which the media helps to shape through its reportage. Therefore, the military high command in my view stands to gain more than ever before from the media in their engagement strategy and indeed in shaping their operational output.
While International Humanitarian laws and conventions, which regulate the conduct of war do not reflect the critical role of the media in shaping outcome of internal conflicts, but the media is given a primacy of the right of civilian population as a neutral force on the battlefield. Therefore the military high command should close the gaps in its relationship with the media with a view to galvanizing supports for its operational strategy and other engagements with the civilian population.
The perceived possibility of bad press has always been a challenge to the military high command, but indeed bad reportage does occur. But it is expedient on the military particularly the directorate of defence information to understand that reporters bring their own perceptions, level of access and the freedom to publish what is considered in the public interest.
Going forward, the relationship between the military and media should be hinged on the understanding of the impartiality and balanced media reporting and on other hand, the military objectives of internal security particularly on terrorism and other perceived threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria. The military high command must also purge itself of the arrogance of the gun and the clandestine seizure of publications in the name of national interest and security. Therefore, the military should give attention to how they can influence the activities and output of the media for national security.
Fundamentally,there is need to draw up internal security reporting manual or code for the media in Nigeria that would help to shape public perception, which will help to balance the interest of the media in the pursuit of headline stories and similarly, the military pursuit in winning the war against insurgents. It is instructive to note the United States of America with a long history of democratic values; warfare and strategic engagement with the media has a guideline called, The US Army Field Manual: Public Affairs Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, which had helped to shape information operations and ensured that media themes and messages are consistent with national aspiration and interest. This in my view has reduced the area of conflict between the military and media in reporting war. Therefore a code of engagement with the media and the larger civilian population must be clearly defined in a democratic setting.
The military must also be strategic in their engagement with the media beyond news conferences and releases to more robust techniques of understanding the political slants and media representation in the area of operations and media ownership. The wide variety of non- traditional media should be explored to engage the enemy rather than open confrontation with the media as we see in recent times.
*Orovwuje is the founder of Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos
Tardiness as Govt Parastatals’ Brand Name (2)
By Akin Owolabi
If this strategic parastatal is sloppy in the extreme, the older ones, existing or defunct, have all trodden or are still treading the path of dishonour.
It has always been a case of the same six and sixpence.
The Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST) is another reference point in tardiness. I (please pardon a persistent reference to personal experience) sent a mail through the SPEEDPOST facility of NIPOST from Ikeja, Lagos to Port Harcourt, Rivers State late in 2012 and was assured the mail would journey two working days to its destination. It turned out a bogus lie. The mail took more than two odd weeks to arrive safely at its destination. Can that compare with other courier services in the private sector – DHL and the likes? Never.
Workers of NIPOST will, ipso facto, continue to draw fat salaries for the worst possible job delivery. They can afford to embark on indefinate industrial action to press for improved working condition and in the end retire to reap the juicy fruits of inefficiency while their clinically efficient private sector colleagues are denied such luxuries. What a paradox! Thankfully, the era of mail dumping is gone for good. There are no more such precious mails to thrash with reckless abandon and impunity.
The relevance of NIPOST in the face of ICT solutions that prompt immediate mails delivery online is questionable. The major area of relevance – hard copy mail delivery – is already in more efficient private hands. NIPOST has lapsed into the refuse heap of irrelevance.
Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) is dead and deservedly too. Its tyrannical kingly reign ended in 2001 with the safe berth of global system for mobile – GSM. Its services, while they lasted, were a nightmare – lessons in how not to do business. Telephone booths, call centres were mere decorations. David Mark, then as Communications Minister in Army uniform, though now Senate President, was dead right to say telephone was not for the poor. That was however obviated 13 years ago with a death blow on NITEL. Three companies bidded and were licensed for the GSM business with NITEL flying the green-white-green flag. MTN came all the way from South Africa while Econet distilled local and international enterpreneurs. Of the three, the truly national concern had all it would have taken – masts and other telecommunication facilities all over Nigeria – to first breast the roll-out tape. It could not. And when it finally and slovenly rolled-out far behind the rest two, it was the worst and within a short while, took an inglorious permanent exit.
The power sector has been comatose since 1977 when a huge python that allegedly glided into one of the turbines at the Kainji Hydro Electric Plant refused to creep out. From ECN, NEPA to PHCN and now unbundling and privatisation, electricity bogeyman sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is a huge extortion machine while the corps’ two mandates – national driver’s licence and the unified vehicle number plates have been compromised. Where else can we find probity and efficiency? I love to be educated.
*Owolabi, a former editor and newspaper manager, lives in Ota, Ogun State.