Stop Disrespecting President Buhari – Lai Mohammed Warns Nigerian Media
The Presidency has issued a riot act to the Nigerian media for what it termed as the disrespect of President Buhari on news outlets across the country. The presidency issued its warning through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
Mr. Lai Mohammed had paid an advocacy visit to the People’s Daily newspaper in Abuja as part of a nationwide tour of Nigerian media houses to campaign against ‘fake news’.
While giving the charge largely seen as a reaction to recent editorials regarding president Buhari’s culpability in the herdsmen killings in the country in several national news outlets, Mr. Lai Mohammed reiterated that while the press was free to criticize the president, it should not take advantage of the opportunity to smear the person of the president or denigrate his office.
Mr. Lai Mohammed’s charge to the Nigerian media went thus;
“There was an editorial in an otherwise respected national daily a few days ago that without any scintilla evidence, they denigrated the person of Mr. President.
Make no mistake about this, the media is free to criticise any President but not to denigrate anybody. If you have the facts, please come out. How can anybody say Mr. President favoured one group than any other?
The President of a country, irrespective of the party or tribe which he comes from, is the symbol of the country.
When you denigrate him, you are denigrating yourself. We therefore want to appeal to the media organisations to desist from this.
Some of them are consumed by hatred and bitterness that they throw cautions to the winds. This is not healthy either for the media or for the country.’’
Lai Mohammed went further stating that fake news was beyond publishing false information;
“When you hide under editorial to pursue agenda which are driven largely by sentiment, emotion, vengeance and bitterness, it does not augur well for the country,’’ he said.
The Minister of Information then went ahead to imply that the killings of farmers by Fulani herdsmen in the middle-belt was largely driven by fake news.
While referring to the apparent one sided killings as a ‘clash’. Lai Mohammed said the killings had little to do with ethnicity or religion but more or less as a consequence of climate change and global warming as well as a few cases of criminality.
Mr. Mohammed attempted to defend his assertions thus;
“If you remember in 1960 the country population was 45 million today we are 190 million hence the struggle for scarce resources.
Lake Chad used to occupy 25,000sq km in 1963, today, the same lake has shrunk to 2500 sq km yet 35 million live from Central African Republic, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria depend on the lake.
The Lake is the natural source for their fishing, irrigation farming and water supply. This is the tension we are seeing. It has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity.”
He further went ahead to compare the levels of violence in Zamfara and the three middle-belt states of Benue, Plateau and Taraba stating that far more people had lost their lives in Zamfara alone than the three middle-belt states combined due to banditry and cattle rustling.
In a manner that would suggest he was defending a particular ethnic group, Lai Mohammed was quick to point out that both the cattle rustlers in Zamfara state as well as the owners of cattle themselves were both Muslim and Fulani.
“How do we input religious and ethnic motives into this? It is the duty of the media to look at this and interrogate it very seriously.
It is a pity that the purveyors of fake news have not relented. They are perfecting their strategy to de-market this administration and it is so sad that some main stream media have joined in this,’’ he bemoaned.
The Minister also insinuated that the recent reports of killings of 48 soldiers by Boko haram in the Northeast was fake news and the incident never happened despite the fact that pictures of soldiers being buried privately with family of slain Army personnel in attendance circulated widely within media circles.
Lai Mohammed hammered on the fact that none of the media publishing houses could provide proof of such an incident despite extensive coverage of the story by a respected international media organisation.
“When lives are lost, the military has the obligation to inform the family of the deceased so they cannot cover up.
We should give respect to the gallant men and women in uniform who are daily sacrificing their lives for us to sleep. When you file this kind of report they are dem0ralised,’’ he said.
The President’s spin doctor further reiterated that the rise in fake news phenomena is connected to the increasing performance of President Buhari asserting that it was becoming increasingly difficult to deny the ‘achievements’ and ‘good performance’ of the current administration
“Whether on issues of security, infrastructure, fighting corruption, agriculture or social investment programmes, we challenge anybody to a debate. We will tell them exactly what we have done.”
In the run up to the 2015 elections the current ruling party which was in opposition at the time ran a heavy smear campaign and run off the mill peddling of fake news against former President Goodluck Jonathan in its bid to outst the incumbent from office.
It does however seem that the ruling party is unable to take a dose of its own medicine as it has been actively seeking for ways to proscribe the Nigerian media following an increase in dissent in the face of the near abysmal performance of the current administration