“Nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been as a result of media lies.” –Julian Assange
Even the government led by the Prophet Muhammad himself was threatened by fake News: The Affair of the Necklace, it was headlined. It took God Himself to clear the air. Still, centuries later, there are those who continue to insist on the truism of the lie and the animosity the story created continue to hunt Islam till today.
Abdallah ibn Saba, a professional agitator in the 7th century, may have drawn inspiration from The Affair of the Necklace when he concluded that the best way of fighting official power was first with propaganda. It was he who perfected the art and was responsible for many disturbances especially in Yemen during the reign of Caliph Uthman.
Perhaps unwittingly but storytellers have followed in the fashion of Ibn Saba: Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, it was he who understood that lies told over and over again graduate to truth, a method the Nigerian media has employed and deployed against the North so that today, whenever it is convenient, all Northerners can be referred to as Fulani, that word that has come to be synonymous with terrorists. And this did not start today. Here is Sir. Ahmadu Bello lamenting sometime in 1953:
For many years the outside world has been led to regard Northern Nigeria as a backward country where all the people are conservative to the extreme and unreceptive of modern ideas. One has only to read the local papers and to remember utterances made by some Southern Nigerians in the past for a confirmation of my statement.
The reason I am inflicting all these upon you, dear reader, is to establish that the media war upon Mallam Pantami is not particularly original; this is not the first time the hyena has complained of the smell of goat because she wants to eat her own young. Like Pantami, Ahmadu Bello and Muhammadu Buhari were all accused of terrorism and of brewing a “jihad” against the Christian South.
This is not to suggest that the Nigerian media does not pick on non-Northerners and non-Muslims but the terrorist and terrorism tag is deployed and sticks only when the subject is Muslim or Islamic.
Take Pastor Oritsejafor, for example, nobody would think about him in light of a terrorist even after the jet of the then CAN President was caught in South Africa with a stack of $10 million meant for arms purchase. Nobody called CAN a terrorist organisation, nobody thought up Nigerian Muslims who died in abnormal circumstances and contemplated a link to the machinations of Christians; nobody wove any conspiracy theory of a Holy War; nobody advised President Jonathan to desist from frolicking with a terrorist even as Oritsejafor was then threatening to attack Muslim northerners as retaliation for the atrocities of Boko Haram –as if only Christians were the victims of the terrorists.
So our storytellers who declared war on Pantami counted on Arewaphobia, they trusted that the gullibility of their audience sharpened by bigotry would cloud their judgment and prevent them from thinking clearly, or thinking at all as long as the story confirms their bias.
Consequently, hook line and sinker, fellow compatriots swallowed the fictive story about a group of Muslim Northerners in Bauchi who, on one hand, were smart enough to successfully execute the assassination of a sitting Christian Governor but, on the other hand, were stupid enough to document and even invited persons present to share the minutes of the meeting of their plot. The mind bugles!
Let me tell you something else: people think that to lie is to narrate events that never happened. Those of us in the employment of storytelling know that such kinds of lies are the lies told for the consumption of children, the gullible and the incurably stupid. The best kind of lie is to tell the truth but not the whole truth, only bits of it, guiding your subject to a desired conclusion –the lie of omission. This is the lie that discombobulates even the informed and the intelligent.
And so when our storytellers began the media war upon Mallam Pantami with the pedestrian lie that he was on America’s terror watch list, they were only testing the waters. The real objective was to gain attention by drawing the Minister out to deny that, and to give their agenda publicity. So the first defeat was victory because they hoped for it; it was bait because the squadron of the lie of omission was at ready and attacked as the Minister came into the open.
Thus our storytellers began decimating series of long-ago utterances taken out of time and context so as to cast them in an unoriginal light.
For example, an audio was released where a weepy Pantami was condemning the extrajudicial killing of Boko Haram members. Our storytellers claimed to have received it from an anonymous source but were not sure where or when it was recorded, which was all too convenient because they knew our reaction would have been different if we were told that Pantami’s condemnation was not for the terror group we have today but for the extrajudicial killings of ordinary people which we all saw on Aljazeera and is still up on YouTube, the video of policemen bringing out defenseless Nigerians, including a cripple, lie them facedown and shoot them in the streets during the Yar’adua/Jonathan days.
Nor were our storytellers careful enough to examine and put in context the so-called sympathy for Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. International politics is not the forte of many compatriots, especially the confusion that is the Sunni-Shia conflict and the role of the West in the Middle East. Still, truth-seekers only need to read the story of the formation of Al-Qaeda, and the rise of Bin Laden to get a little clarity as to the prevailing socio-political circumstance that informed the comments of Pantami.
On my part, I shan’t risk being denied a US visa over a matter above my pay grade by saying any more than I have said. But I must say this: those who read through history have noticed that right and wrong is determined by who did it, and to whom and for whose profit. The Good guys and the Bad guys are always changing. It is like in Orwell’s 1984; today Oceania is at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia but then you wake up one day to be told that reverse was the case, that reverse has always been the case, and that, for thinking otherwise, you must be sent to the gallows.
Please plant a tree today,