Yesterday’s bombing of THISDAY Newspapers’ head office in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the first such attack on a Nigerian media house in recent times, amplifies the question again: should bombs, bullets and bloodshed define the nation’s democracy? According to Mr. Segun Adeniyi, chairman of ThisDay Editorial Board, three people were killed in the morning attack by suicide bombers who reportedly gained entrance in a jeep from the rear entrance of the building in Jabi, Abuja.
Also, yesterday in Kaduna, the suicide bombers targeted the media office of ThisDay, the Sun and the Moment, killing four.
The Boko Haram Islamic militant sect, which has carried out successive, bloody suicide bombing operations in Northern Nigeria, including the FCT, for over a year now, has claimed responsibility.
Yesterday’s powerful blasts that destroyed the media house’s office and extensively damaged neighbouring property opens up a new sinister chapter in the terrorism war against the state –? a clear attempt to muzzle the media.
For sure, the media had lost a number of its workers in previous attacks, but the attack on THISDAY Abuja office and media houses in Kaduna represent the first such operations, and signals that an ominous phase of terrorism in Nigeria may have begun.
Several questions come to the fore. Why was THISDAY selected as the ‘inaugural’ target of attack in Abuja? Why was the security of the media house so easily breached? Was there a forewarning that was ignored? Is there an assumption by the media that it is immune to attacks? Is there a fundamental shift in strategy by the terrorists and their promoters? Will muzzling the media speed up the actualization of their agenda? These poignant posers require urgent answers.
Clearly the media plays a critical role in reporting events, including terrorism, the world over. It provides needed public information, makes announcements, and gives information regarding services that are available to victims and their families.
They are a resource for the community and can provide a source of hope, provoke and moderate debate and generally set an agenda for the national journey. Nigeria certainly needs its media now.
Notwithstanding its inadequacies, the media remains an indispensable agent of societal progression and must not be muzzled by any force or interest. The government must recognize and protect this.
Senate President David Mark recently subtly alluded to the possible truncation of Nigeria’s democracy if the current insecurity in the country is not halted. He spoke when the Senate considered a motion on the recent bombings in the country, moved by Senator Ayogu Eze. In clear language he prescribed a way forward: “I believe that the security agencies need to buckle up.
I think the earlier we fish out those who are involved and those that have committed it so far, the better. More importantly we must make sure that from now onward, that there is no more bomb blasts in this country. We do not want to be classified as Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Clearly, there are several weaknesses in the institutions that manage the nation’s security that are being exploited by these shadowy crisis entrepreneurs. Proactive intelligence gathering is lacking. The pattern, timings and methods of these bombers amplify their sinister motives.
Some opinions suggest that there some movement in the enhancement of capacity of the security agencies to fight terrorism since this represents a totally new challenge. These ‘improvements’ need to be expressed in better intelligence gathering and vastly improved counter-terrorism measures.
Clearly, the quality of response by the state so far is sharply at odds with the stern declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan on his promised resolve to deal with security threats in the country. Jonathan’s words are worth recalling here: “As president, it is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live.”
It is clearly time he gave meaning to that legitimate, constitutional declaration, before it becomes too late. A focused presidential reaction, or lack of one, could make or mar Jonathan’s political odyssey.