Dan Ali, Benue APC and The Punch Newspaper Editorial – By Ifeanyi Emeka
Since the nineteenth century, the theory of objectivity in journalism has been considered as the chief cornerstone in mass media practices. During the last decade, both communication scholars and practitioners began to contest the main notion embedded in this concept.
Despite the different shapes of opinion among academics and journalists about the paradigm of objectivity when it comes to setting up professional criteria on this concept, one thing that still remain firmly entrenched in the practice of journalism is the fact that objective and impartial reportage of issues and events creates room for just and peaceful societies. Anything short of that, creates ill-feelings among the people.
However, the recent negative reactions that greeted the simple statement made by the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali on how to permanently tackle the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in all parts of the country is uncalled for.
At the end of a security meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and other security chiefs at the Presidential Vila, the Minister of Defence, General Mansur Dan Ali accepted to have a brief chat with the State House Correspondents where he was asked some questions about some of the national issues. Ordinarily, the minister reserved the right to walk away just as other security chiefs had done, but because he is a media-friendly minister, he decided to field some questions from the newsmen stationed at the vila.
In one of his responses, the Minister said: ”You see, whatever crisis that happens at anytime, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (Benue and Taraba conflicts), what are the immediate causes of these farmers crises?”
The minister in that response was only trying to let Nigerians understand what actually gave rise to the conflicts because there is no smoke without fire.
Hence, contrary to the negative portrayal of his response in the media alleging that the minister was justifying the casualties recorded during the crisis which was very far from the minister’s standpoint, the minister was only speaking from an informed perspective by trying to let Nigerians see the unspoken aspect of the crisis so that they could form a balanced and objective view or opinion of the matter because problem known is half solved.
Again, while the media and their influencers are trying hard to let Nigerians see only the effects of the crisis without a balanced, impartial and objective reportage of the crisis, the minister decided to allow Nigerians to see the other side of the crisis from an informed standpoint because there are always two sides to a coin. And where the media and their influencers decides to only see and judge from one side of the coin, then the essence of justice is defeated. And where justice is lacking, what do you expect?
That was why the Minister said:”Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be a route where the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked what do you expect will happen?”
In other words, if you push a man to the wall because you think you are mightier than him, even if he does not have the power to fight back, natural laws and its attendant consequences will fight for him. So, the minister was not justifying or taking side in the matter as many have been made to believe, instead, he was trying to let the people know what they never knew or better still, the root cause of the crisis because history may not repeat itself, but sometimes, it rhymes.
Therefore, for Nigerians to have better understanding of the crisis and prevent it from happening again or in the nearest future, the minister added: ”These people are Nigerians. Is just like one going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote cause of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn to accept foreigners within their enclave finish.”
To understand what the Minister of Defence said, it is apt that we also understand the intellectual idea in the United States Constitution transferred to the United Nations Chatter which made Barrack Obama President in the United States despite the fact that he was black. It is a line that says that all human beings were born equal and as such, they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is why our constitution in recognising the fact that we are all settlers in Nigeria started by addressing fellow Nigerians as ‘We The People.’
Therefore, contrary to the biased news reports and commentaries in the media, the Minister of Defence was only appealing to our collective consciences because conscience is an open wound only the truth can heal it. That was why great philosophers says that for there to be a perfect and just society, they must be a perfect man with the perfect knowledge. In this case, the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali the perfect man with the perfect knowledge.
On the call by the Benue State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as the Punch Newspaper Editorial mischievously calling for the removal of the Minister, I want to first all state that it is very unfortunate for the Punch Newspaper because this is a former national newspaper that have shamelessly turned itself to a special interest newspaper. I care most for the Punch than the Benue APC who are group of gamblers looking for who to make victim for their administrative failures in the state.
Honestly, my heart bleeds for the Punch because if its founder was to be alive today, he would have committed a terrible divorce because the paper have lost every glory it had in the past. Today, it is now serving the special interest instead of serving the Nigerian people. Truly, there was a newspaper called The Punch!
Mr. Ifeanyi Emeka is a Senior Media Executive from Abuja.