- ABUJA RESIDENTS PERCEPTION OF ARMED FORCES RADIO’S REPORTAGE ON BOKO HARAM INSURGENCY
1.1 Background to the Study
In a bid to ensure accurate and precise account of activities of the Nigerian military, especially in its ongoing Boko Haram counter-insurgency operations in the North East, former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 inaugurated the first digital armed forces radio station in Abuja. The radio station, with frequency 107.7FM, has being transmitting sessions that covers all military activities especially on Boko Haram operations.
The Nigerian government launched armed forces radio as strong weapon to determine outcomes of Counter Insurgency (COIN). Conversely, Boko Haram groups also use radio as a tools to effectively tilt public opinion. As a tool of insurgency and COIN, the media is an important element in opinion building, creating heroes and villains, and creating monsters and enemies. When effectively deployed by insurgents, the media becomes a threat to National Security (NS) and when properly used by the agents of the state such as the military, the media serves the purpose of enhancing national security.
The media is a mixture of institutions and technology used for propagation of information to the public. The media especially the radio is one of the effective tools for shaping public opinion and winning the hearts and minds of the populace. It is a pillar on which the success or failure of COIN operations depend upon. Media outlets are categorized as electronic media involving television and radio, or print media such as newspapers and magazines or social media such as YouTube, Face Book, and Twitter among others. In an authoritarian system, the media supports and advances government policies. In a Libertarian political environment, the media informs, discovers the truth and hold government accountable while in the social responsibility system, the media serves as a means for anyone who has something to say, including propagating ideas and entertainment, to disseminate such views Hussain N et al (2008). It is within this last political environment that insurgents or the military use media tools for propaganda, detraction, or affiliation purposes or to put out of order critical transmission points of structures or processes related to national security. Seeks to contain or eliminate in order to enhance national security. Globally about 6.9 billion people have access to the media and 3.7 billion use the internet with 2.80 billion using the social media. This has made the media a highly coveted tool for warfare.
In Nigeria, the Armed Forces Radio transmitting on 107.7 has being on the reportage of announcing successful attacks, deployment/redeployment, communication and strategic planning on Boko Haram insurgency Chukwu Solomon (2019).
The Armed Forces Radio reportage include some tactical actions such as the deployed various operations in its COIN . Such operations included Operation Restore Order, I-III, Operation Boyona which was later renamed Operation Zaman Lafiya, which gave way to the ongoing Operation Lafiya Dole.
These efforts, in addition to others, were to help in containing and decimating the BHT as the COIN strategic communication through the media effectively provided counter narratives to radical views, thus enhancing the national security in the North East..
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Despite the efforts of Armed forces Radio the residents of Abuja metropolis perceived that the station which is transmitting on 107.7fm is a mere press briefing center that hampered the full maximization of the full potential of the media in COIN for enhanced national security in the country. Green S et al .
In reporting fundamental events such as insurgence, adequacy of coverage and truthfulness is no doubt demanded. Thus, the Armed forces radio owe the public an expedient responsibility not just to report such developments, but to adequately give such account. The Armed forces radio seems to be sided by its reportage as they report issues which only exalts the military.
On 29 July 2017 the Nigerian Army did something they rarely do: they apologised for issuing a false statement, (Daily Trust, 30 July 2017, https:// www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/abducted-oil-workers-army-apologises-for-misleading-public-re-covers-21-additional-bodies/207747.html (accessed 1 July 2019) It was in respect of a setback they had suffered in their war with the jihadist group Boko Haram. The group had ambushed and kidnapped a team of oil explorers and their ancillary staff who were under Army and vigilante group’s protection. In the false statement which was broadcasted on Armed Forces Radio station, the Army had claimed to have rescued all the explorers and seized weapons from the insurgents.
In reality, it was the dead bodies of some of the explorers, their supporting staff, soldiers, and members of the vigilante group that they had managed to recover. The families and colleagues of the victims cried foul and Boko Haram released a video showing three surviving members of the exploration team in their custody. The three—two geologists who are lecturers at the University of Maiduguri and their driver—said in the video that they were being held hostage by the militants. They pleaded with the Nigerian authorities to negotiate with the insurgents to secure their freedom. It was a complete repudiation of the Army’s claim. And so, with the Nigerian public getting more accurate reports of the incident from other sources, the Army had no viable option but to admit that their own original statement issued on Armed forces radio was false.
No doubt, the armed forces radio has being viewed by the populace as not being sincere with its reportage. In 2017, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, had given his troops a 40-day ultimatum to capture the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, dead or alive. Source ,The Nation, 22 July 2017: http:// thenationonlineng.net/capture-shekau-dead-alive-buratai-directs-commander/ (accessed 02 July 2019). The Army had made multiple claims through it radio station of killing or maiming the militants’ leader. Issuing the ultimatum was a confirmation that the Army had deliberately misinformed the public in the past.
In the brutal war they have been waging against the jihadists since 2009, the Nigerian Army have actually been winning the gun battle in the field, though not as effectively and as accurately as they have been representing to the public on the Armed forces radio station. They have retaken most of the territory once seized by the militants, killed many of their commanders and young fighters, and forced a significant number of them to surrender. But it is in the ‘communications battlespace’ Giesea and Jeff (2015) posits that the insurgents often outwit their superior opponents. And this has often been helped by lapses in the Army’s narratives. Unknown to military officials, any time they issue a false statement about their encounters with Boko Haram, they indirectly empower the jihadists. For, as academics Mervyn Frost and Nicholas Michelsen have argued elsewhere, non-adherence to truth telling creates ‘opportunities that empower even very weak hostile actors and undermine the basic structural conditions on which even the strongest actors’ credibility is rooted’. Frost, Mervyn and Nicholas Michelsen (2017).It is against this backdrop that the study seeks to investigate Abuja Residents Perception Of Armed Forces Radio’s Reportage On Boko Haram Insurgency.
1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study
The main thrust of this study is on “Abuja Residents Perception Of Armed Forces Radio’s Reportage On Bokoharam Insurgency”.
- The specific objectives are;
- To examine the activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria
- To investigate the factors responsible for the formation of Boko Haram
- To investigate whether Armed Forces Radio has lived up to standard in its reportage on Boko Haram activities.
1.4 Research Questions
- What are the activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria?
- What are the factors responsible for the formation of Boko Haram?
- Does Armed Forces Radio lived up to needed standard in its reportage on Boko Haram activities?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESEARCH
- The significance of this study can be viewed from two major standpoints-practical and academic.
- Practical Significance: This kind of study will assist in broadening understanding or the scope of knowledge of the following:
- Help the government identify the shortcomings in the organizational structure of the Armed Forces Radio station which has contributed in making them counter