The Federal government of Nigeria on Thursday launched a new strategic public enlightenment campaign aimed at encouraging citizens’ support for the on-going war against the ISIS-backed Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast of the country.
The new National Campaign in support of the military became necessary particularly as the country is now faced with a more deadly war against a new faction of Boko Haram which has aligned with the global terror group ISIS, to form, the Islamic State’s West African Province ISWAP.
“What we are fighting today, is not the home-grown Boko Haram that started in 2009,” Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said while flagging off the campaign Abuja. “ISWAP now has more men and better funding, which brings more challenges to what Nigeria is facing.”
“With ISIS largely dislodged from Iraq and Syria, there is undoubtedly a flush of fresh fighters and weapons to ISWAP. Therefore, our military is fighting a global insurgency, without the kind of global coalition, including the United States that battled ISIS in Syria and Iraq,” he added.
The new campaign tagged “NATIONAL CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF THE MILITARY”, “is a follow-up to the hugely-successful National Campaign Against Insecurity which was launched on Feb. 16, 2016, with the punch line: ”If you see something, say something.”
The Minister disclosed that the Federal Government was launching the campaign “believing that the men and women in uniform who are risking all, including making the supreme sacrifice, to keep us safe deserve the support and prayers of all Nigerians, not vilification, insults and other acts that are capable of dampening their morale.”
“In other words, ISIS now has a strong foothold in West Africa – with Nigeria in the forefront of the battle against them.”
He raised the concerns that those who neither understand the fresh threat facing the nation, nor appreciate the sacrifice of the troops, have now made it their past-time to wage a campaign of disinformation against the military, especially in the social media.
He noted that doctored videos and pictures purporting to show massive military casualties are wilfully circulated online, and noted that “Such unpatriotic acts are discouraging and demoralizing our troops, and must stop forthwith.”
He said that it was for this reason that the government launched the new campaign now, “as our gallant men and women in uniform clear the remnants of the home-grown insurgency called Boko Haram, they are confronting a fresh crisis, a global insurgency.”
Mohammed warned against spreading of false information, observing that those who engage in this act of disinformation do not represent the majority of Nigerians who appreciate the patriotism and the sacrifice of our gallant troops.
Government also launched the campaign to mobilise “Nigerians, irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic leanings, to show support for our military,”’ the minister added.
“It is high time that everybody joined in supporting this global war (against insurgency). It’s not unusual, as a matter of fact it’s usually the practice, that when a country is faced with this kind of challenge, people will sink their differences and work together,” he said.
He assured that the campaign would be multi-faceted and would include the production and airing of special jingles on radio and television, social media intervention and advocacy. He declared that the jingles were ready, and would be airing on radio and television starting this week. The materials for newspaper and social media were also ready, he said.
The minister also enlisted the support of the media for the campaign. “We also want to appeal to the media to show utmost professionalism in reporting the insurgency. They must seek official clarification before reporting casualty figures, and must realize that the military will not release the identities of soldiers who have paid the ultimate price without first notifying their families.”
Also speaking on the issue, Texas Chukwu, Director of Army Public Information, declared that Nigeria was “not fighting a rag tag insurgents of 2009, but a highly sophisticated group of insurgents who have fought in Syria and Libya, with the necessary technical expertise, war-tested fighters, “ Chukwu said.
“They must also not reveal national security as well as military plans, since such acts can put our troops in harm’s way,” he explained.
Onyinye Nwachukwu & Anthony Ailemen