The Nigerian government has just launched a “$5 million war” against bloggers and online news media such as Sahara Reporters.
Three security sources, who are privy to the plan, revealed that Yar’adua last week approved the covert operation to stop websites and bloggers from influencing public opinion in Nigeria. The president’s Chief Economic Adviser, Tanimu Kurfi will source the funds for the operations.
On the one hand this is good news as the Nigerian government wakes up to the power of citizens media and that we are watching and reproting on their every step. On the other hand this is very dangerous for bloggers in the country and those outside who may wish to return home whether for a short holiday, work or permanently. We are all very much aware of what happened to two bloggers [Jonathan Elendu and Emeka Asiwe] last year who were met and detained by security officials as they landed at Abuja airport.
The plan by the government which sounds like something out of a spy movie [maybe there is much truth in those films] is to recruit ‘700′ Nigerians at home and abroad to ‘blog’ favorably about the President and his government. And like government agents world wide these people will be paid, in this case given “blogger allowances”.
“The government has decided to mobilize a few individuals to set up online forums that promise to extend the frontiers of online journalism,” said a security source. He added that, in the initial stages, these websites would release a few detailed and seemingly credible stories calculated to garner credibility for them as well as a wide readership. “But the ultimate objective is to fully divert the websites to the task of acting as attack dogs for the government’s online critics,” said a source. She added that the government plans to fund and roll out about 50 of such new websites between now and the beginning of serious campaigns for the next round of elections scheduled for 2011.
So what do we genuine bloggers do? First of all we will need be on the look out for these enemies of the people!. If you are a blogger writing lovely things about Yar’Adua and Goodluck, then it is possible you will be seen as a government ‘plant’ which is unfortunate as there just might be some deluded but genuine supporters of this most undemocratic of regimes. It is the pretense of democracy that is dangerous about this and the government of Obasanjo. It is therefore up to us bloggers and news sites to expose the lie of Nigeria as a democratic state with a free press. It is not. A government which sends out tanks and bombers on its own people is not a democratic govenrment. A government which sends out solidiers to attack the people and denies summary exeuctions by its armed forces which we all have witnessed on video is not democratic. What we do have is a corrupt government which is determined to dispossess the Niger Delta people of their resources and human rights.
Just as in Choba when pictures of solidiers raping women were denied by Obasanjo so too the army chooses to deny the excutuion of two young men. Would justice have not been better served if the army had chosen to investigate the exeuction by the JTF? Below is the response by the Nigeria Army Public Relations Unit to the video.
It has come to the knowledge of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Hope, that MEND, due to its failure in the use of violence and previous attempts in denting our names which equally failed, has embarked on yet another campaign of calumny against the security outfit and its commanders by circulating constructed and acted video clips to … Read Moredepict rape and extra-judicial killings by the JTF in the Niger Delta. These concocted clips are now being forwarded to international figures for sympathy, while the media they were using hitherto, are no longer sympathetic to their cause due to the criminality and campaign of calumny of this faceless body,” Abubakar. Col. Rabe Abubakar Commander Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Hope.
MEND [Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta] have called upon the UN to investigate the alleged extra-judicial killings and rape by the JTF during the recent miliatry operations Oporoza and other communities of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State.