The administrators and staff of SaharaReporters woke up to a spurious lavish claim by Brigadier Olaleye Lajide of the Nigerian Army that, because our website leaked a petition accusing top military officers of corruption and incompetence, we are now supporters of the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Among other nebulous claims, the military officer stated that SaharaReporters is a “faceless” organization.
This is one in a series of smear campaigns launched against SaharaReporters and its operators in recent times. We had been told a while ago that various arms of the Nigerian state were preparing a coordinated attack on our website and its chief operators, and we had reported to that effect.
Last month, in the service of an agenda to discredit our website, the same set of people had claimed that the founder and administrator of SaharaReporters was bribed with a $5 million mansion in California. The designers of this infantile propaganda had hoped to fool the unwary with that tall tale. Lacking intelligence and bereft of respect for their audience, those who concocted the allegation claimed that the mansion existed in a town in California, but could provide no address. It took little time for the allegation to fizzle as the accusers failed to provide something as basic as an address to enable curious readers make further inquiries.
Shortly after, the same group of hirelings claimed that a former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, the subject of several investigative reports by SaharaReporters, asserted that he had arrested the publisher of SaharaReporters for rape during the latter’s time as a student at the University of Lagos. Again, the allegation fizzled away, being a figment of the imagination of the smear artists. As in the case of the fake mansion without an address, the accusers could also not produce the date of the arrest, the charge sheet, the identity of the alleged victim, the location of the “rape” incident, or the date of prosecution.
Over the last week, the Nigerian Presidency has mobilized a significant amount of funds to their hired hands engaged in a new round of these smear campaigns. The purpose is to tarnish the reputation of SaharaReporters, a website that has remained steadfast in documenting the ineptitude and incompetence of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The Nigerian military hierarchy has led the latest smear campaign after SaharaReporters exposed the existence of a petition by an army officer who detailed the reasons the Nigerian army has not been able to defeat Boko Haram. That a military that has proved incapable of dislodging a ragtag group of sectarian terrorists would devote resources to discredit a website speaks volumes about the rut and degradation of various sectors of the Nigerian state—and exposes the confused, petty nature of the Nigerian regime.
SaharaReporters decided to publish the leaked petition in order to help Nigerians understand why countless numbers of their fellows are sent to their ultimately deaths at the hands of Boko Haram insurgents. It is an open secret that Nigerian troops are inadequately equipped and ill motivated. That explains why Nigerian troops have not been able to stop Boko Haram’s murderous campaigns against defenseless civilians, especially in the northeast of Nigeria.
Till date, the army has not denied the factual content of the petition written by Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Wende. Instead, the army has engaged in subterfuge aimed at diverting attention form the substance of the petition, which stated clearly how the army could defeat Boko Haram militants within a matter of weeks.
By accusing SaharaReporters of supporting Boko Haram, the top commanders of the army accused in the petition of sabotaging the war against Boko Haram hope to turn attention away from their corruption and incompetence.
Discerning members of the public have not forgotten that, in a 2012 video released by Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, the terrorist group named SaharaReporters as one of the media houses it intended to attack.
Far from giving comfort to Boko Haram, our website has been in the forefront of drawing attention to the group’s gruesome attacks on innocent, defenseless Nigerians and others. Although the army has done a shoddy job of combating Boko Haram, SaharaReporters continues to accept and publish the press releases of the Nigerian army unedited. Recently, our website saved the army a great deal of embarrassment by alerting them to a false statement claiming that abducted Chibok girls had been released.
SaharaReporters has also done several live interviews with Nigeria’s top military spokesperson directly from our New York studios. How could the army’s spokesman have appeared in a televised program of an organization the military now claims is “faceless”? It is an absurd claim.
Nigerian military generals ought to focus on the challenge of returning the army to a respectable force capable of defending Nigeria’s territorial integrity and protecting the lives and property of all law-abiding citizens.
It is nothing less than shameful that army generals would rather spend their time and other resources to mobilize “troops” on twitter and other kinds of social media in an elaborate smear campaign. In sending soldiers on missions to discredit critics and chase down newspaper vans, Nigerian military commanders only ensure that their troops cannot earn public respect or win the battle that matters—the one against an Islamist group bent on maiming, killing, and sowing destruction.