Lekki tollgate shooting – CNN, social media, threaten Lai Mohammed’s truths, By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

NO Nigerian has loved the truth like Lai Mohammed, lawyer, public relations guru, Nigeria’s Minister of Information. He daily shames Nigerians for not appreciating the centrality of truth to the Nigeria that can only be in our dreams.

His latest battleground is Cable News Network (CNN), which aired a documentary on the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate. A further annoyance would be how the social media – a known aggravator of the Minister’s sensitivities – started trending the video.

How unpatriotic can Nigerians be? Why would they believe CNN without clearing with the Minister? If anyone would let such tepid patriotism go, not the Minister of Information whose truths always defend Nigeria.

“CNN relied heavily on unverified and possibly-doctored videos, as well as information sourced from questionable sources to reach its conclusion. This should earn CNN a serious sanction for irresponsible reporting,” the Minister told the media at the Army Resource Centre, Mambilla Barracks, Abuja.

“Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it,” a CNN spokesperson said via email. According to CNN, the report was based on testimony from dozens of witnesses, and photos and video obtained and geolocated by CNN and verified using timestamps and other data from the video files.

“Two ballistics experts also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks,” CNN said in the report.

The Minister once loved CNN, one of the international platforms that took Mohammed’s truths to the world five years ago, when the All Progressives Congress (APC), rallied to get President Goodluck Jonathan out of office. When did the romance go sour?

Lai Mohammed’s late arrival to the misappropriation of the truth meant he had to weigh in with a higher octane of the truth. The ping-pong truth Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the army have been playing was simply inadequate. Here is their truth summarized –

Army: We were not at the Lekki Tollgate.

Sanwo-Olu: Army was not at Lekki Tollgate.

Army: We were there but we didn’t shoot at protesters.

Sanwo-Olu: Protesters were shot at but only got injured, no casualties.

Army: The Governor invited us to the Lekki Tollgate.

Sanwo-Olu: I don’t have the power to order soldiers to Lekki.

Army: We shot only blank bullets nobody died.

Sanwo Olu: Two people were killed at Tollgate.

Malami, AGF: – Hoodlums wearing army uniforms shot protesters at Lekki Tollgate not the army.

Army: We are highly disappointed in Sanwo-Olu for being a coward and saying he didn’t invite us to Lekki and also saying two people died.

None of these understand the working of the Lai Mohammed School of Truth. They do not know that truth is constant, consistent and leaves trails of its journeys. While they plugged into the currency of truth, they ignored the congruency of truth.

Like the rest of us they ventured in Mohammed’s terrain without permission. We are left with various truths, the only one that stands with rectitude in erectness being that there was “an incident at the Lekki Tollgate.” There is also a twig in those voices that seem to suggest that the two lives that Sanwo-Olu admitted were killed in Lekki were not enough to make Nigerians angry.

Do you hear that underlying voice?

CNN has made it more challenging for the authorities to continue in their narratives about no deaths. The consistence of their truths whittles each time a new question is asked. In place of the earlier truth, another truth pops up. CNN has added to the questions and there would be more truths. Mohammed will see to that.

Truth may not have been one of the cardinal programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, but Mohammed has ensured constant conversations about truth. Any truth that is not Mohammed’s is not the truth. He has personalised truth to the point that only the Minister determines the truth on all issue that he considers of any consequence to the affairs of government.

He is unhappy with CNN. He has proposed sanctions on CNN. Who would implement the sanctions? He did not say. Maybe he would ask the United States government to impose fines on CNN for fake news, as he did with Nigerian broadcast stations that aired similar stories.

The army has remained firm in its claims that nobody died. The soldiers did not hurt anyone, the same lines that Brgd-Gen Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, has maintained in his testimonies at the judicial enquiry in Lagos.

“Let me assure you and all Nigerians that the Nigerian Army is a professional army. We follow our rules of engagement. Nigerians should feel safe. We abide by rules of engagement and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, said on Wednesday when he received members of the House of Representatives Committee on Army at Army Headquarters, Abuja.

Nigerians do not know what the rules of engagement for the military are. If we knew, we could contest whether they were followed in Lekki. We may know the provisions of the Constitution, but can we guess how they were applied to the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate?

One truth that is not in dispute is that the CNN broadcast rattled the authorities. The reactions so far have shown they thought that Lekki was going off the public radar. The official truth that had created dissonance so far was knocked off its pace with the details in the clip, and the follow up interviews that CNN had been conducting around the shooting. What will the government do?

Whatever government does, Chief Lai Mohammed is the most likely beneficiary of the CNN truth on Lekki Tollgate. In this season of budget defence, he can propose again that he needs N500 million, if not more, to turn the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, to an international news platform of substance that would ensure that CNN’s truth no longer holds the attention of Nigerians.


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