The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was interviewed by the BBC’s Peter Okwoche. Here’s a transcript of the interview.
Lai Mohammed: “The good news is that the government is winning the war against insecurity, be it Boko Haram, be it banditry, be it the separatist, you know, movements. We are winning the war.
Peter Okwoche: But how can you say that when, even just last weekend, you know, we saw them attacking schools in the North-West of the country?
Lai Mohammed: I didn’t say that we stopped banditry or that we stopped. . .I said that we are winning the war against them. Even the safest country in the world will still witness crimes, you know, on a daily basis, but it is the response of that government to the crimes that makes all the difference.
And I say, if the number of Boko Haram insurgents that have given up, their soldiers who have surrendered in the last few weeks is anything to go by, if the successes of the military (here I’m talking about both the Air Force and the ground force) is anything to go about in the war against bandits, we are winning the war.
Peter Okwoche: For you to say you are winning the war, yet you have the Governor of Katsina State who has just told citizens in that state to arm themselves to fight the bandits, you have no less than the Minister of Defence say exactly the same thing back in February, that civilians should take up arms now to fight these bandits, if you were winning the war, why would civilians have to come out and fight?
Lai Mohammed: Peter, we are winning this war and my evidence that we are winning the war is the number of casualties being suffered by the insurgents and by the bandits and there’s no better way of. . .you know, evidence that we are winning the war than when your enemies are surrendering their arms, you know, their soldiers are surrendering and you are taking them into camps to retrain them and to deradicalise them.
Peter Okwoche: But, I mean, I doubt very much if you could say that to the families of those people who are still being killed almost on a daily basis by insurgents, by kidnappers, by bandits, by cattle rustlers, would you consider that a fair thing to tell to them that you are winning this war, even though their people are being killed?
Lai Mohammed: Probably the world would better appreciate what Nigeria has achieved when they see that the US after 20 years, a trillion dollars down the drain, thousands of lives killed, it took the Talibans only a few weeks to come back. That is not happening in Nigeria.
(Lai Mohammed’s last words were inaudible)
Peter Okwoche: Some people would argue that rather than spend your time facing all these challenges, you know, rather than that you are trying to muzzle free speech, you know, they point to your ban on Twitter, even though Nigerians have disregarded that ban and you can almost do nothing about it.
Lai Mohammed: If you are in government and you have a platform that preaches and becomes. . . preaches hatred, it becomes a platform of choice for separatists, it becomes a platform where one group is pitted against the other, I think you as a responsible government would rather suspend the operation of that organisation, rather than allow your country to disintegrate.
Peter Okwoche: But that’s not the reason why you banned it, is it? I mean you banned it because your egos as a government was bruised when President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet was removed by Twitter.
Lai Mohammed: That was what the media chose to believe. Nobody has denied the fact that during the #EndSARS protest, that Twitter raised funds for the #EndSARS protesters. If you raise funds for EndSARS protesters and that protest leads to loss of lives, you are directly responsible for those loss of lives.
And you see, it’s not the business of an international organisation or an international company to meddle into the internal security of a country. What they know nothing about.
Peter Okwoche: Where are the talks with Twitter now? Are you guys going to unban them soon?
Lai Mohammed: Well, all I can say is that we’ve engaged and it looks like we are making progress.