President Goodluck Jonathan charged Nigerians to support the officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces who have put their lives on the line as they battle insurgencies in the northeast. But we are of the opinion that he has erroneously weighed heavily in favour of just the Nigerian Army alone.
The first crucial step of every military coup détat crew in its interface with the Nigerian public has always been the armed takeover of radio and TV stations thus controlling organs of mass communication. We may argue that military takeovers are no longer fashionable in Nigeria and the rest of the world, but we need not debate that commissioning a whole radio station ostensibly for the army is like entrusting fried fish to a cat. We can only hope and pray that when the cat gets hungry, it will feast on foods other than the ready-made fish already in its care.
Jonathan noted that unnecessary criticism of the army operations in the line of duty has the potential of demoralising the soldiers and unduly popularising the insurgents. The President, who spoke yesterday May 22 while commissioning the first Nigerian Armed Forces Radio Station at the Mogadishu Cantonment in Abuja, noted that while it was right to criticise the military, just like any other national institution, such criticism should be constructive and must be in the national interest.
The establishment of the radio station, according to the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alexander Sabundu Badeh, was to correct inaccuracies of information emanating from the conventional news media within and outside the country about the ongoing counter insurgency operations in the north eastern part of the country.
However, the politics of locating this one powerful mass communication vehicle – the new radio station – inside an army barracks, places the army at an undue advantage over the other armed forces, namely the Airforce, Navy, Police, Immigration, Customs, and even the Civil Defence personnel who all carry arms now.
Unless the Buhari administration gives strict guidelines for the use of the radio station in ways that balances this heavy tool of political communication in the hands of all the ARMED FORCES IN NIGERIA, we may expect agitation by the others for radio stations of their own, and this would distract our military institutions from their primary constitutional duty of protecting the sovereignty of Nigeria within and without its borders.