By Emmanuel Ado
The glaring weaknesses in the 19th March 2021 editorial of the Nigerian Tribune suggests that it is time to talk about newspaper editorials and their intended purpose for our country and its tumultuous times. As the corporate opinion of a newspaper, an editorial is supposed to reflect a depth of organized thinking, research and analysis that helps to transform into knowledge the raw information in news reports and other materials. Editorials are a vital contribution to discourse, and newspapers ought to take their production seriously.
For starters, let us assess the approach taken in the said Nigerian Tribune editorial, titled Banditry: Kaduna’s Frightening Casualty Figures. The editorial was about the 2020 Kaduna State Security Incidents Report presented on 10th March 2021 by the Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs. The report detailed incidents of banditry, cattle rustling, kidnappings and killings in the state in 2020, including facts on casualties. Based on reports from various security agencies, these incidents were collated and reported based on local governments and senatorial zones. The report concluded with an analysis of the causes of these security incidents and an outline of what the Kaduna State Government is doing about the situation.
As the Kaduna State Government noted in a statement prior to the event, “with its frequent updates on security events, the Ministry of Internal Security has broken a longstanding taboo in making security information that was usually classified public. This reflects both a commitment to transparency and the strength of the cordial relationship the Ministry has built with security agencies who trust it to responsibly handle security data. The Ministry has itself become a consistent source of information to the security agencies through its Operations Room which is open 24 hours to receive reports from citizens. “
The statement added that “the 2020 State Security Annual Report extends the transparency of the daily reports across an annual cycle, providing a facts-based assessment of the security challenges the state confronts.”
One would think that an editorial would acknowledge this report as a serious account of a challenging situation, a transparent effort to present the bare facts of all the suffering as well as an account of the state government’s efforts to address the various dimensions of the security issues.
But the Nigerian Tribune prefers to be dismissive, asserting that it “certainly beggars belief that the commissioner attempted to rationalize the stupendous figures, saying that victims of banditry and kidnapping cut across ethnic, religious and political divides, as if that makes the situation less objectionable”. It is difficult to believe that the particular leader-writer who wrote the editorial is conversant with the security situation in Kaduna State and the peculiar manner in which the narrative has been woven in the media. When actions that are reported as criminal in Zamfara or Katsina happen in Kaduna, the same media reports them with ethno-religious narratives. The elevated opinion of a newspaper cannot dismiss efforts to set the records straight and present an accurate portrait of who constitutes the victim of banditry, repudiating the oft peddled fictions of land-grabbing and genocide against particular ethnic groups.
By dismissing a security report that is transparent about incidents and casualties, is the Nigerian Tribune saying that it prefers the concealment of challenging records by cloaking them as classified reports? Will any of the other 35 states or the FG contemplate similar efforts at transparency seeing that some sections of the press will not summon the solemnity to study the contents?
It seems that for some sections of the Nigerian media, it is the person that makes effort that should be condemned, not the one that does little or nothing. It is telling that the Nigerian Tribune finds nothing to say about why more governments are not publishing security reports.
El-Rufai’s government has put out statistics on security incidents in Kaduna State. It is worthy of emulation and serious contemplation.