Journalism in the service of society

Technology gives no hiding to wickedness

‘Technology has stepped in as a lasting arbiter. It is gratifying that very soon, the anonymous dead will find a resting place, where they can find peace before their Maker, far away from the wickedness of humanity. Until there is a closure to the matter with appropriate apologies and reparations, some people who were in government or are still in government, may not enjoy the benefit of such rest. Technology will not give them a hiding place’

THE story of Nigeria gets convoluted by the minute. Just when you think a resolution is becoming a likely prospect, a subplot simply pops up to complicate the entire storyline and make suspense the most readily available commodity to a flummoxed participant.

There is always a new story; like the story of the 103 #EndSARS dead that are looking for a final resting place. The bodies have become so troubled where they are that a benevolent Lagos State government wants to spend over N61m to give business and comfort to the living and ensure that the dead remains dead forever. The cause of death undetermined while the government is in denial on behalf of their killers who still move about freely in the society, looking for their next victims, perhaps. 

The development would have gone unnoticed but technology, dear friends, gives no hiding opportunity to evil. And that makes technology very dangerous, even more dangerous in exposing evil than it is useful in our daily life, that is, if you allow me the poetic license of deploying hyperboles uncontrollably.

The business end was almost concluded but for a leaked memo conveying the approval of the Lagos State Government for the burial of 103 EndSARS Victims at the sum of N61, 285, 000. The procurement planning has been done; it was the letter of no objection that suddenly shocked the nation back to the ugly days of October 2020. The memo dated 19th July 2023, is titled: LETTER OF NO OBJECTION. MASS BURIAL FOR THE 103, THE YEAR 2020 ENDSARS VICTIMS.

Just as humans are angry about the waste of lives that was loudly denied in 2020 by Federal and State officials, technology is even angrier as it gave wings to a memo that was probably leaked by an angry courier. The document simply went viral. Where does one even begin to explain that the nation lost 103 persons at peace time because of a peaceful protest over the high handedness of an arm of the Police Force? One of the demands of the protesters was improvement in the welfare of the Police they were protesting against. What an irony!

What happened in Lagos that fateful night can only be compared to what happened in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, when the Chinese government turned dangerous war machines against its young population and killed as many of them in what has come to be known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The students led protest began on April 15, 1989, and by June 4, the government had had enough and decided to move in men and machines to put a final end to such youthful insolence. The story shook a world that could hardly be shocked by even the worst happening from an authoritarian state.

Without confessing so, Nigeria took a page out of the China debacle. After several days of peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate, the Nigerian government decided to move in the army in the evening of October 20, 2020, under cover of darkness, where they rained bullets on a surprised citizenry that least expected their own government to use them as shooting targets. Yet Nigeria is a democracy where China is the direct opposite. But such difference was lost on the Nigerian government which denied that anybody died under the rain of bullets at the Toll Gate. 

But this writer relied on technology to produce its magic at some point. December 9, 2020, we wrote on this page: ‘’Dear friend, technology can be a freak and can put shame to our agelong tradition of doing things and expecting the outcome to be shrouded in mystery. Oftentimes, technology refuses to keep secrets. That is what happened. Technology refused to keep secrets at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.’’

Now technology is at work again, telling the story of the anonymous dead they want to stack in one ditch, with their identities and even their death unknown to their loved ones, and even parents who were borrowing to train their children. What is more, the Lagos State government has now confirmed that people died but not at the Lekki Toll Gate. That is where death should not happen since the soldiers who had denied being at the Toll Gate had confessed to using rubber bullets. The bodies in search of a convenient place of final rest, died in other parts of Lagos. Would we ever know their names?

But for the media, history would have gotten an underwhelming citation. The world watched live as soldiers descended on Lekki Toll Gate and also watched the unfolding dog fight on the streets thereafter, across the nation. But broadcasters were punished for broadcasting ‘’unverified images of alleged shooting.”

‘’In line with the provision of section 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code which states that the broadcaster shall be held liable for any breach of the Code emanating from the use of material from user-generated sources, the Commission (National Broadcasting Commission, NBC), therefore sanctioned Arise TV, Channels TV and AIT in line with the provision of the broadcasting Code,’’ Prof. Armstrong Idachaba said at the time.

‘’Channels Television, Arise TV and AIT especially continued to transmit footages obtained from unverified and unauthenticated social media sources,” NBC fumed.

The three stations were fined N3m each for such perfidy and for trying to bring the country down with their operations.

It was such a tough time to be a civil servant working in a regulatory institution with the government capturing the power of regulation and dishing out orders and fines. The discerning minds knew the broadcast regulator had become a ventriloquist to higher powers. But the broadcasters took the fall for the wickedness of a government against its people.

It was a tough time for broadcasting because of the immediacy of news transmission. Little could be done about Social Media in spite of all the threats and even less about print media. The attention was on the broadcast stations that the government could steamroll as the frequency which is a primary resource in broadcasting belonging to the government. 

Even the international broadcast media was not speared of the government scourge and vituperations. Former Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed, mocked the American broadcaster, the Cable News Network (CNN) for reporting a massacre at the Toll Gate, saying that for first time, there was a ‘’massacre without blood.’’

‘’CNN engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and to journalism. In the first instance, CNN, which touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, sadly relied on the same videos that have been circulating on social media, without verification,’’ he pooh-poohed.

Mohammed railed that CNN should be sanctioned but that imposition looked remote because the organization has its base in Atlanta in the United State and does not rely on any broadcast spectrum to get signals into Nigeria.

Now, the real story is out. Not fake news anymore. People died but not at the Toll Gate. Perhaps, death is only death when it happens at the Toll Gate. It is unfortunate that some young Nigerian lives were abrogated midflight, and they bear no names, no identity or any sort of origin. Broadcasters were fined for reporting what they claimed they saw and supported with pictures, but which were fake, unpatriotic and illusionary from government’s point of view.

Technology has stepped in as a lasting arbiter. It is gratifying that very soon, the anonymous dead will find a resting place, where they can find peace before their Maker, far away from the wickedness of humanity. Until there is a closure to the matter with appropriate apologies and reparations, some people who were in government or are still in government, may not enjoy the benefit of such rest. Technology will not give them a hiding place. Instead, it will store their wickedness in the cloud where  a little touch of the phone or computer button will regurgitate that moment of infamy.

*Aihe writes from Abuja

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