By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Our galant Nigerian military that has been fighting Boko Haram to finish has declared a journalist, Ahmed Sakida, wanted just hours after he realeased the latest Boko Haram video on his Twitter page. The tone in which the military claimed that Salkida and two others have questionable links with the terrorist group clearly suggests that the military is hunting for him, not "inviting" him for a discussion.
Even though we know that the military is not EFCC, a civilian organ of the government, we expect that it will be more civil than this in looking for the journalist. Jumping to a declaration at the sight of a video on a Twitter page of a journalist whose address is publicly known clearly shows that the War College lessons did not sink deeply in the minds of our generals and their spokespersons.
Otherwise, they would have easily recalled a similar blunder made by the American government when Al-Jazeerah started airing Bin Laden videos. The same knee-jerk reaction: Al-Jazeerah must explain its links with Al-Qaeda. One of Al-Jazeerah's photographers was arrested and sent to Guantanamo. Its Baghdad office was targeted by American bombs. In the end, it just became known that the world will get used to listening to insurgents firsthand through channels that the insurgents consider reliable to them.
And do we fault Al-Qaeda or Boko Haram in this? Absolutely no. Why do we think that such groups would be foolish enough to entrust VOA or NTA with their messages? It is the issue of trust. And the journalist is so unlucky that his calling obliges him to be even handed with information, conveying it to the public with the highest possible efficacy. Salkida just did that, by Twitter.
Any true journalist carries this burden wherever he goes, whatever information he handles and from whoever it may be, be it from the bad guys or from the good ones - if the good ones at all exist. He is not an agent of any government or its military, but that of the people for whom he risks his life to source for the news and to whom he delivers it, intact, whether good or sad. He belongs to everybody.
Knowing that his practice could be at great variance with the interest of governments at moments like this, the law - both international and local - protected the journalist by giving him the right to decline revealing his source of information, whatever type it is, once he is convinced of its authenticity. And he must not be attacked in any conflict while he carries on his duty. Soja, kun ji ko?
The Nigerian military also teaches these basics of constitutional law in its War College and staff schools. Yet, as usual, it always likes to bully innocent citizens by behaving as if it is not a subject of the law.
On this I am not on the same page with the Nigerian military and, as a student of law, I should be the last to do this. Neither should any democrat or constituted authority - including the Dubai government - support this. I am pleading with the military to reconsider its stand and approach on the matter.
The address of Salkida is known to the Nigerian government. He has been interacting with it - from a distance though - on matters regarding Boko Haram. Salkida is not hiding. He is just on self-exile for his safety after an excruciating experience that is about to repeat itself. If I were the COAS, intimidation would never be a tool I will deploy against any journalist. I would prefer to use him to my end.
I knew it will come to this since when the COAS said that Boko Haram was behind the revelations on his Dubai property. Immediately I heard that I said, "Shi ke nan. Kashin Salkida ya bushe." (Salkida is in trouble.) Burutai would most likely think that nobody else could do it other than the Dubai-based journalist that has links with Boko Haram? And with the latest video published on his Twitter page, the Nigerian military may be saying, "Behold, here comes the chance."
So let our galant soldiers continue to fight Boko Haram and let Boko Haram continue to send its videos to different channels. Let those channels convey them to the public once they are convinced that the message is worthy of our attention without being restrained by anyone. On this, I am on the same page with Salkida.
The military should be careful in how it treats Salkida. Any harm against him may backfire on our girls. Those BH guys believe in "an eye for an eye" to the letter; many times they will pluck many eyes for just one. Unless the military wants to be reckless with the lives of the remaining girls, it must not choose to send even a fly against the journalist.
I would like the President to wade into the matter urgently. He was once praying for the whereabouts of the girls to be revealed. Yesterday, the revelation came to him through Twitter. He must use it, now.
As a general, he should know his onions very well: victory in the end. But as a President and a father, that victory must come without necessarily shedding the blood of our daughters. As he promised us - their parents - he should seize this opportunity to negotiate their release immediately.
While there could be only a military solution to end the BH war, there must not be only a military solution to rescue our girls. To date, not a single girl was rescued by the military. So that solution is proven ineffective. A different path must be followed.
The path to rescuing our girls is now known: it is through negotiations that will end not in the establishment of a BH caliphate in Nigeria as the insurgents were previously demanding, but in just the release of some BH members from our prisons. Here, the BH spokesman on the latest video was clear in alluding that the only guide they approve of on that path is one person: the journalist whom they trust and relate with. Call him Ahmed Salkida, if you like. Any other person, they said is fake.
This guide therefore deserves our protection, not incarceration. Let the President use him to lead the path to the release of our girls. The military should remain in their domain of fighting the insurgency to finish. Otherwise, if given the freehand as in Zaria 2015, our girls may not return at all.
In conclusion, we are faced with two scenarios. One is to save the girls and win the war by negotiating for the release of the girls now and continuing to fight the war to victory. The other, a less prudent and a very foolish one indeed, is to lose the girls and win the war by fighting only and refusing to negotiate for the release of the girls or by doing anything that may imperil their lives.
The girls, their parents and any "bloody civilian" like me will prefer the first. Those interested in exercising their might or settling some scores may choose the second. That is why they are looking for Salkida to show them where the girls are. And you know what will happen: Zaria. But the choice is neither theirs nor ours.
It is the President's. In making up his mind, I pray that the President will forget, even for just the moment, that he is a general, but a father of our beautiful Zahra and the husband of my elegant sister, Aisha.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
15 August 2016
15 August 2016