Two days ago, Leadership Newspaper, one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers in its editorial condemned the manner in which CNN reported the Nigerian #EndSARS protest.
According to the newspaper, CNN reporters were not objective as they had ulterior motives.
Below is the editorial:
In the last few days, there has been a staccato of discordant voices about the CNN report on the Nigerian #EndSARS protests. As a newspaper with an avowed mission statement to raise our pen in the defence of the interests of the country, we have watched with considerable alarm, certain positions taken by many of the actors in this saga.
CNN International is a global news platform, well respected with a reach that commands admiration and fear even by its competitors. But every news medium is as good as the people who work there and the work of the employee would willy-nilly be taken as the work of the organisation. CNN has done some very good global interest stories in the past especially those specifically conducted by its slew of chief correspondents – who are actually good in what they do – but they have also goofed and even fooled up big time especially when in the pursuit of some funny agenda. Unfortunately, some of these blunders have led to deaths of so many innocent lives including children, the elderly and women. And that is not good.
CNN was late in coming to the #EndSARS story. In fact, it was completely absent unlike, for instance, the BBC, another global news media outfit, which had a reporter live on ground. There is nothing professionally wrong about that. It is what you do in the circumstance that is important. For a media house like CNN, having entered late, everyone would expect a thorough job, an original and seminal investigation with an untainted edge that people would at once accept as the gospel truth. Nothing less was expected.
But when CNN came in, it recruited Nima Elbagir, a senior correspondent to do the job. Elbagir now relied on biased third parties and reported the story as if it was original. She told the side of the story of people who were desperate to give a narrative that was destructive, but whose story could not stand scrutiny. Worse, she presented it as her employer’s position. CNN disgracefully started the story from the middle and not from the beginning because its reporting was premeditated to cause maximum damage to the Nigerian state. Had it started from the beginning, it would have narrated how the #EndSARS protests began and how even the government considered it a legitimate protest and moved swiftly to disband SARS and also meet other demands.
Or CNN didn’t hear that one? That was supposed to be a victory for everyone. Instead of the protesters to delight in that victory, they unreasonably started dishing out fresh demands.
Soothing words and pleas directed to the protesters from the principal officers of state, including the President, Vice President, leaders of the national assembly, Lagos state governor and other notable leaders of thought only served to encourage the youths to dig in. That was clearly a thoughtless path to tread. No country, including the ones CNN defends, will accept that. That was the beginning of the anarchy that culminated in the avoidable deaths seen later.
And while on that, a faction of the protesters blocked the Lekki expressway. That was a consequential artery in Lagos that has a life and death implication for many people who live there. This action would be akin to protesters blocking the Lincoln Tunnel in New York. And while that was going on, another faction started burning the facilities of banks and other private businesses and vehicles of innocent Nigerians.
Another group started breaking open the gates of prisons and releasing prisoners. There is nowhere this will happen that the government would not be obliged to enforce order to save the lives of innocent and law-abiding people. CNN didn’t see all that? What quality of reporting is that?
But what we think should be the ultimate disgrace for CNN, is that a major television station, the TVC was attacked and burnt down and their “seminal” report pretended that didn’t happen. All over the world, media houses always err on the side of fellow media houses in times of such adversities. TVC is a television house just like CNN but that was not at issue for them because they were too consumed with the premeditated desire to bring down Nigeria in the eye of the international community.
Then a few days ago, the CNN spokesperson released a statement indicating that the network stood by its story. But there was no story to stand by. The report was planted – it was a medley of implausible opinions from social media sources and an amalgam of discredited and dubious origins and fake news. In this newspaper, planted stories earn immediate dismissal for the culprit. Nima Elbagir would have been fired if she were to be on our staff. We have done that several times in the past.
CNN also did not report that when the protests were going on, Nnamdi Kanu, (the rogue who has been scamming some innocent people of the South East collecting money in the name of resurrecting biafra) was ordering people in real time to commit murder and arson. Their sources didn’t tell them that?
This newspaper is worried about the motives of CNN because of its antecedents. The same CNN has helped fifth columnists in other climes to destroy their countries. It supported and promoted the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the illegal invasion and total destruction of Iraq. Today Iraq is a failed state and fertile ground for terrorism which would not have happened under former President Saddam Hussein. No weapon of mass destruction has been found, but the deed has been done. Ditto for Libya that used to be one of the most prosperous countries in the world in spite of their crackpot leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Libya had one of the highest literacy rates in the world and was a country where every adult owned a home. With the help of CNN, the West has destroyed Libya and the country is today a totally failed state and the effect is spilling into Nigeria.
The most recent one was the open encouragement that CNN gave the youthful and exuberant protesters in Hong Kong over several months to disobey their own government and vandalise their infrastructure. CNN and the West waited expectantly to see a repeat of the June 4 Tiananmen incident in which the Chinese government cracked down similar protests in 1989 that led to the death of thousands of students. The youths in Hong Kong were encouraged to destroy their beautiful city that depended substantially on tourism as a source of revenue. The Chinese government disappointed the West by refusing to come in. As a strategic position, they just watched the youths destroy themselves. Now, the protesters have destroyed their beautiful city and nobody wants to go to Hong Kong anymore. Hong Kong has lost what makes it attractive in the first place, thanks in large part to the CNN.
But we wish to ask: why do some Nigerians, many of them supposedly enlightened, quickly join others to bring down their country? This is especially seen in the knee-jerk reaction of some people towards the country’s military that keep us safe. No civilised society does that. All those happy about the CNN report, which had no reporter on ground when the incident at Lekki took place, have completely ignored the BBC that had a reporter on ground.
What scandalous double standard is that? This mindset even extends to instances when Nigeria’s interests are threatened by other smaller African countries. The immediate reflex of every Nigerian should be to side with the country when there are altercations with other countries, just as in soccer competitions. The reaction of some Nigerians who openly criticised “the way” Nigerian officials strongly responded to the impudence and insolence from Ghana and South Africa recently was, to put it mildly, demeaning and disconcerting. Every reasonable Nigerian should have taken sides with their country in the face-off with CNN.
That does not in any way mean that the authorities are always right. Criticisms are good nourishment for every smart government, whether well-meaning or not. After leading them off, we can then face ourselves, taking note of the complicated nature and nuances of the entire #EndSARS saga. Does anyone still remember that northern state governors were, and still are, against the disbandment of SARS? It is because their experiences with SARS have been different, which should explain why the protests were more pronounced in Lagos than in the northern states. Statecraft has never been a straightforward vocation.
If Nima Elbagir and her CNN want Nigerian youths to destroy their country the way they encouraged the youths of Hong Kong to do, why should any Nigerian help them to achieve this? Or worse still, does the CNN wish the fate of Iraq, Libya and Syria on Nigeria? In that case, we cannot fold our arms and watch them have their way. Even as we expect a better relationship with the more civilised and better brought-up Joe Biden, the in-coming President of the United States, we cannot pretend not to have noticed the serial enemy actions of the United States against the interests of Nigeria with the way they have openly and unashamedly blocked Nigeria’s candidacy in global organisations like the African Development Bank and the World Trade Organisation just for the heck of it.
Nigeria is currently in the throes of so many challenges: terrorism in the North East, sheer banditry in the North West and parts of the North Central, mass kidnappings all over the 36 states of the country, and lots more. This is happening in the face of dwindling national revenues from oil amidst the government’s relentlessness of heavy investments in infrastructure and an avowal to create 100million jobs within a given finite period. Our military are overstretched but are daily pushing ahead, neutralizing thousands of these criminals daily. The last thing the country needs now is for CNN to open another front of avoidable crisis for the country.
If the CNN continues on these paths, the country must fight back. As a first step, the so many Nigerian businesses, banks and blue-chip companies that pay millions of dollars to CNN every year for all sorts of advertising should be encouraged to stop funding the enemy. The last time we checked, Nigerian businesses alone provided CNN International with a consequential chunk of its revenues yearly. Many of these companies get one form of waiver or the other from the government, and they need Nigeria to thrive. If CNN continues this way, these advertisers should be compelled to act in their own enlightened self-interest.
People must know that Nigeria has a fundamental cultural and ethical difference with CNN. For instance, CNN has made itself the greatest advocate of homosexualism and gay marriage in the world. In Nigeria, homosexualism and homosexual marriages are documented crimes abhorred by 95% of Nigerians. But the fact that the law is overwhelmingly accepted by Nigerians because of who we are, CNN is unhappy about that and wants to force Nigeria and the whole of Africa to adopt its own way of life. Why should CNN force its own way on us when we, who find our own ways superior, do not force ours on them? The network obviously has a jaundiced definition of the will of the people as a critical plank of democracy.
The Nigerian elite class must define and know what is in their collective best interest and must know when to smell a rat from a distance. The stench from CNN rabbit is too galling for anyone not to smell.
CNN must be advised not to mess with Nigeria. We have our problems but we will get over them. Nigeria remains the largest economy in Africa, its intellectual hub with by far the largest population. All these must count for something.
Leadership Newspaper Editorial, November 30, 2020