News / Africa

    Analysts: Information is 'Warfare' in Nigeria

    Residents watch as two men walk amidst rubble after Boko Haram militants raided the town of Benisheik, west of Borno State capital Maiduguri, Nigeria, Sept. 19, 2013.
    Residents watch as two men walk amidst rubble after Boko Haram militants raided the town of Benisheik, west of Borno State capital Maiduguri, Nigeria, Sept. 19, 2013.
    Heather Murdock
    Despite a four-month-old military campaign against the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, deadly violence continues across parts of northern Nigeria.  But with the three most volatile states locked down in a state of emergency, the rest of the country relies on statements from security forces and the insurgent group to know what’s going on.  Analysts examine how both sides use the media to improve their chances of winning on the ground.

    At a conference in the Nigerian capital last week, army spokesperson Brigadier-General Ibrahim Attahiru tod journalists about a new division of soldiers battling Boko Haram insurgents in the north.

    “The division continues to conduct counter-terrorism and counter insurgency operations with a more agile and robust posture to meet the full spectrum of asymmetric warfare challenges,” he said.

    The conference is the second in as many weeks, but the first since dozens of students were killed in an attack September 29 in Yobe, one of three states under emergency rule.

    Despite the attack, the army said the security situation was “good” and Attahiru urged people to come forward if they had any information that could help the military fight insurgents.

    Boko Haram doesn’t hold news conferences.  Instead, it distributes videos to journalists, often taking credit for bloody attacks, condemning authorities and issuing threats.

    In this late September video, Abubakar Shekau, the man widely believed to lead at least a large portion of militants collectively known as Boko Haram, declared himself alive, despite recent reports of his death.

    Shekau has previously advocated for his version of an Islamic state in Nigeria and encouraged militants to kill teachers and administrators of schools that teach subjects like English, math and science. 

    Clement Nwankwo, the director of the Abuja-based Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, said both the military and Boko Haram were providing information to the media not because it’s true, but because it helped their position.

    “There’s a constant manipulation of the media that goes on.  It makes it difficult for anybody to really say what the truth is.  So sometimes when I see things in the media, I’m very cautious,” he said. 

    Both sides, he said, used the media to project an image of strength, hoping to scare the enemy.

    “If you make yourself strong in the media and appear to intimidate your enemies it then means that you are able to put your enemies on the alert,” said Nwankwo.

    Boko Haram has been blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009, with attacks on churches, markets, government buildings and, more recently, schools.  International rights groups have condemned the violence while criticizing security forces, who they say have reacted to attacks by shooting before making arrests and detaining people without charges or trials.

    Wole Olaoye, a journalist in Nigeria for nearly four decades, said the media’s role in this has largely been to report what it was told, with much of the conflict zone being too dangerous for independent observers to operate in.

    “What you have now is propaganda.  It’s more than information - it’s warfare.  Warfare for the minds of the people,” said the journalist.

    He said the military would have a better chance of winning the minds of the people if it first won the minds of the journalists that relay the information.

    “I’m not saying it should divulge security information, but it should make the media have the ownership of the war.  When the media is trusted and they have enough information than it becomes their war,” said Olaoye.

    Boko Haram has threatened reporters and media houses that publish stories it doesn't like and in 2012 it bombed several newspaper offices, killing at least nine people.

    Nigeria’s press is considered large, unruly and generally free.  The trick to using a free press to win a war, Olaoye said, was to get them more information, more quickly than the other side.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora