The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday in Lagos told senior journalists during an interactive meeting that they cannot afford to be neutral when Nigeria is at war.
Soliciting the support of the nation's media for the war against terrorism, he said: “Yes, you must remain professional at all times, and we are not asking you to do anything less, but you must also act in the national interest always.
He defined his position as follows: ''Acting in the national interest means not playing up the reports of the cowardly Boko Haram attacks on soft targets. Acting in the national interest means not regurgitating the propaganda of Boko Haram and its fellow terrorist group, ISIS. Acting in the national interest means extolling the bravery and sacrifice of our gallant troops. Acting in the national interest means not viewing the war from a partisan prism. Acting in the national interest means rallying all Nigerians, irrespective of their political, religious or ethnicbackground, to support the war.''
Mohammed told the editors that the military has largely met the Dec. 31 deadline to defeat Boko, saying what he saw during his recent trip to the theatre of war in Borno State and the briefings he received from the military top brass convinced him of the successes recorded by the military.
''They (military) have so degraded the capability of Boko Haram that the terrorists can no longer carry out any spectacular attacks. Remember, gentlemen, that at the height of the war, Boko Haram controlled 20 of the 27 local governments in Borno.
''I can hear you saying to yourself: But the terrorists are still carrying out suicide bombings and killing people. My response to that is that such is the nature of insurgency anywhere. Unlike a war between two armies, an insurgency never ends with an armistice. Even in countries like Colombia where insurgency was supposed to have ended decades ago, attacks still happen,'' he said.
The Minister warned that as the deadline approaches, Boko Haram and ISIS have launched their propaganda,seeking to discredit the Nigerian military to give the impression that they (terrorists) are still holding sway.
In that regard, he denied a report in that was widely published in the newspapers a few days ago, describing Boko Haram as dispersed and largely defeated.
“The insurgents are hungry, they are sick and they are desperate and will clutch at any straw,” he said. “Don't let us prop them up with our reports.”
He predicted that in the days ahead, they will release propaganda videos through their usual channels,warning that such publicity materials must not be given any play because it is only a hoax.
The Minister said with the military having largely met the deadline, what is missing in the war against terrorism is the 'civilian aspect'.
''To fill that gap, we have commenced a national security campaign to raise awareness among Nigerians about the war, about the sacrifice of our troops that has seen the terrorists largely defeated and about how to finally stamp out the remnant of the war, which is suicide bombing.
''As I speak, jingles are being played on national radio and television as part of this campaign. Also, in order to keep the media better informed about the war, so that they can also better inform Nigerians, we will soon inaugurate an ad hoc committee comprising media representatives as well as representatives of the military and intelligence agencies. This committee will meet from time to time for background briefings that will give the media a better perspective of the war,'' he said.
Putting the deadline given to the military in perspective, the Minister said that have largely met that deadline, the military are now involved in mop-up and humanitarian operations. He warned that the attacks on soft targets will not end with the deadline, but that itwill taper off gradually, in line with the nature of insurgency worldwide. He noted that the attacks do not constitute victory for the insurgents but represent the death pangs of a fading insurgency.
''Gentlemen, we need peace before we can even practice our professions,” he declared. “We need peace before we can meaningfully revive our economy. We need peace for our democracy to thrive. Boko Haram is the very antithesis of peace. Boko Haram must be wiped out not just through military might but with the support and efforts of all of us.''