The self-defeating wanted declaration

In serious countries, Intelligence agencies have traditionally realised that journalists can provide a lot of value to the intelligence gathering effort, and as a result, have made use of them. Some of the most famous spies in history have at one time or the other, either used a famous media organisation as a cover, or were actually working in the media, when a friend asked them for “a favour”. This long and proud list includes such names as Richard Sorge, whose information was vital to the Soviet Union making the right decisions regarding the German invasion in 1941. Some day, we’ll talk about him at length. Another journalist/spy was Kim Philby. Though he went on to betray his country, his work as a double agent is legendary. John Croft, fluent in six languages, was instrumental in aiding Arthur Wesley defeat Napoleon. Andrew Dalgleish, St. John Philby (Kim’s father), Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond), these were all people who at a point or the other, interviewed the enemy for public consumption, yet gave information on the same enemy, to their fatherland.

About a week after Nigerians decided to, for the first time, remove a sitting government via the ballot box, one of my favourite journalists, went to Moscow. The reason for his trip was to interview an “enemy of the American state”. John Oliver finished his interview, went back to New York, and aired the interview, without being declared wanted by any of the 1,271 government Intelligence gathering organisations in the United States. Officially, my country has four of such agencies — the State Security Service, charged with gathering Intelligence for internal security, the National Intelligence Agency, charged with foreign espionage and counterespionage, the Directorate of Military Intelligence, also known as Defence Intelligence Agency, charged with gathering military intelligence; and the Force Intelligence Bureau, which is the intelligence gathering arm of the police. Whether these have proved effective in gathering such intelligence, is another matter.

Yesterday, the Nigerian Army, presumably based on information from the DMI, declared three people wanted in connection with the terrorist group, Boko Haram. One of these was the journalist, Ahmed Salkida.

Ahmed Salkida is the only Nigerian journalist that has ever been granted an interview by Boko Haram. The only other person that I know, who tried, was Sylvester Awenlimobor, now late.

Edit: Alkasim Abdulkadir interviewed Abu Qaqa, the man who was responsible for organising the UN building bombing in 2012.

As is our typical habit, rather than exploit Salkida’s links with the terrorist group, links he never denied, but actually offered to put to use in service of Nigeria, in 2009, the governor of Borno State at the time, Ali Modu Sherrif, who has in many instances been accused of knowing more about Boko Haram than he lets out, ensured that Salkida was arrested, tortured, and cast out of the state. Without charge, or trial. What was his offence at the time? Interviewing Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram. Essentially, in a democracy, a journalist was punished, in his own homeland, for doing his job.

I’m not going to go into the rights and wrongs, or the plain madness of declaring Mr. Salkida wanted yesterday, Ayo, and my boss Kadaria have among many others, already killed the explanation of why this action yesterday was insane. However, I’ll just do a small analogy here — consider an Igbo journalist, who is related to a member of IPOB, an organisation that stands against the Nigerian state. If his relation provides him with information, which he releases into the public domain, would the sensible approach not be to reach out to him, and cultivate the relationship? Antagonising him, and as a result, most probably forcing him into his shell is, in my view, at the very least, self-defeating.