In any marketplace, an opinion can be swayed, or action elicited either through rational or emotional appeal. Rational appeal involves persuading a prospective consumer with logic and proofs, showing the superiority of an idea or product, citing facts and presenting statistics.
However, emotional appeal is played up when a player reaches out to the ‘heart’ of the consumer. In this case, they appeal to emotions such as mood, sentiments, fears, sympathy, happiness, and other human emotions.
The marketplace of ideas is not different. Although emotional appeal might lack fact and logic most times, its impact can be very effective and deadly. The reasons are quite explicable.
Antonio Damasio, a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, in his book, Descartes Error, explains that emotion has always been a necessary ingredient to most decisions taken by humans. His words: “When we are confronted with a decision, emotions from previous, related experiences affix values to the options we are considering. These emotions create preferences which lead to our decision most times.”
This is why ethnicity, religion, and other related issues have very strong impact in Nigerian politics. And the legion of negative forces oiling the wheel of anti-progressive activities and propaganda against virtually every government institution are equally aware of the power of emotions. And they are quite strategic and well-funded to maximise its usage.
That is why they will throw up a warped theory that the recent Kankara kidnap was a well-organised arrangement by government to shove up its image or reputation and the capacity of the military. This falsehood, obviously, was baked in order to parry genuine credit that should go to government and all the institutions and agencies involved.
They have totally imbibed the strategy of Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister who said, “if you want to sow falsehood in the minds of the people, tell the biggest possible lie, repeat it profusely, garnish it with emotions, and it will work seamlessly.”
Curious observers would notice that this negative propaganda is churned out in stages. At one point, they speak of a cloned President, knowing that many gullible Nigerians might not bother to do even a little research on what cloning entails. At another time, they push out a purported government agenda to elongate the war against insurgency for some pecuniary reasons.
In the last few years, almost on a weekly or monthly basis, we have seen diverse, coordinated onslaught that government and her agencies have commendably used strategic communication to dispel effectively.
Interestingly the popular Pull-him-down (PHD) syndrome against government and her agencies did not start with the present government.
Delivering a keynote address few years at the annual Gold Medal Lecture of the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) titled, “Imperative of Policy Communication in Deepening Democracy and Good Governance”, Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stated that the relationship between the government and the governed has consistently been severely undermined by a distrust of the government and a pervasive lack of faith in national institutions.
He said, “One of the most profound challenges of governance in post-authoritarian Nigeria is the deficit of trust between the state and society.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that Nigerians nurse a profound skepticism about the intentions of their political leaders and about the capacity of institutions to deliver on the promise of democracy. In fact it is fair to say that most Nigerians have adopted cynicism as their default attitude towards politics and politicians.”
It is this unpalatable antecedence that critics have relentless tried to exploit, while government has equally revved up her continuous conversation with the citizenry about their values and priorities through strategic communication. As government continues to take the pulse of the public, and develop the instincts and aspirations of the people into her policy agenda, winning the hearts and minds has become a lot easier. More Nigerians have now taken ownership of government policies and programmes as they have clearly realised that they are manifestly beneficial to all.
Many Nigerians will equally agree that taking a look at the historical antecedence of the present Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces, there is no way he could agree to a ploy to stage any kidnap saga just to showcase the prowess of the military.
Only a comparative examination of the way security challenges were handled by previous administrations and the current one will reveal the areas of strength of the each administration and a different level of vitality of the military under President Muhammadu Buhari.
For those who may recall, on the night of 15 April, 2014, when 276 female students were kidnapped from the Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, a galaxy of discordant responses came from the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Initially it was an attitude of doubt, then reluctance. Many government officials said no abduction happened, others felt it was purely a negative propaganda orchestrated by the then party in opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to discredit the party in power.
By the time the abduction became a reality to the government, much time had been lost. The abductors had disappeared into thin air. The girls could not be recovered except a few that braved the odds to run away from their captors.
It was when the Buhari government came in a year later, that a substantial number of those hapless abductees were brought back. Over a hundred are still unaccounted for till date.
Now let us move to 2020. This is about six years after the Chibok girls’ kidnappings and Boko Haram’s tactics have grown even more horrific over the years. They now have a strong alliance with ISIS, the most dangerous and highly-funded terrorist group in the world.
Many tested fighters and volunteers from Syria, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle-East have now joined the ranks. Kidnapped but brainwashed children have been forced into fighting for the group, a large number of sold-out child soldiers taking up weapons and abducting other children. The flow of all kinds of arms from a fragmented Libya has created a big haven for terrorists in the entire Sahel, including parts of Northern Nigeria. With about 14 local government areas under its control, Boko Haram must have felt it was in the best form of its existence.
They must have felt absolutely ready to take out a Nigerian state that was losing substantial revenue from a dwindling oil market and should not have the will and financial power to prosecute a war against a well-oiled rebel group.
It turned out a huge miscalculation as Boko Haram was then facing a different military under the current Service Chiefs. Not only did they lose the 14 local government areas they controlled, the group has been extensively decimated.
Its capacity to detonate bombs like fire crackers, or unleash suicide bombers with ease has been totally curtailed. The group is now constantly in retreat, sneaking out opportunities to unleash terror on soft targets such as schools, farm settlements and remote villages.
The latest of such action took place on 11 December, 2020. It threw the sleepy town of Kankara, just 130 kilometers outside Katsina, like Chibok to global prominence. Over 300 pupils were kidnapped from a boys’ secondary boarding school by a gang of gunmen on motorcycles. In just six days of deft maneuvering, the boys were recovered after about six days in captivity.
In the last two years, we have seen massive terrorist attacks in the US, France, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and a dozen others. There is no government in the world that will not face the challenges of security at one time or another.
No country stations its military on every street corner permanently to tackle every perceived terrorist attack. What stands any country and its security forces out are the pace, quality and dexterity of response as soon as an attack happens.
The speed and determination of the Nigerian military under the present government each time there is an attack have been quite outstanding, and the results attest to this.
Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, speaking on the Kankara operations explained that “kinetic and non-kinetic approaches were used to ensure all the boys were rescued unhurt, even when there was resistance from the abductors who laid ambush against the troops.
“It was very delicate in the sense that if you do not manage the operation well, the children who are in between you and the enemies will now become the victims.
“When they become the victims, the people outside there will attribute it to failure on the part of your security forces.”
He also said the special troops deployed on the mission were on the spot, and could not have blinked their eyes for anything all through the days of the mission.
When a similar situation happened in Dapchi earlier, the military also swung into action, went after the abductors, and through a combination of deft factors, the girls were brought back, except Leah Sharibu.
It is obvious that a revitalised leadership of the Nigerian Armed Forces in the last few years has elevated the Nigerian military to a new level of effectiveness and performance. Any effort to attribute these successes to any form of stage-management would be most uncharitable.
Senior Special Assistant to the President, Garba Shehu, in one of his five takeaways from the Kankara rescue operation, also noted that “Our security forces often do not get the accolades they deserve.”
Joining other well-meaning Nigerians in lauding the efforts of the military, Shehu said: “Once more, the Nigerian Military has delivered on the big stage. They had a plan, kept to it, and got the job done without firing a single shot.
“…There are not enough words to thank our gallant men and women in uniform, the military that continues to make sacrifices for many of us to enjoy and express our freedoms in its various forms and shapes. Millions of appreciative citizens applaud the success of the Army in bringing back the Kankara Schoolboys. Well done, boys!”
It could be acceptable to feel that the fight against insurgency has not recorded all the desired levels of success. This would soon be achieved immediately the issues of more funds, manpower and weaponry promised by the present government are resolved.
However, it would amount to deliberate mischief if anyone tries to discredit the successes recorded so far, as well as the huge efforts and results of the Nigerian Military in protecting the territorial integrity of the country.
(Mr. Ntia, Usukuma Ime is a Lagos-based journalist and public communications expert).