The BBC in Nigeria: Kadaria Ahmed’s dishonesty

By Nguvan Pasenen

I read Kadaria Ahmed’s oped about the BBC Eye documentary called the Bandit Warlords of Zamfara in various online forums and felt very angry about it. Angry enough to try and write my first ever oped.

I watched the documentary over the weekend and I was saddened and dismayed. It was a portrait of victims of Nigeria and not glorifying any terrorists as Kadaria dishonestly portrayed and thus gave a nonchalant government the chance to censor the media.

With no government in sight, folks are taking it out on each other. Victimizing themselves because there is no government in sight and they have to take care of any perceived injustice. That is the real story of the documentary and it was right to bring it out there.

Nigeria–disintegrating before our very eyes, and reverting to tribal violence. People have a right to know it. For those of us from the Middle Belt, we have been seeing this for years and only a few organizations such as Sessor, Global Rights and SBM Intelligence have raised the alarm about this from an activist point of view while from the media our biggest ally has been Vanguard. Most of the rest just move on as if nothing is happening. So the BBC Eye documentary was a big wake up call.

That Kadaria has an opinion on the BBC’s article does not make her a god and does not make her opinion right, or good for journalism. Yusuf Anka who reported the story did something that many have called for Nigerian journalists to do for years: go into the trenches and report from the ground about the rubbish going on in the country. If there is an award for courageous reporting the Yusuf has the vote.

Journalists write the first line of history, and that is what Yusuf has done with this expose: document history completely so that we will know what is happening. No matter what you think about the other side, their story needs to be told. Posterity needs to understand the other side and their grievances even if we want to think it is all lies. If nobody talks to them and their views are censored, how can we know who they are and what they want? How can we get a more complete picture of the truth? How can we begin to act to bring peace?

Ironically, Yusuf did what Kadaria should have done as a senior journalist – get people to get to the truth of what is happening and bring it to the public. I’m sure that many people in southern Nigeria watched the documentary with disbelief. Now they understand the conflict thanks to Yusuf and BBC Eye.

But we must begin to call out people like Kadaria Ahmed for what she really is. She is a product of the typically Arewa aristocratic system that will continue to default to trying to pull the wool over our eyes about the stark reality and inequities of life in the North, and shielding their leaders including her brother-in-law, Nasiru El-Rufai, from any blame in the mess that the North has become. Their tactics are increasingly becoming futile and so they are showing themselves more.

What she ended up doing was providing intellectual cover for the same government that has been unable to find these terrorists to start attacking the very media houses that did us the favour of bringing this whole mess to our attention. Have we asked ourselves why Yusuf Anka was able to find the terrorists, why Sheikh Gumi is always able to find them, why Governor Masari was able to find them when he wanted to give them money, but why the government never is able to find them?

Finally, why did Kadaria not write when one of the bandits was turbaned as an emir just last week?

Nguyan Pasenen is a HR professional and is based in Lagos.


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