In Nigeria, covert actions are being sponsored to restrict some writers’ access through state sponsored hacking and interference of mail boxes, face, etc .You remember the infamous branding campaign and here counter technology was acquired. Last year the supposedly progressive Governors forum met in Yenagoa Bayelsa State to deliberate on how to curb the activities of “seditious writers”, whatever that means in a country where everybody disobeys the constitution, where the courts are for the highest bidder, where unarmed people are murdered on television without trial as long as they are perceived threats to the powers that be. So the new threats have become bloggers on the internet and they would go to every length to stop each article from being published. I want to give you a peek into their losing battle to keep their own people from seeing the light.
For some of you in developed societies, sedition is indeed a crime that should be avoided by writers, but then your society has a settled value system of what is right and wrong. Probably you have a constitution and stable institutions working it, and you know how many people in your country so that you can identify the missing or dead and so you can solve murders or extra judicial killings. I mean when your countrymen die you don’t have a proliferation of claims as to the number that died and you don’t deny some of them as aliens Most probably you can obtain information from government agencies when you need to verify stories before publication and the government does not try to eliminate you for pursuing certain unclassified information that should have been made public. I am sure you can feel me in what I am about to say.
Before I go into details consider that recently an enquiry has just been set up to probe the killing of unarmed men, women and children in Maiduguri, courtesy of the damming evidence just published in Aljazeera network. Before now every year the human Rights Watch and Civil Liberties will cry out about increasing arbitrary extra judicial killings of people in Police Stations, Detention centers and checkpoints but the government will deny such a thing happening. Of course there is no evidence, because if the security forces catch you taking pictures without their permission, they will kill you first and deny you ever existed; remember that there is no record or census figures and the courts only sit at your behest-that is if you would foot the bill. If not you can always come for your postponement of case notice. The system has broken down long time ago and has become by choice. You want security, you pay for it.
The policemen are there for your taking and like Shell Petroleum you can take them, retrain them and they will give you wonderfully efficient services. It is so with customs, legislators, bankers, lawyers, etc; even the ordinary file jacket of an accused in the law courts does not move on its own volition except you push it. You can decide that the file will not be found and so the judge will postpone such a case sine die. You can now understand why it took Nigerian legislators so long to recognize they did not have a President to work with in Nigeria. Why? Someone was pushing them to the state of lack of awareness. So my friend what sort of enquiry will they set up on something that is so prevalent in Nigeria that if you stop it today the prison and detention system will come to a stand still.
How can they create space in the overcrowded police cells for new inmates when they have to grapple with a cell space that has remained stagnant for twenty years of state failure to plan? How are these unfortunates disposed? Since there are no records and because it is ‘our internal affairs’, foreign investigation cannot hold here at least not without giving us the tip off to gather things up. There are the options of mass graves or they may up being accused post-humusly as armed robbery and maybe a public display to earn some of their killers press accolades and promotion as well as to assure the international community that there is good security, ‘just equip us very well that is all’.
So if I may venture a guess, the enquiry will dwell on finding out the man who made the video, was it from within or without? If within, where is he or his family, what is their source of income, do they have houses or other properties that can be sabotaged; if he is employed, who is the employer? How can we make him testify that he forged the video? ‘If the employer refuses to discredit him by firing him or declaring him a mental case, we can always remove his power supply to make his company unprofitable and make him suffer until he plays ball’ It is exactly the problem Nigerians will face even with a new acting President in power, there is no quick fix for the problems except fundamental restructuring changes are undertaken very quickly before the old system drowns new efforts at reforms.
How is the new government handling issues? Although too early to judge but the same gag tactics has continued in the media. This time every effort is made to rubbish the advantage of the information age in Nigeria. You can imagine the chagrin of the juntas kitchen cabinet when they discovered that disputed BBC interview backfired on them having formed the damming evidence they had spent billions of naira to protect from the public .It has the same effect with the Aljazeera video: one small step for man, a giant step for Nigeria. It is all in the age where photographers and bloggers are designated state security risks.
What about the ineffectual response of the junta to these threats In Nigeria? Deliberate subversion. Here, GSM revolution has turned into a misery as tapping of phones have become a vehicle for state and non state monitoring of Nigerians. All sorts of tricks are delivered to your bedroom via the GSM even the native doctors now use it to summon victims before deadly shrines. Beware of those calls from strange numbers where your answer is not replied to. Unknowingly your political opponent or business foe may be lining you for spiritual harm. All they need is for you to speak into the phone which has been placed on the shrine and your identity would be taken for their diabolical purposes.
What about the internet? Now the new employed are being orientated to help the high and mighty hack into their opponents web pages or retrieve their most personal information.. My personal experience continues along the road of the Nigerian revolution. At times it becomes so difficult to post an article on the web .Sometimes as I begin to type a fake browser jumps into the scene and takes away the much I had written so that the agents of the state would decide whether I would be allowed to go on to complete this article or not. Sometimes they are in good mood they would allow me to post it. At other times especially if much is at stake like the day the acting President was empowered, they will refuse to allow me complete it or post it .Suddenly our transformer was sabotaged plunging the area into darkness. Some unknown persons simply walked in and remove the fuse. With my generator running, I discovered that I could not access my box at yahoo. When I managed to get in by changing the password, then I was informed I had been logged out of chat because I had chosen to log in through another computer. Then everything stopped going, I couldn’t send the article nor log out. As I wondered what to do, my GSM stopped working and the internet chose this moment to pack up their services. At other times the web publishers will return the articles or delay it until its timeliness makes its publication useless.
If you send to newspapers they will expect you to send money or they would do you the favor of publishing it as fillers if they publish it at all. Sometimes when your column is due to come out in a newspaper, the government will buy you off with a running advert, at other times they will sack the stubborn editor for publishing your article and if too dangerous they will buy all the copies from the street and destroy them to limit circulation. Even recently the websites were approached not to publish my articles by government and some of them began to carry disclaimer on the articles but the battle must have proven an uphill task for them because as the son of man wrote : To stand before the truth and refute it is impossible. The information age has wiped away the drudgery of information flow of past eras that allowed governments to tyrannize their people by delaying or withholding vital information from their people.
Information flow is instantaneous and the speed of publication assures it a value. Any website that delays publication loses more than the patronage from corrupt governments. Any government that cannot compete is forgotten in the dust bin of history and positive competition includes wider computer education, prompt passing of the Freedom of Information Bill as well as electoral reforms. The time when mediocre rule is over because curtailing information at this age, even in Nigeria remains an uphill task.
Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria in 1992