Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, put up another sorry spectacle before television cameras and the international media on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
The Muhammadu Buhari presidency has been in damage control mode since CNN aired its investigation of the Lekki shooting.
On October 20, 2020, soldiers drove to the Lekki-Epe toll gate and shot into a crowd of peaceful protesters who had been demanding an end to decades of police brutality, extra judicial killings and extortion.
The Lekki shooting has dominated the news cycle a month after, and a judicial panel of inquiry has been set up in Lagos to investigate what transpired on the night.
The government has been attempting a grand cover-up of the incident, amid reports that more than a dozen, unarmed protesters were killed by soldiers and police officers on the night.
The CNN reporting added a couple more layers to the Lekki shooting incident and punctured holes in the government’s muddled up and ever changing version of events.
Several social media accounts who swear by the governing APC and the Buhari presidency have been all over the place since the CNN story was published, with the administration's vassals calling the network names, puncturing ridiculous holes in the network’s investigation and attacking anyone who holds a contrary opinion.
Mohammed attacks CNN
As the administration’s mouthpiece, the lot was always going to fall on Mohammed to quickly address CNN’s investigative reporting, turn the narrative of the Lekki shooting on its head, stem the tide of anger directed at the government and hang CNN out to dry for all it’s worth.
In typical fashion, Mohammed made a mess of his brief and said all the wrong things at such a sensitive time for his nation.
The minister called the Lekki shooting a “hoax...bodiless and bloodless massacre,” described the CNN reporting as irresponsible and warned that CNN could be sanctioned.
"Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going around, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization. This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that," Mohammed blared.
Of course CNN has restated that its “reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it.”
Mohammed added that; "the purveyors of fake news and disinformation succeeded in deceiving the entire world that there was mass killing in Lekki, even when till date, not a single body has been produced and not a single family or relative has come out to say their child or ward was killed at Lekki toll gate," the minister said.
It is worth restating here that the governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has admitted that two persons died at the toll on the night.
Stifling the press
Mohammed also exonerated security operatives of wrongdoing on the night, even though he would go on to stress that we should all wait for the judicial panel’s findings and recommendations before jumping into conclusions.
How did Mohammed not know that by absolving soldiers of any blame on the night, he is pre-empting the outcome of the panel’s investigation and giving everyone the impression that the government would meddle in the panel’s work and recommendations?
Watching and listening to Mohammed, it wasn’t lost on anyone that the Buhari administration is sick and tired of the free press and the thriving social media space and that it will do anything within and outside of its powers to gag the media. We are well on the road to censorship and dictatorship. This is Buhari of the ‘80s all over again.
The vacillation and inconsistency from the government in the wake of the shooting and Mohammed’s ridiculous presser and meltdown, means that the rest of the world is right now having a laugh at Nigeria’s expense.
Mohammed often comes across as a misfit for his portfolio. All he’s brought to the table is how to regulate social media and free speech. He’s also successfully stifled a section of the traditional, mainstream media.
The minister has been the butt of jokes on social media since the CNN media briefing, not least for an unrestrained, childish, desperate and comedic attack of a foreign media platform.
This week, you've got to admit that Mohammed looked as ridiculous as always. He did an unpopular government more harm and heaped more scorn on his principal and his nation.
*Pulse Editor's Opinion is the viewpoint of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the Organisation Pulse.