By Rotimi Adebayo
The dictionary defines esprit de corps as “a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty shared by the members of a group.” It is not unusual for some drivers to intone “esprit de corps” when they get to a police checkpoint in the hope that it will afford them faster passage in the belief that the officers on duty would not like to delay one of their own with intense search and documents check.
The concept extends beyond the military and para-military services. Each professionals in each industry or sector are mentally programmed to acknowledge and defer to their own as per “esprit de corps”. Bankers will not allow fellow bankers queue up to be attended to by the cashier, medical workers and their relations would never be denied of bed spaces or medicine on account of shortages, just as policemen will not put their colleagues through the rigours of screening at checkpoints. In the media, it manifests as a tendency for journalists to protect fellow journalists, including being less critical of the write-ups submitted by colleagues and declining to publish contents that are critical of colleagues.
But it comes to a point where colleagues know that esprit de corps will not cut it. This could be on the account of the risk to society from cutting a colleague unnecessary slacks. A doctor or lawyer will not waive situation for a colleague to the point that their own licences would be in jeopardy. Policemen would not give a free pass to a colleague that has left the fold and joined armed robbers or bandits.
Why then do the journalists and the entire media industry continue to extend esprit de corps to Ahmad Salkida, who from all indications has long renounced journalism as is not more of the chief propagandist for the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) with occasional freelance work with Boko Haram? It is dangerous situation that has to be addressed because of the risk it places the entire country into. But the media continue to publish his terrorists’ propaganda and even make the injury more grievous by labelling his poison as “special report”.
It is true that Salkida once worked as a journalist. But his tendencies to be sympathetic for the extreme and wicked pitched him against those with the interest of the country at heart. Irrespective of him winning some “awards”, which have turned out to be facilitated by the same axis of evil sponsoring Boko Haram, the reality is that Salkida could not endure the rigours imposed by the need for journalists not to take sides. So he deviated, got himself into untenable situations and eventually fled the country.
Salkida has since then lost touch with the noble objective of the pen profession. He graduated from being a journalists to being a vested interest in the activities of Boko Haram and later ISWAP. His support for these terrorists not just as a member but also as a negotiator. His contribution to the insurgents is legendary. Going by his antecedents, his interest is to see blood flow and more blood, enough to form a crimson flood.
It is interesting that he usually surfaces when a decisive military onslaught against his group is in the offing. His modus operandi has been to write so called exclusives and special reports that are practically his own way of passing cryptic messages to ISWAP and Boko Haram. In these his reports, he violates the counter-terrorism legislation of any country on earth as he constantly admits his deep level contact with internationally designated terrorists.
This makes it surprising that media organizations, in the bid to identify with a former journalist, fall into the trap of becoming accessories to supporting terrorists by publishing or syndicating Salkida’s propaganda material. If he were a soldier or police and desert his work to support terrorists will he still be accorded the fraternal consideration given to fellow military officers? The continued tolerance and support for this one time journalists falls short of expectations on this score.
It is interesting to note that international media organizations that once quoted him as a respected source are beginning to drop him from their stories.
Their reason, while not stated, could not be unconnected with the realization that they would be breaking the law in their own countries by identifying with a known terrorist. It is baffling that the media in Nigeria are yet to respond appropriately to this danger.
By continuing to give him their platforms to pass information to Boko Haram/ISWAP members the media expose the entire country to risks, particularly since his articles have been adjudged as instrumental to the terror group’s recruitment drive and fund raising through ransom negotiation for abducted persons.
The logical thing is to suggest that media organizations immediately distance themselves from Salkida and his poisonous merchandize. But some will resist this call on account of their affinity with him in the wrong belief that “once a journalist always a journalist” not realizing that he ceased being that long ago and is now a full-fledged terrorist propagandist.
Those that wish to keep publishing his work must therefore exercise the necessary caution, get those that are knowledgeable to vet the work before publication. But the safest bet is to shun content from Salkida to escape the risk of working for terrorists.
Adebayo is a forensic psychologist, writing from the University of Lagos.