The Federal Government of Nigeria prepares to unveil a new organization dubbed the National Strategic Communications (NSSC), a group tailored to unravel the knot of ideology and insular narrative of Boko Haram terrorists and other insurgent groups nationwide. This strategy is similar to the previous administration’s Soft-Approach program and is slated to coordinate communication between ministries, departments, and agencies to restore and maintain core-values and the de-radicalization of terrorists.
During a two-day “Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) – Media Round Table’ in Abuja, a Deputy Director in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Ahmad Gusau, explained the NSSC policy document composed by the ONSA, receives technical backing from the EU.
Mr. Gusau, representing an absent National Security Adviser (NSA) said a “validation workshop on the draft NSCC was held in June 2015 and contributions of the various departments of government and other stakeholders are being integrated before the document would be approved and unveiled…It will interest you to know that the draft NSSC has as one of its six focus areas, the relationship between government and the media.”
Media inclusion should “draw attention of the media to current understanding of terrorists’ use of media and violent extremism in Nigeria, including the ISIS, which has since incorporated Boko Haram, and ways in which both groups radicalise, propagandise and recruit by exploiting the media.”
Gusau added the media has undergone a minor reformation, and now understands such insurgents as enemies of the Nigerian state, with an exclusively negative impact on collective life. “This continues to reflect the way the Nigerian press report on Boko Haram,” assured Gusau.
Similarly, Ms. Pauline Torehall, the Head of Political, Press and Information Section for the EU Delegation reiterates terrorism happens with or without media – but when such insurgent and violent groups take the proverbial microphone of national and international media, their message spreads, and gains legitimacy in the minds of governments and populations worldwide.
Torehall rightly points to social media as a highly used means of leverage for such organizations – Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube engage populations for recruiting and propaganda. Torehall understands governments spanning the globe learn how important multi-platform strategies and tactics become in the fight against anti-extremist groups.
As such, Torehall pins the media roundtable as a vital keystone in Strategic Communications, because of Nigeria’s diverse and potent national presses, and their collective influence of more than fifty journalists and media professionals from at least forty institutions across the nation participating.
This is a most sensitive PR campaign/public relations ordeal. Instead of a product, it’s a human’s system of belief and Nigerians’ very existence at stake in such a campaign. This plan seems like it could really make headway in the fight against extremist violence and insurgents because it purports to unite the six “focus areas” of government into a more dynamic machine. If the NSSC streamlines this process enough to compete and eventually flood the Boko Harem propaganda out of social media, then they show a real chance that those Nigerians still on the fence or otherwise young enough to not know what to fight for may be dissuaded from making the wrong choices.