Drama as minister, Israeli professor clash over terrorism

There was drama on Thursday at the Musa Yar’ Adua Centre as Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and an Israeli professor expressed divergent views on the best option in the fight against extremism in Nigeria.

While the government insisted that avenues for venting fake news and hate speeches in the cyberspace should be closed to agents of extremism, the scholar explained that government had been engaging too much in what he described “kinetic efforts”, instead of tackling the matter from ideological point of view.

“Clearly, government policies and initiatives have failed to address extremism and sectarianism that fuels this violence, which in turn threatens our diversity, national unity and co-existence as a people”, the Israeli Professor stated.

Both the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and senior lecturer in the Faculty of Social Science, Haifa University, Isreal, Prof. Leonard Kursim Fua, stated these in Abuja during the annual lecture series organised by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, with the theme: “Extremism: A threat to national unity.”

Mohammed said, “We are moving ahead to inject sanity into our broadcasting space. The power of radio and television means that we should not allow them to be used as catalysts to cause conflict. Web televisions and online radio are now to be licenced and regulated. We have set up an implementation committee on online broadcasting.

“We will now move on to injecting sanity into the social media space. We are aware that since announcing our plans to sanitise the social media space, there have been reactions which are welcome. We are not against criticism; we are committed to the ethical use of our airspace. Responsible, ethical journalists have nothing to fear.”

But Fua, also a scholar at the Directorate of Research, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Jos disagreed with the Minister.

According to him, extremism regardless of its manifestations had a mind and connotation of war.

He said, “Indeed, the death and destruction experienced over the past two decades in Nigeria has demonstrated the inability of even the most technologically and advanced militaries to suppress, much less defeat, the fervent beliefs underpinning extremism.

“The inescapable conclusion is that violence driven by ideology can be effectively countered only by more powerful ideological arguments. Yet, the counter-extremism spending priorities of government throughout has continued to reflect an overwhelming reliance on kinetic efforts rather than ideological prowess.

Written by Friday Olokor, Abuja, Punch Newspapers