Innocence was lost because a certain powerful state actor chose to stand truth on its head. Its spin-doctors went on over drive blaming everyone but itself for the monumental atrocity. First it blamed Ukraine for the insurgency in its Eastern region. It blamed the West for backing the Ukrainian government. Then its rebel cronies blamed Malaysian Airlines for flying in a war zone.
Later it blamed the Ukrainian government for not closing the skies to commercial flights. It claimed not to have any control or influence over the separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Almost 72 hours after the Ukrainian government released evidence implicating the separatists, the opposing response to the allegations has been at best a feeble attempt to pain a laughable and inconsiderate narrative.
Yesterday the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reached a unanimous resolution calling for an unfettered access to the crash site and an international, impartial investigation into the cause of the crash.
One thing stood out for me. There have been many UNSC resolutions about nations that have witnessed bloodbath – Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc but it has been easy for these diplomats to speak in detached tones during such deliberations. Yesterday, the gloves were off as speaker after speaker lashed out at the Russian government. Maybe it is because this suffering finally touched their nations this time around.
If the Kremlin thought the world would buy their narrative, then they have simply succeeded in scoring an own goal. Or how else can one explain why the separatists they back limited investigators and rescue teams from accessing the crash site? Why were the bodies of the dead treated in such a demeaning way? Why did the separatists deny holding the flight recorders only to release them yesterday? Why should the world not believe that the delay in cooperating with the international community for 4 whole days was to destroy incriminating evidence?
President Putin was quoted yesterday as stating, "nobody should - and no one (hope this includes the Russia government) has the right to - use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends (sic). Such events should not divide people but unite them." Why was Russian media awash with conspiracy theories including the ludicrous tale that the Ukrainians were attempting to shoot down Mr Putin’s plane on his way back from a trip to South America?
Following this entire charade makes me want to puke. The families of the dead and indeed the world do not need empty speeches. If the Russian leader so cared about the dignity of the dead, why did he not demonstrate leadership and humanity? What has he done to show unity and demonstrate responsibility? Did he need to wait for a UNSC resolution first before the black boxes were handed over? Why allow 4 days to be lost? It defies all logic except there is something to hide. This disaster is not a time to show the strong man side of their leader. This is how to lose the information and reputation war.
In the words of Frans Timmermans, the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, “the despicable desecration of the dead will haunt him till he dies”. Little wonder, the British Broadcasting newspaper reported, “editorials in the Netherlands have asked the Dutch Prime Minister to take off the "velvet gloves" in his dealings with Russia”. For students of International Relations, Russia needs to take the Dutch threat seriously. Even though they tend to sit on the fence in a lot of issues, whenever their interests are affected, they have demonstrated immense capability to exploit all possible avenues to seek justice.
The Ukrainian crisis was manufactured in Moscow. If the rebels had not been trained, armed and sponsored by Russia, 298 people will still be alive.
But lets momentarily leave MH17 alone for now and come closer home – Nigeria.
I have followed with utter disgust how the public relations team of the Nigerian government continue to fumble as they tackle the monster that the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign has become. Instead of focusing on showcasing their ongoing efforts to “Bring Back Our Girls Alive and Safe” in an authentic, believable and credible manner, they have instead opted to smoke out their critics.
Labeling every criticism as being sponsored by the opposition is an insult on the collective intelligence of Nigerians. We deserve better than intimidation. The feeble efforts of the recently contracted US based public relations firm have only compounded issues. No one is buying the narrative of its failing image laundering campaign.
Even after the global outcry about #BringBackOurGirls, the rudimentary communication strategies employed leaves room for further mistrust. The many press conferences that have been called have detailed progress in the war against Boko Haram…however with almost no proof. We are told to take their words for it. We are condemned for not supporting the government enough in this war. What kind of people are we?
Does intimidating the poor Chibok communities because of a photo opportunity with Malala help the government’s case? Did we need Malala to visit Abuja in order for our officials to “start mourning more than the bereaved?” Is it appropriate to be running 2015 political campaigns all over the media at this time? Not to worry, going by recent happenings in the political space, there is no vacancy in the Villa in 2015.
It took the death of 298 people in the doomed MH17 flight for the world to see the crisis in Ukraine as international.
We do not need to lose our girls for us to see the pain and suffering of the Chibok community and others like them as ours. It is time to #BringBackOurGirls Alive and Safe. Have we lost our collective humanity? God bless Nigeria.
P.S: This article was published in the 23rd of July 2014 edition of the Punch Newspapers.