BreakingNews 7/7/16 - Guidelines for Effective Propaganda to market Biafra

[ Masterweb Reports: Osita Ebiem reports ] - My mission in writing this article is to call to the attention of all Biafranists (those who are campaigning for the freedom of Biafra from Nigeria) to the need to package and sell the Biafran message to the world through appropriate mediums. It does not matter the profession to which anyone of us belongs, I still think that each person can contribute positively to this endearing collective effort to help free the Igbo from Nigeria. I believe that these bits and pieces of contributions, if taken to heart and actually made use of, can help the Igbo to succeed in their quest for freedom and survival. In this piece we are going to talk about the use of positive propaganda in the Biafran freedom effort. We qualify the word “propaganda” with “positive” in the sense that the justness of the Biafran cause is self-evident and does not need any kind of embellishment to sell it to the world. 

As will be explained in the later part of this article, part of the above heading in quotes is borrowed from the formula used by the people (our predecessors) who struggled to free the old Biafra from the clutches of the genocidal state of Nigeria. In spite of the many odds which were thrown against them, we all agree that they did a good job in fighting to liberate our people from the shackles of bondage in which they are in Nigeria. Therefore, in the present effort, we are only starting from where they stopped. As a word of caution, we repeat that “propaganda,” at least as used in this context, does not connote any negativity. 

As the campaign for freedom rages on, it will not hurt if the present campaigners should borrow ideas from the pioneers. In my opinion, by so doing, it’s like borrowing ideas from experience and if we are faithful and honest, I don’t think we will go off the mark by a wide margin. As will be remembered, the Biafrans of old had among others a very effective “Directorate of Propaganda” where notable figures like Cyprian Ekwensi, Okon Okon Ndem and others performed creditably well. Biafra’s Directorate of Propaganda coordinated and oversaw the dissemination of information throughout the genocidal war period.  Following closely the lessons of history is important especially in a matter such as we are engaged in. 

In order to learn from history, I will suggest that we try to use more often the rearview mirror and compare notes with the works of those who had been in this business before us. The importance of references to history in the struggle cannot be over emphasized. While depending on the lessons of history by glancing often at the rearview mirror, we must not overlook the fact that all successful drivers are only those who take seriously the dangers of their blind spots. So, apart from using the rearview mirror, experience has shown that you will never become a good driver without taking time to look sideways and listen to cautionary advices from fellow travelers who may have some vantage views of the road you are on. The best way to deal with blind spots is to listen and act first and ask questions later. If you thought that you saw something at the corner of your eye, then you must have seen something, take precautionary action. What this means is that absolute caution is important. And one of the first rules of caution in this business is to listen often to the opinions of others. 

To truly get our jobs done right today as the pioneers did, we must set out our goals and clearly define them. That is what the people who worked in the various “directorates” of the old Biafra did. By taking time to assess the events and accomplishments of the pioneers, I have come to the conclusion, and many of us will agree with me on this; that of all the Biafran directorates, the propaganda outfit was one of the most successful. The reason for their success was simple. They worked out of a template; they had a “guideline.” No one was a law unto their selves. Everyone’s effort was subject to the scrutiny and assessment of another. Then again, they spoke in the language that appealed to all decent and informed listeners as well as to the regular Ngbeke and Ngbafor on the streets of Enugu, London, New York and Paris. Yes, they spoke in the language of the world. They delivered their urgent and important message to the world, still tempered with respect and journalistic excellence and decorum.

I want to remind us that talking about the success of those pioneers is not based on the judgement or assessment of only those of other Biafrans; no, they were successful mostly because they produced materials and information that met both the internal and international audiences’ standards. They told the truth, pursued excellence and as well as being in earnest, they were sincere and honest. 

Why did they and of course we today have to cater to both internal and external audiences? Well, the answer as we may imagine is obvious. It is because whatever message that must be passed on should make sense as well as palatable (consumable) to audiences that are total strangers to our experience and message and to those who know all there is to know about them. Whatever part we are playing at this time in this Biafran liberation effort, the overall goal should be that we are ultimately able to present a comprehensive and convincing message that is honest, sincere, reliable as well as believable. It is only after we have succeeded at this task can we truly consider to have done our job. I believe that those qualities are mostly what will get a stranger listening, to get interested, listen more and understand better our plight and become sympathetic and maybe lift a finger or more to speak and act in our favor. 

Producing only messages that are parochial and appeal to a narrow segment of the general audience will only work to defeat the overall goal. It is important that we should work to capture the attention of the international community through the way we present our message. Why we should be careful and court the sympathy of the international audience can be illustrated like this; when a person is sick, very often it is only right that he or she needs to go out to seek for solution. Remaining inside the house and shouting one’s throat hoarse to listeners who are already familiar with their case and may not have all the answers does not always bring healing. 

To help us in packaging an acceptable message for the international community we need to always remember that as the theme of our message: Igbo Genocide, though very painful is not unique. Other people in other places and at other times have also suffered like us. Always remembering this will help us to stay both humble as well as sympathetic with other people’s stories and whatever else they are going through. Exhibiting this empathetic attitude should not stop with appreciating the pain or concerns of others of similar experiences; we must not be oblivious of the complaints and concerns of our detractors or persecutors. We must find ways to engage even our worst enemy in constructive diplomatic dialogs at all times. The feelings of all humanity are the same, whether they are in the rank of the perpetrators of the genocide or are the victims of the crime. 

Therefore, even when we find ourselves at the receiving end of genocidal injustices as it is, we are still required to look at our pain and those who are responsible through the glass of a common humanity. In the middle of man’s worst inhuman acts against the Igbo we cannot afford to lose faith in humanity. By resorting to insults and unconstructive criticisms of the enemy shows a sign of desperation. We cannot afford to despare, we must find ways to let others find their story in our own as we try to learn everything which we can from the others’ stories. Some of these others like the Armenians, the Jews, the South Sudanese and others have fought and won while others are still fighting and there are those who fought and lost. We can learn a lot from the experiences of these other people, if we tried hard enough. 

What we are saying is that it runs counter to the overall aim of the struggle for Biafra’s freedom to continue producing desperate and angry messages that shock and assault what most people consider the standard sense of decency. Continuing along this path will not sustain for long the patronage and sympathy of our audience. And when we talk of the people or the audience here, who we have in mind are those whose opinions and decisions matter in situations like ours – opinion molders and decision makers across the world. 

Every person who is familiar with the Biafran story will agree with me that it is possible to maintain an objective position while making the strongest case for justice in regards to Biafrans’ pains. While presenting the Biafran case in the strongest of terms, we can still respect the feelings of other people, listen genuinely to any counter argument and still not compromise the message. Listening to the opinions of other people does not diminish our points or positions. That we defend our points in a civil manner against those of others does not mean their points will automatically win over our own. Only superior arguments win always in the end of the day. 

At this point let me remind us of the initial point we made at the beginning of this discussion about goal setting.

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