Let Someone Encourage Buhari To Assuage The Flaming Anger In The Land - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Let Someone Encourage Buhari To Assuage The Flaming Anger In The Land

By Dele Omojuyigbe

A student accosted me near the NIJ gate and asked, “Sir, who is a journalist?”  I observed him warily, but I concealed my surprise in an impassive visage. He gave a wry smile as he awaited my response. I suspected that he was up to something. He shouldn’t ask such a question; he was a brilliant student. Moreover, he was a few weeks away from graduation after five years. I attempted to probe his reason for the question but he was firm. Ok, let me try, I told him.

My mind raced to one deliberate, simplistic answer which the late Prince Tony Momoh gave to a two pronged-question some years back. Prince Momoh was guest speaker at our professional forum at NIJ. A student had asked him, “Sir, who is a journalist and who is an editor?” The former Daily Times editor and information minister answered promptly without dithering, “A journalist is someone who contributes to the editorial content of a newspaper. And an editor is someone who decides what he wants to put in his paper”. I smiled. Brilliant! Creative!

Great! I didn’t have to think again to answer my interlocutor. I gave him Prince Momoh’s reply and heaved a sigh. Not satisfied, the fastidious student asked me further, does a journalist retire? Or, is it that once you are a journalist, you remain as one perpetually? I had to think this time. No one asked Prince Momoh that question. So, I asked myself, is ‘journalist’ a crest which you affix to your dress, or a title which you flaunt as prefix to your name? It would imply that once you are a journalist, you are, forever. I remembered two incidents, one local and the other, international.

 In the Second Republic, some desperate senators assembled themselves and tried to force a bill that would make them bear ‘senator’ for life. It was gross larceny, an act which seemed like a thief in the night. They failed. In the 70’s, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, autocratic leader of the Central African Republic, created an 'Imperial' monarchy and "Central African Empire". He desired to be emperor and so he proclaimed himself ‘Emperor’. Later, he organised a lavish coronation ceremony where he crowned himself. Larceny! He stole the title!

Is the name ‘journalist’ a creation comparable to the abortive ‘senator’ or ‘emperor’ chase? Do you retain it forever as those senators tried to do? I told my distressed inquisitor that we should examine two possible areas of interpretation – one, journalist by training only, and two, journalist by training and function. I chose the second option and I told him. I reasoned that function defines a journalist more than training. Immediately, my student’s face was aglow. 

Ultimately, I understood his qualms. Journalists are Nigeria’s problem, he said. They write nonsense, speak nonsense and support nonsense, he fumed. “Where is their training and where are the ethics of the profession?” And government’s spokespersons, presumably veterans, are the ones blindly defending a bad government with bad policies, he further raged. I quickly stopped him there. It was as if the boy meant to deal with me. “Don’t say that. Spokespersons are doing their job. They trained as journalists but function as politicians, deploying their journalism incendiary in the enemies’ camps where their principals’ interests are threatened”, I quickly retorted.  And for the other ones who are not practicing anymore, you can’t crucify them for their choice. You can best speak to their conscience.

The boy was confused again. So, I explained. Spokespersons are employed to defend government policies engineered by their masters. You should spare them. But you can query journalists not so engaged, those who perform blind defenders’ functions ‘pro bono’ without address. Ask them what they are defending in a government that has brought Nigeria to its knees ojare.  Nigeria is breathing unsteadily and humming as if asphyxiated! It doesn’t concern them. Voices are as dissonant as half the number of citizens. They don’t care! The number of nationalities clamouring for self actualization has increased and is increasing. It doesn’t matter.

But we know. We know that this pendulum is swinging dangerously. The President can address the nation and promise to right the obtrusive wrongs of nepotism. His sober voice may defuse tension and assuage flaming anger. Those goading him on should summon courage to encourage him to do this and apologise to the nation. Fences are broken. A thousand bricklayers cannot mend them. But a somber, soothing word from the President can make the required difference that could avert this looming catastrophe if quickly followed by positive actions. Enough said.

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