It’s Not A Perfect World

The media has been awash with materials about Juju music maestro-turned-evangelist, Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi, who clocked 70 years on April 3, 2012.
Without doubt, Obey-Fabiyi is the current news transmitting, and I am onto the frequency, receiving the media fare because I am honoured to be a great fan of the music icon.
I was introduced to the Chief Commander’s music as a child by my father, who routinely arrived home with a record sleeves bearing latest releases of Obey’s works. I remain a connoisseur of Obey’s music to this day. I have gone quite far in my self-assigned mission to collect all the musical works of this great music maker, whose company has the initiative to convert these productions into now more convenient compact discs. And how I jealously guard the ever-expanding collection?

A true raconteur, Obey was at his storytelling-best in the song Ketekete in the album TheHorse, The Man and His Son. That song is a particular favourite of mine. The moral of the story-in-song is that, whatever particular position a person or some persons may adopt regarding a particular issue at a particular time, there would always be fault-finders, ripping away at that position, seeking to render it unreasonable and untenable.
As part of activities marking his 70 years, SATURDAY PUNCH in an interview asked Obey: “Did you source the theme of your hit song, Ketekete from the Bible or Yoruba folklore?” And Obey’s answer was: “No, it was from one of the books I read in primary school. The book was written in English and I interpreted the story my own way, particularly to tell how difficult it is to satisfy human beings.”
That moral of Obey’s Ketekete is very much on any mind as I contemplate the reactions to this column, particularly as I take on issues related to journalists. While certain persons accuse me of treating these issues with kid gloves, there are others who allege that I am too harsh in my positions. On the one hand, I have been accused of over-defending journalists and over-protecting their interests, thereby not doing enough to help sanitise journalism practice. On the other hand, I have been called a maverick and a whistleblower, among others, for allegedly washing and spreading out the filthy linen of my profession in the glare of the public.

Really, why should I not criticize journalists? And, why should I not defend journalists?
While I wholeheartedly subscribe to constructive criticism of the media, I take strong exception to the disparaging attacks on the press, even from surprising quarters such as the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew HassanKukah. I have for long (as long as I began to read newspapers) admired Kukah for his incisive articles. Then again, I was quite proud as a Catholic that Kukah, a Catholic priest, was standing courageously for equity and justice.
However, Kukah has drawn my ire, taking his standing in my eyes some notches down. To say the least, I am truly disappointed that Kukah in a newspaper interview on the activities of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram, was not hinged on religion, roundly condemning the Nigerian media for “constantly misleading people about Christians bombing churches or Muslims bombing mosques.” That was from a renowned cleric propelled to dizzying heights of fame by his long involvement with the media?

I thought long and hard, and concluded that what Kukah really needs from me is empathy, bearing in mind that his present duty post within the Caliphate requires immense discretion on his part. But in doing all he can not to offend his hosts unduly, it must not translate into his taking cheap shots at the press. Certainly, not!
It is unfortunate that the respected Catholic priest has chosen this terrible path, in which the press gets saddled with blames for dislocations in the society. It is an escapist route that does no one any good. It is like the legend of the ostrich that buries the relatively tiny head in the sands, leaving its hefty body exposed to whatever threat it may be seeking escape from. Sooner than later, the Nigerian press would be blamed for unduly reporting the pervasive corruption in the system. Sooner than later, the Nigerian press would be blamed for so many failings in the system; so many failings in private lives or/and public lives of persons in the public eye.

The rotten icing on the cake of campaign of calumny against the Nigerian press is the threat from Boko Haram, warning journalists that the terrorist group would certainly reach out to deal ruthlessly with those journalists, who, allegedly, have been misrepresenting it. Did Boko Haram issue any press release before Channels Television’s hardworking reporter, Enenche Akogwu, was gunned down at Farm Centre area in Kano metropolis?
Thankfully, a less final fate befell a pack of judiciary correspondents, who were recently brutalised and clamped into detention at the Area ‘F’ Headquarters of the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja, on the orders of the Presiding Magistrate of Court No. 6 Ikeja, Chief Magistrate A. A. Osoniyi. The journalists reportedly were having a face-off with a certain female Police prosecutor within the complex when the female Chief Magistrate promptly ordered their arrest and detention. An order, a detachment of heavily-armed Police personnel ruthless enforced.
In the wake of the alleged mass rape at Ogun State of certain school girls returning by luxury bus from Enugu to Lagos, some journalists who reportedly sought clarifications at the girls’ school and other quarters were demonised.

Will the bashing of the Nigerian media ever abate or cease? No! The press and its works are ever in the public domain, and, therefore, constantly exposed to public scrutiny and analysis and the varied conclusions thereof.
I have never been one for the them-and-us mentality of certain professionals in dealing with non-members of their profession. It is a siege mentality that does no one any good, because it prevents constructive criticism that helps nurture a profession. Them-and-us mentality in journalism does not help the profession or the professionals, because it engenders the holier-than-thou attitude that equally does not do anyone any good.
The Nigerian media, just like the press worldwide, is but a component of the larger society, imbued with all that society offers the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly.
As I join Obey’s throng of admirers in wishing him well on his 70th birthday, I respectfully beg to borrow, as wise counsel for the Nigeria press, the line from Ketekete “… Do your best and leave the rest.”

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