The Making Of Cult Journalism

By Abraham Ogbodo

NOBODY is stopping the All Progressives Congress (APC) from singing its song of change even at a pitch that is environmentally offensive. The democratic stage anywhere is a bedlam and each player has to develop capacity to make meaning out of the organised confusion.

It is therefore very disturbing, when some quarters insist on everybody becoming an APC chorister and sing the same song.One Olabode Johnson, writing in the Nation of March 12 criticized Mr. Shaka Momodu, the editor of Thisday On Saturday for singing a different song other than the approved anthem for the 2015 electoral outings – positive change from 57-year old Jonathan to 73-year old Buhari. Somehow, he brought me and Mr. Jide Ajani, the editor of Vanguard On Sunday into it. Hear him: “Now in the court of Public opinion, is it not true that you, Shaka Momoh (sic) is a member of the Strategic Committee of the PDP along with Jide Ajani (Editor, Vanguard On Sunday), Abraham Ogbodo (Editor, The Guardian On Sunday) all hands-in-glove with the PDP’s fair-weather friend, Femi Fani-Kayode and of course Olisa Metuh? All of you do meet regularly in Abuja to strategise on how to undermine the integrity of stalwarts of the APC, don’t you?”

To answer him directly, it is not true and I had complained to the Managing Director of The Nation, Mr. Victor Ifijeh last Thursday, who promised to retract that aspect of the publication. I am waiting. Meanwhile, I do not understand the integrity of APC’s stalwarts the writer is talking about and how the three of us mentioned are strategizing to undermine same. Maybe, he is saying that it is integrity for these same stalwarts to deliberately send dummy photographs to the press with the sole aim of misinforming the public on issues. And whoever had the courage to condemn the shameless act publicly is a strategist hired by the PDP to undermine the integrity of APC’s stalwarts. It is also integrity for an APC stalwart to shout wolves about military surveillance on him when nothing close to such was on the card and people should have remained silent on the truth for fear of being branded PDP-sponsored strategists to undermine APC’s stalwarts. It is integrity to orchestrate in the media a fictitious visit by General Muhammadu Buhari, the face of the APC, to Chibok community to commiserate with parents and guardians of the abducted 200 schoolgirls. Like the mysterious angel in the Arabian tale, we ought to have accepted seeing Buhari in Chibok talking with the traumatized parents of the abducted girls to avoid being branded hatchet men contracted by the PDP to undermine Buhari. Buhari is, after all, a man and not donkey and deserved a good rest and medical checks after an exhaustive 60-day electioneering. But saying so will be seen as a strategy to undermine APC’s stalwarts who said Buhari went to London to speak at Chatham House and not to seek medical attention. Even when the man arrived back in Nigeria after 15 days and admitted being a man who could fall ill and be treated in either a Nigerian or London hospital, the APC’s handlers who did not want PDP-sponsored strategist to undermine the integrity of Buhari, still held on to the Chatham House cover-up.

As they say, those who want equity should come to the sharing table with clean hands. Olabde Johnson (by the way I have been reliably told he is faceless) had clear eyes to see only three reporters on the PDP’s Strategic Committee working to liquidate APC, but could not see the multitude on his own side, including two or so newspapers, which are bad enough to be called APC’s newsletter working to bring down the PDP and President Jonathan. Why should good journalism and, in fact, patriotism at this point in Nigeria’s history be defined by the level of support the practitioner has for Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the APC? Or by the volume of lies one is prepared to propagate on behalf of Tinubu and the APC? If that is what it truly takes, I do not want to be a good journalist or a patriot. Put differently, Tinubu and all that he represents have been lifted above board by the Nigerian media. Consequently, anything that does not align well with him and his viewpoint is taken as sin against the Holy Spirit, which is unforgivable. For instance, if the man farts, we are denied the small right of blocking our nostril from inhaling the arising foul air, or of even gosh, something bad is smelling! While I shall not attempt to hold brief for Mr. Momodu because he is gallant enough to fight his fight, I would want to note that in the article in question – The Change We Need published in Thisday of March 10, 2015 – Momodu did not make his own claims. He merely restated what had been off loaded in the public domain and as a public commentator asked why certain traditions had not been observed concerning the issues on ground.

Specifically, he asked why certain elders and youths had not characteristically raised their voices in condemnation of Tinubu and Governor Fashola over allegation of fraud against them. Was that too much to ask by a fellow Nigerian who is also a stakeholder? Olabode Johnson or whoever was behind the mask did not need to attack the straw man. He didn’t have to say “Shaka’s piece is fit for the trash can where it belongs (and) Shaka himself is fit for the dregs.” Haba! We nor go talk again because some people are on a mission to canonize Senator Tinubu as Saint Tinubu? Olabode pontificated on the “drastic depreciation of the core values and statutory mandate of Nigeria’s mass media as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.” Good treatise. Maybe these values will appreciate if the media remains silent even when it is all over town that an individual has stolen a polytechnic, a nursing school, the headquarters of a local government area and indeed an entire community. Now, before our very eyes, part of the Atlantic Ocean is being stolen and nobody is speaking loud enough for the heavens to intervene.

By Olabode’s definition, it is good reporting to always describe President Goodluck Jonathan who, in only six years, has built 200 schools to lift the almajiris of Northern Nigeria as clueless, and in another stroke, ascribe all the clues in the world to Buhari who, in and out of office, has not been associated with any capacity building initiative to help the disadvantaged youths of the region. It is also value added journalism to describe former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man who could not do the road to his house in Ota and had mindlessly concessioned the reconstruction of the all-important Lagos – Ibadan Expressway to a ‘businessman’ instead of a construction company as a visionary leader and then call Jonathan, an Ijaw man who is turning the failed road to a 10-lane motorway, visionless. No doubt, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu is a master strategist. His generosity is part of his overall strategy. He is the type that gives a house when you ask him for money to pay your rent and gives a car when all you ask is little money to replace your tired tyres. He issues IOUs to all quarters without conditions attached and without bothering about when such IOUs will be retired.

And so, in one way or the other, many people, including journalists, academics, rights activists, politicians, etc, have good reasons to be grateful to Tinubu. If an Olabode Johnson and many others are therefore so agitated when light is cast in the direction of Tinubu for critical illumination, Nigerians should understand why. In the media today, it takes real courage to put Tinubu to task. That is why only very few people are talking, whereas there is so much to talk about in Lagos State where Tinubu has held sway directly and by proxy since the start of this democracy in 1999. There is something close to cult journalism that is rising rapidly and threatening to take the centre stage. In the course of his political career, the Ashiwaju has scored some high points, like when he successfully defended Lagos State against the PDP onslaught on the Southwest in 2003. He has chosen in 2015 to defend the entire country against the PDP. Not too many people agree with him and that is the crux of the matter.

The post The Making Of Cult Journalism appeared first on The Guardian Nigeria.

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