“A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.”
–Graham Greene (1904-1991) English writer
The above quote aptly summarizes the present state of our fourth estate of the realm in Nigeria. Nigerian journalism is indeed in dire strait, and sadly I am gradually giving up hope that things will get better. In the past I wrote about newspapers publishers turning news organization into music concerts and award ceremonies event sections. Today, my focus is on the Nigerian journalist and the continued rot of the much esteemed profession in Nigeria.
Last weekend, Nigeria played a World Cup qualifying match against Sierra Leone which Nigeria won by 1 goal to nil. Virtually all Nigerian newspapers sent their reporters to cover the match and they along with BBConline reported that, Joseph Yobo notch home the lone goal with his right leg in a goal post melee. You will think that Nigerian sports journalist who could not make it to Freetown to watch the game, will at least stay glued to their television set, after all the match was broadcast live; especially if they are going to be writing about the game.
Well, wait for this shocker and welcome to the world of Ade Ojeikere and his copy editors at The Nation newspapers. Here is an excerpt of their report published online on 8/6/08:
“Yobo, in a move reminscent of his goal scoring form for English Premier League club, Everton rose to meet the kick with a header for the goal which shocked the hopeful Leone Stars.
The problem with Mr. Ojeikere report is that the goal in question was not scored by a “header.” Yobo scored the goal by a kick with his right leg and not with his head. A header, for those not familiar with soccer, is any contact with the ball with your head.
The second problem with the report has to do with the pejorative employed by Mr. Ojeikere: “in a move reminiscent of his goal scoring form for English Premier League club Everton.” The real fact however is that in the season just ended, Yobo made a total of 39 appearances in Everton uniform and he scored only one goal! And that goal was not recent, that goal was scored on April 27, 2008 in a match between Everton and Aston Villa that ended in a 2-2 draw.
Throughout his entire club career, Joseph Yobo made a total of 272 appearances for his club and scored a total of 9 goals. I pulled all these stats from BBC online within minutes of reading Mr. Ojeikere’s warped logic and subverted facts. My question is what happened to those good old Nigerian sports journalistic pedigree established by the likes of Trigo Egbegi and Yunusa Akee?
It might appear to some that I am picking on fictional writer like Ade Ojeikere wantonly, and I agree. The reason being he still calls himself a journalist. I believe he is part of the decay, along with the likes of Onochie Anibeze, Feyi Ogunduyile et al. They ranked themselves as “landlord” of Nigerian sports journalism, where they reign and rule. They hobnobbed with the sports minister and sports council administrators. Woes betide the minister or national team coach who will not pay obeisance to them upon assumption of office. They read ethnic meaning to every move by the national coach. They openly slant match reports to suit whoever paid their way to the match venues. They are part of the reason Nigeria soccer league is in doldrums.
The main problem however is that they often take their zealous advocacy for “filthy lucre” above the national good. Most of them operate as consultants to many soccer clubs, the Nigeria Football Association and the Nigerian Football League all of whom they draw money from whilst they report the same entity to the reading masses who pay them to be independent news journalist. The blatant hypocrisy and conflict of interest inherent in these practices is often subtly expressed in their reports. Like other sector of Nigeria journalism today, no attempt is made to disclose the relationship with the personnel they are covering and reporting on.
Take for instance, the well known relationship between the erstwhile secretary general of NFA, Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi and Mr. Ade Ojeikere. It took the firing of the former from his “exalted position” and an attempt by the latter to cultivate another relationship with his successor before the readers of Ojeikere knew that all along whilst he turns out lofty reports of NFA spotless preparation for the world cup, he has actually being working as consultants and adviser to the secretary general of NFA!
Everyone (except the readers of Vanguard) also knows about the relationship between the national soccer coach of Nigeria, Shuaibu Amodu and the Vanguard sports editor/columnist, Onochie Anibeze. The chummy relationship was such that Amodu once asked one of his players to disembark from the team bus so he could accommodate Mr. Anibeze. The reward for Mr. Amodu is unquantifiable; every critic of the national coach can bank on a rejoinder from Anibeze, laced with ethnic diatribe against whoever dared to criticize his benefactor. The symbiotic relationships have worked well for this journalist at the expense of their profession and the Nigeria masses.
As a result of such unholy alliance, the age old trust in Nigeria journalism has been seriously eroded. We now have journalist who covers a minister for a year or two, only to report nothing but glowing attributes about that minister and ministry. Only for us to find out later that the same journalist has been working as media consultant to the same ministry. If you read any glowing reports about a Nigerian soccer player, you need to check out the writer, he is probably also working as agent to the same player or media consultant!
We need to start asking tough questions from our mainstream media in Nigeria. Whatever happened to investigative journalism? Where do they stand in the struggle to defend our hard earned democracy? Where were they when the minister of Health approved 10 million naira for National Assembly members junket to Ghana? Where were they when Nigerian online alternative media breaks news of corruption in Nigeria? We can’t continue to put up with fiction writers masquerading as serious journalist, commission agents pretending as defenders of the masses.