Reporting Mr Lai Mohammed’s men to him

Tunji Ajibade

It is the last Friday of the month when I look in on the media.  On September 7, 2017, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo asked a question at the public presentation of a book on the late Danmasanin Kano, Yusuf Maitama Sule. Osinbajo wondered where dedicated biographers were who should be writing the stories of Nigerian elder statesmen who had begun to pass on.  He said these elders were walking history, but they might go with what they knew that should be beneficial to us all. I identify with his observation. However, as a writer who has approached some of these elder statesmen for the purpose of writing about them, I have my experience.

One, some of these elder statesmen are not keen, for whatever reason. Even when you state that you’re funding the project, and all you want is their readiness to be interviewed and get an introduction to other relevant people, they’re still not interested. Two, the keen biographer who has the ability often doesn’t have the kind of funds needed to conduct a thorough research and write. The VP can help with a policy that creates special funds for biographers and writers generally who embark on such projects that are beneficial to our collective history. (It is done in other climes, one reason they have such rich collections).  Also, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, who’s been doing something for the creative industry can help give special attention to this category of creative writers.

Three, my experience is that government officials whose duty it is to take care of public documents sometimes make it difficult to access files on public figures. So, even if one wants to conduct research and write “unauthorised” biographies of  public figures, (this is done everywhere), government officials may constitute a hindrance.  For instance, I’ve heard officials at one of the National Archives asking researchers who are writing on retired public figures to get a letter from the person concerned, or his family members (if the public figure is late), before files on such a person can be accessed. Documents are in archives for researchers to use. But government officials have come up with their own rules to obstruct. The Minister of Information and Culture needs to look into what his men at the archives are doing.

Meanwhile, on October 29, 2017, People TV, at 8:24pm, and while airing “Top Stories” labelled Mr Jagaba Adams on screen as a member of the All Progressives Congress. This was as Adams made contributions in the House of Reps with regard to allegations levelled against the sacked civil servant, Mr Abdulrasheed Maina. Meanwhile, Adams is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Southern Kaduna where his formidable presence was the reason the APC was denied his seat in the 2015 House of Reps elections. This despite the fact that the APC had 56 per cent of the popular vote in the Southern Kaduna senatorial zone to win the 2015 governorship election.

I’m still wondering why, on May 23, 2017, at 10:55am, the AIT presenter of “Focus Nigeria” received a phone call while he was on air. “Focus Nigeria” is never a phone-in programme, but the presenter stopped in the middle of interviewing his guest to pick the call on his cell phone while he was on air. He complained later that the caller knew he was on air yet he called. This permissiveness, and others like it, that I regard as “looseness” in the broadcast media regarding simple professional requirements baffles me.

I took note that ARISE NEWS’ presenter, Charles Aniagolu, could not rest while he was on holiday in 2017. He had disappeared from screen for a while, obviously for his annual leave, but on May 22, 2017, at 11:33pm, Aniagolu did a special report from where he was on holiday in Antigua and Barbuda. His unusual casual dressing, a cool summer-flower patterned shirt, gave him away. He interviewed Robert De Niro, a movie veteran, as well as the Prime Minister of the island, Gasten Browne, for eight minutes. He did a series on his stay, with another aired on May 23, 2017. Aniagolu is like any typical journalist who sees news wherever he is but won’t let it go simply because he is on holiday. I understand him. I knew occasions when I was invited to events as a guest but I ended up either watching things unfold with the mindset of writing a news report later, or just process information that I could use in my prose fiction and drama writings.

On March 24, 2017, at 11:27pm, NTA showed the training it held for its staff at its Abuja headquarters. It was said that those trained would go to the various zones to train others in the areas of audio, visual, handling of camera etc. for TV broadcasting. I thought the train-the-trainer arrangement was good as the resource persons, foreigners, had been brought in to conduct the training. This rhymes with my call that our institutions should save scarce foreign exchange through such an approach. On another note, I’ve always had to shake my head in wonder when leaders who lack credibility in the continent are all that we can push forward when it’s time to mediate in disputes in other nations. On November 1, 2017, at 6:33pm, on “Focus on Africa”, the BBC reported that regional leaders in West Africa appealed to Liberians ahead of the last presidential rerun election. Concerned party leaders were told to maintain the peace and to ensure that a free and fair election was conducted. Seated beside the immediate past Liberian president, Sirleaf Johnson, was President Faure Eyadema of Togo who was ECOWAS leaders’ representative to Liberia for the parley.

Back in his country, Eyadema isn’t willing to leave power after spending almost 20 years. His sit-tight approach has led to street protests and deaths in Lome. Rather than make plans to exit, Eyadema has been sounding a note of warning to agitators. I guess, he wants to rule until he dies in office, like his father. The fact that such a leader was the one appealing to parties in Liberia to hold a free and fair election is ludicrous, and it shows the flank of this continent for what it is.  I suppose when Eyadema finally throws Togo into a certain chaos, many of us on the continent will, as usual, point to western countries as the cause of all our problems.

I notice that each time officials speak on railway transport and what the government is doing, it is always the Lagos-Kano, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway lines they talk about. Yet, those ones have been there for over 100 years. On NTA News, at 9:06pm, October 5, 2017, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, reportedly briefed the President on the state of railway expansion projects. While speaking to newsmen, he also talked only about Lagos-Kano and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri projects. So one should ask: What is happening to the two new rail lines outlined in blueprints for the Lagos-South-South and the Kwara-South-East axis? This, to me, is expansion. I wait to hear the minister tell us something new and heartwarming.

Why does the NTA, from its Abuja headquarters, send out reporters to the states to cover events when its stations in those states have reporters on the ground? On  October 5, 2017, at 9:31pm, the GMD of  the NNPC, Mr Maikanti Baru, was shown on NTA in the course of his visit to the Ibadan depot of the NNPC to inaugurate a project.  One NTA reporter and cameraman in Abuja went to Ibadan to cover the event. This approach hinders development of manpower and facilities at the state and zonal levels.

One can’t fail to notice the show foreign reporters always put up in order to cast a stereotype of Africa. On August 20, 2017, at 4:59pm, the BBC showed the promo of a documentary on Lagos State, marking 50 years of its creation. After some Eyo masqueraders were shown in this promo as the symbol of Lagos, the next picture was a long line of shanties, and the next was the crowded balcony of a residential building with the PHCN cables hanging dangerously like cobwebs over residents. As usual, that’s the BBC’s Lagos State in 30 seconds; no glimpse of the beautiful sceneries that the current administration has made possible, all for the purpose of pushing a negative narrative of Africa that foreign reporters always have in mind.

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