Governance in Nigeria may not represent an enthralling story, but not journalism. Acts of the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary at all levels may be nauseating, not so with the fourth estate of the realm. There are major bus-stops in Nigeria journalism that attract huge nods.
The success of Daily Times was simply massive. This has been adequately represented by writers including yours sincerely because Daily Times was triumph of journalism without question. If you had some bylines in that paper as I was privileged to have you will know how it feels for that paper to go under. Before it went cracking and crashing it was the toast of everyone.
Government it was that set Daily Times the only jewel in society on the path of decline and final collapse. But before the paper finally petered out another paper, The Guardian, was already bourgeoning itself to prominence. While one ebbed another surged out to the rescue of beautiful and forthright journalism. You know you cannot really kill journalism.
But while we were still caught in the thrills of The Guardian some very crude thing happened. Sanni Abacha descended on it, disallowed The Guardian to come to the streets after he rudely shot its doors for a long time. At last came out the paper. But fears were rife as to whether it will return to its beautiful journalism or recline background. The paper kept to its guns and greatly so. Informed minds were elated. Yours sincerely went beyond that.
On Friday, May 20, 1994 I did a piece in The Guardian under the caption: “The Guardian still writes on”. It visited the paper’s enigmatic entrant, then the niche it quickly created for itself, and then stated inter alia: “Macebuh, Jemie. Chinweizu, Bonuola, Osofisan et al – all, literary giants, have fathered this phenomenon. How else to capture and caption a resume of the beginning? When the gold shines bright who else has made it so? Bonuola with his present team is holding forth the baton, with all vigor, like star athletes. Again, when the gold shines bright and long who else has caused it to be … Meanwhile, Osadolor is webbing his way into many hearts every Sunday. Izeze, with skill and dash, rides high on Mondays. Tuesday is when Dare continues with his pedagogic and crisp touch. Odugbemi is doing what he knows best every Wednesday – exteriorizing, selecting and tacking words … Madunagu … is still fancying his ‘isms’ every Thursday … Abati’s graphic lines pierce through every Friday. To close The Guardian every Saturday, either Ikechukwu or Biakolo, with cadence, is making a difference between crisp and flexuous sentences”. Then it zoomed off to commend the efforts of sound, intelligent and astute reporters, rewrite men, editors and others in the paper, and wished or waited to see other papers join The Guardian at the top of good journalism.
And it was not long before that wish came through. At the appropriate time I rolled out again. Writing in the Daily Independent of Wednesday, September 24, 2003 and Vanguard of Tuesday 23, and Wednesday 24, 2003 under the caption, “The Triumph of Journalism”, I opined that some papers have come on board marked by technical and artistic merit, with an exhibition of a good mix of important news and features. With perfect nose for news and given to creative interviewing and the art of readable writing, they are working with words and avoiding word collision with all available senses. I thought they robustly share with the New York Times, its motto: ‘‘All the news that’s fit to print”.
So enthused I said thus: “There is wholeness competitiveness, which has translated the industry to a level never imagined and which has made all segments of society feel en famille with this industry’s vanguards. Even a casual reader of these papers cannot but be reminded of William Zinser’s book, On Writing Well. Today, the mastery of writing became robustly pronounced for the first time.
“A blossom of journalism, they are poised at bringing journalism to a flowering state and have reasonably achieved this. Scintillating and sensitized editorials, garnished and vibrant op-ed pages, and flowering and bejeweled reports deserve no less mention and commendation, even though the need for more balanced and the need to move further away from ‘public relations journalism’ cannot be over-flogged. Not that journalism can be void of genuine mistakes. Genuine mistakes, like polka dot – one dot in a regular pattern of dots – may after all be inevitable to get a better design, a better finishing. It is when mistakes become the rule, as with governance in Nigeria, that there is cause for alarm”.
The papers that attracted commendation then were This Day, Vanguard, The Punch and Daily Independent. And I did capture each of them in great details and must here resist the lure to recapitulate or even to synopsize those sweet representations. The Nation hasn’t berthed then. From nowhere it came as a bang, in a twinkle soared and now pitching its tent with the best.
But when I wrote in 2004 I was not altogether fulfilled. It would have been more fulfilling if I was able to similarly talk flourishingly about broadcast journalism. I couldn’t. I lacked such embellishments because they weren’t just there. Broadcast journalism has not represented any appeal apart from the handful of personalities that have been outstanding in news casting over the years at Nigeria Television Authority (NTA). Apart from those few, you almost throw up sometimes watching NTA. Moderate minds attribute that to government ownership, which is why I really abhor government ownership of any media house. Government media lock the real you in the cooler while you launch out like a robot. You seal up and mask for some players of the piper. Tonie Iredia rushes into your mind!
For more than thirty years Tonnie masked for those he worked for and eventually gained rare mastery of this art. But I watched the real Tony Iredia for the first time in thirty years plus when he came recently to Warri to deliver a lecture about elections in Nigeria. He vent out so much. Femi Falana couldn’t have done it better. Taken aback? No. I knew long ago (since his days at NTA Benin) that he was reaching us under lock and key. What a way to rise to the top at a government media house. We only sift out Tonnie as representative of others in government media houses. NTA, therefore, was out of reckoning.
Then the African Independence Television (AIT) came. Yes, some appeal; and in many areas wonderful. And we must give it to AIT that it runs one of the best programs on television. Which? Focus Nigeria of course. Gbenga’s unique and people representative presentations of his preludes engross you before the talk session; and he guides on thereafter fully in control. With no pretence for queens English he showcases the best of Nigeria English accent to the world. You always enjoy Gbenga if you love Nigeria. But Focus Nigeria is sadly now shooting itself on the foot with some so-called very special editions which actually are very nauseating rubbish. Generally, AIT is well above average. Good effort!
But we already notice that Raymond Dokpesi’s sundry political junketing is already taking its toll on AIT despite promises from the journalists
in that media house to the contrary. To Raymond: Build your house. You can govern from AIT. You can lead even presidents. Alright!
Now, for a television of marvel we give it to Channels Television. You see every day why it is the television of the decade. And you see it poised to have that back-to-back. That’s what the present consecutive annual peak ratings point to.
Chamberlain Usoh most brilliantly leads the wonderful duo of Angela Ajetomobi and Sulaiman Aledeh with Nneota Egbe superbly staying in occasionally. Good construction and control of the English, enthralling accent, and informed views coupled with good rapport that combine to have your rapt attention. And you never want that prelude to go. That prelude segment of Sunrise Daily is one of the best thrill and delight on television. And the handling of the rest of Sunrise Daily leaves you fulfilled too.
For sure, Chamberlain is pedaling his way to stardom. He must be a bundle of resourcefulness. His coordinating mastery is nonesuch. A gaze at him gives a prized take home. This generation can do it after all, you are wont to conclude. Journalism becomes enthralling after gluing to Chamberlain. If you’re looking for a capsule word, I supply two: Phenomenon, marvel! That’s what he is.
Angela Ajetomobi is another marvel. Her brilliance is stunning. Get ready to swallow some spittle and pump yourself up quietly or send a snap of prayer if she suddenly jerks in to put a query across or it’s her turn to throw a poser. Given to very searching, probing and thoughtful questions she is almost always to see a loophole and almost rightly so with any position advanced or canvassed. When the interviewee thought he has sealed up an issue and so dreaming up a sigh Angela comes up to put a lie to all that. And before she is through, not only that her guest knows he or she is at her mercy but leaves the audience out there hands akimbo. If you want to see the art of good interviewing Angela is a model. She is too much and that is drawing from Warri’s rich patois. No thumbs up will do for her.
At Channels TV, news reporting such as Deji Bademosi represents is most enthralling. Deji is distinctive and engrossingly so. Showcasing almost an inimitable reportorial skill you can proudly export him to yonder shores. He also anchors Politics Today. And it is first-rate. So superbly packaged and presented you wonder why Deji’s Politics Today is not aired daily. A toast for both anchor and program!
This TV station has also become the quintessence of news casting. That it has carved a niche for itself here is beyond question. A forte is what news casting is at Channels TV. The male trio of Ayotunde Balogun, Nneota Egbe and Sulaimah Aledeh compare with the best in CNN and anywhere for that matter. They come straight and clean. Keep it up boys! Maupe Ogun? Oh! Sonorous! No better word sums her up. I have compared Maupe with the female best in the world and she shoots up to their class. A sweet sensation she is, and the media world would do well to watch out. Charles Eruka: uhm! What can I really say? Yes, rising star sure to go places. Who else: many others. They all are wonderful. Who says the beautiful ones are not yet born! Of course, you cannot but also doff your hat for the old-timers and veterans there. Great pick each of them, and great assemblage.
You really cannot apply the period to a piece such as this without a word or two about Boason Omofaye and the Business Morning he anchors now at Channels TV. Formerly with AIT, he has now tacked with the Channels’ team bringing with him the rare fascination and flavor he gives to business news reportage. Who went for whom? John Momoh for him or the answer is in the flip of the coin. Whichever way, this must be a huge, huge lost for AIT. With Boason, whether in matter of content, presentation or interviews, it’s always business reporting come alive. Few have made business reporting interesting and wrapped glow around it in our clime, and Boason arguably excels them all. In him we see a gallant ride that has benefited corporate governance, and still will. Much of the pills governments need to steer the ship of state safely can be accessed in Business Morning.
This is a Nigerian Channel that makes journalism and broadcasting an enviable métier. We are talking of a Nigerian bride and pride. John Momoh’s taste and the goal that occasioned it come to the fore and you just can’t miss it. John hits you as one poised to give global journalism and broadcasting in particular a perspective that will mesmerize those international leaders of this industry.
John: You’ve got the best in our clime! But for the steam to last; for the bubble not to burst; and for the station to reach that global goal therefore, keep this team in high spirits. You know what I mean!