Citizens As Journalists

by Uche Nworah

Not surprisingly, Mr Abati’s analysis of the interview continues to generate mixed reactions, alongside the original interview on internet forums and pepper soup joints, in one of such forums, a pundit went as far as alleging that Mr Abati has chosen to pitch his tent and loyalty where his ‘mouth’ is, and that since his other job is emceeing events for the rich and mighty, he wouldn’t want to tinker with such a secure and regular revenue stream, as against Sowore whose exposé writing will not in any way affect his day job working with catholic charity organisations in New York.

With all due respects to his past journalistic accomplishments but Levi Obijiofor’s comments regarding the said interview passes him off as a creature from the past and an enemy of progress. Hear him; ‘The opinions expressed in that interview were clumsy and in bad taste because never before has the nation experienced the son of a sitting president expressing, on the pages of the print media, personal opinions that were designed to pour scorn on the image of his father’s deputy, and other serving public officers in the country’. Maybe someone needs to remind Mr Obijiofor what generation we are in, this is the information age, the age of individual freedom, liberty and public welfare. Why look for precedents or lack of it to justify Gbenga’s actions?

According to Mr Obijiofor ‘Journalists who engage in unethical conduct are usually tried by a committee set up by the relevant press council. In this regard, Gbenga Obasanjo might consider lodging an official complaint with the Nigerian Press Council or the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).’ Mr Obijiofor is already assuming the position of both jury and judge.

His analysis is more pathetic than Mr Abati’s because he spoke from the two sides of the mouth, questioning both Gbenga’s character and motives, and at the same time attacking Mr Sowore with the same ethics argument. But in so doing, he fell flat on his face because the Sowore that he is recommending to the NUJ to be sanctioned is neither a journalist, nor a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), he is a citizen journalist, citizen journalists operate without borders just like the Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders). So how does he expect NUJ to sanction somebody that does not operate within its scope?

The Sowore/Gbenga Obasanjo interview is only an eye opener and an indication of the sign of things to come, because as the idea of citizen journalism catches on more in Nigeria, more and more Nigerians will begin to feel so empowered to pick up their pens and keyboards and write about the issues that affect them the most, there is no longer any fear about the mainline media refusing to publish such alternative views because the independent internet websites are there to give such views a right of place.

What really should concern these two veteran journalists – Mr Obijiofor and his colleague Mr Abati are the ways to improve the working conditions of the Nigerian journalist, so as to adequately empower them to be able to continue to live up to societal expectations in an increasingly changing and globalized world, if not, the activities of citizen journalists like Sowore may cause their honourable profession to become increasingly irrelevant in Nigeria. Casting an inward look on the state of the journalism profession in Nigeria is very much desirable now.

Gbenga Obasanjo in the said interview remarked thus; ‘One day, I was at Abeokuta with the Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniels; these press guys came in and started asking hard questions. The moment they were served with food, they left their scrap papers and rushed the food. Of course the next day, their reports were very shiny. That’s the way it goes over here. The press boys are a hungry bunch’. In their commentaries, Reuben Abati broached lightly on this serious indictment of the journalism profession while Levi Obijiofor did not even touch it at all. Mr Abati’s answer to Gbenga’s allegation seem to have been made from the corner of a ‘victim’-‘The sad thing about journalism is that all kinds of persons have ideas about it, since in any case it is a profession into which anyone can dabble and start claiming authority’. This remark has hardly addressed the crises facing the Nigerian journalist today raised by Gbenga’s comments.

While the debate about what is in the public interest continues, it must also be pointed out that people who declare themselves eligible to rule, are at the same time accepting the fact that a thin line will separate their private and public lives. Their various activities become news, rightly and wrongly, they know this from day one as it is the nature of the game. Goldfish has no hiding place, especially rotten goldfish. The appetite of the public and their expectations in this Big Brother age is limitless; such can only be satisfied by full citizens’ involvement in a vibrant media landscape and not a docile one.

In recognition of the UK public’s insatiable desire and appetite for information about their government, Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government in addition to the usual information flow and exchanges with the Whitehall and 10 Downing street press corps recently experimented with a novel concept, they allowed Channel 4 black female presenter (June Sarpong) to follow the Prime Minister for 24 hours to capture a day in the life of a British Prime Minister. The documentary will be aired on the 30th of January 2006.

Would our leaders in Nigeria ever agree to such a programme, or do they still have things to hide?

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mike January 16, 2006 - 12:25 pm

Eniola, Rubbish! I am not the admin of this site and thank God. Talking of intolerant you are more intolerant than anyone. Below is posted your comment a couple of weeks ago, where another sensible Nigerian knocked you for your careless intolerance, now you want to preach to me. Pot Calling kettle black!


Sanya: Here comes the problem with the average braindead Nigerian. Nothing in this interview has anything to do with your deductions, except if you are the person who wrote that stupid article about a little while ago. You may be looking for justifications because of the whupping you received.

However, it is important that you get this interview clearly. It speaks more to the rot in Nigeria than what elendureports did or did not do. Elendureports has done well, I believe they will continue to do well. Sowore's departure should be a wake up call. It wasn't flattering to see an informercial on "Donald Duke for President" on such a highly respected website a week ago. This stupid assumption in which people are castigated for speaking about the ills in Nigeria because there are ills in other places makes you look childish and of a vegetative mindset. So, because New York City Armed Robbers are worse than Nigerian armed robbers, no one should ever have to speak if they were mugged in Nigeria. Great sense of patrotism, I would say…

Learn, listen and look very well. In the meantime you can keep your broken record.

Uche Nworah, great interview and kudos for this!

(Written by Eniola)

Jaiye Eniola January 15, 2006 - 11:23 pm


You position is based upon your bitterness towards these 'citizen' journalists. I hope you are not the sole manager of this website. You are turning this website to an intolerant website for dissent and intellectual discourse. I am afraid your site will become atrophied for this reason and pretty soon too!

mike January 15, 2006 - 3:52 pm

I do not agree with your analysis of Abati;s article- in fact everyone that saw that piece saw it as a piece of work worthy of commendation. First, his assertion of journalistic ethos to sowore interview was not based on the professional credentials of Mr. Sowore but the reputation of The News the medium trhough which Sowore piece was being disseminated as a reliable source of news and good works of journalism. If sowore wants to become a citizen jorunalist, let him carry his gutter tactics to the jungle of the internet where he previously reigned- print media and other forms of regulated journalism pipelines should be left to people who can do their homework, honor the ethics of the profession and not take away from the inedependence of the press. However, the lack of ethics in the way that interview was taken does not take away from its substance which is the inability of Obsanjo to rule his own home and the need to sweep the government at all levels clean of so called 'smartsmen'

Anonymous January 15, 2006 - 12:25 pm

From Abati´s write-ups he is part and parcel of the system that entrenches corruption in Nigeria.It is very unfortunate that such a man would be the Chairman of the Editorial Board of a respected newspaper like the Guardian.His pen has been properly oiled with stolen crude oil money.However,

with people like Sowore being around we do know their

time of irelivance is drawing near.

Anonymous January 15, 2006 - 2:37 am

Sorry, Nworah. I think you go this one wrong, in spite of a long history of very adroit analyses. For one thing, the very journalists you mention as being "establishment" are very rarely pro-OBJ on anything. So their respective responses to this one stand out as uniqu. In my view, they make a just and responsible call for a re-examination of the principles that stand behind journalistic integrity. After all, knowledge of drug dispensing does not a physician make. But the more important case in point is this: we cannot throw out decency, integrity, and the rule of professionalism in the bid to usher in "a New and Brave world". Even as citizens, we hold a solemn responsibility to abide by rules – man-made rules which may seem arbitrary, but cement our societies together in some modicum of sanity. You should know this precisely because you are a Nigerian resident abroad. The laissez-faire attitude that we have taken to much in Nigeria, and which is tearing our country apart, you well know by now, is not tolerable in the part of the world where you and I reside. So your advocacy for principles that are diametrically opposed to a peaceful and rule-bound co-existence of the different individuals who make up society is worse than ill-advised. It is ominous in its suggestions of what we diasporans in Nigeria might be able to contribute to nation-building after all, even if we were given the chance, in spite of the hullabaloo that is made of our expatriation to foreign lands.


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