Q. Do you have friends in government and who are they?
A. That’s the funniest question I would say; I only know people in government in Nigeria the same way a student would learn about them in a civics class. I have never been to a governor’s office before, never met anyone in the executive arm of the government in Nigeria. As a policy, I don’t attend gatherings where Nigerian government officials gather. Only if there was a protest!
Q. Has President Olusegun Obasanjo or other government officials ever tried to contact you over a story, directly or indirectly?
A. Until recently, whenever we published stories I never even have a contact e-mail attached. Jonathan’s contact and office phones are the ones listed on the website. There are a few moves here and there that I suspected were attempts at reaching out to me from government quarters, but I am really very quick to rebuff such attempts. I make it clear that I have no interest in working either for Obasanjo or any crook running Nigeria today. But from our sources in Nigeria, we have been regaled by the stories that they are concerned about our activities. I am usually happy when I hear that they ask who those boys are. There was no room in my heart to consider working for any of them, I hate their type of governance with passion.
Q. Have you finally reconciled with Governor Orji Kalu? And what do you think of his 2007 bid for president?
A. I never had any beef with Governor Orji Kalu. Shortly after he denied the existence of that interview with me, he called me to say some nice things about me and he told me that he believes in what we do, but with a caveat that he wants us to be “friends” and would like me to get familiar with his campaign for President. I detest politicians especially Nigerian politicians and I have never thought Orji Kalu to be a principled person. In 2007, I think he will be running for relevance, his presidential bid is of value as long as he is not ignored. In my estimate, I think Gov. Orji Kalu is obsessed with publicity to the extent that he will fall sick if he were to open a newspaper in the morning and not find his name!
Q. Are you interested in the 2007 politics? What will you say if you are called upon to serve your people in any capacity?
A. I have repeatedly said it that I don’t believe in the political process in Nigeria, I am not interested in politics, I am hoping that my future engagements can help clean the Aegean Stable called Nigeria and open the political space for honest people to participate in politics, but not this one! I hate the cliché that people can be invited to serve their fatherland, it gives credence to the belief that the homeland actually belongs to some feudal lords who can call in people to serve at their pleasure, I consider my writings as more than enough service to the Nigerian people!
Q. So after elendureports.com, what next? Any plans to set up your own news agency?
A. I might set up a news feed kind of website or a blog. Generally, I want to continue to make my writings available in as many media and platforms as possible.
Q. What is your assessment of the Nigerian Journalist today?
A. It is very hard to say, I witnessed the era of journalism when the Nigerian press practically ran Nigeria from their various newsrooms. They made the daily life of Nigerian dictators miserable, even though they controlled NTA, Radio Nigeria and some other government – owned newspapers. They really tried and they worked hard! But the topography of media ownership has altered all that. Most of the newspapers are owned by State Governors and persons active in government. I guess that is the source of the quality of what is in the Nigeria media today. There is an unspoken and unwritten rule that some of the newspapers would not rock the boat of their owners, no matter how interesting or factual a story may be. But I still doff my hat for the average newspaper reporter in Nigeria. They are bearing the torch, but the batteries are really weak!
Q. Have you ever thought about taking your skills back to Nigeria, to work either for the Nigerian government or other communication agencies?
A. My skills, (if you call them skills) are currently deplored in Nigeria. We write reports that are targeted at Nigeria and Nigerians- both at home and abroad, I will not work for an undemocratic and anti-peoples’ government, so do not expect me to work for government. I will continue to ally with credible communication agencies in Nigeria and in the diaspora with the aim of furthering our aspirations for a fair, just, transparent and equitable Nigeria! I already work in Nigeria out of the US, my heart and soul is in Nigeria. The only difference is that I don’t get paid for working for Nigeria because I don’t work for the “owners of Nigeria” using Seyi Oduyela’s words.
Q. Tell us about the special woman in your life? Or do you think that women get intimated by your ‘tell all’ brand of writing?
A. If you have a sister, woul
d you ever encourage her to marry me? I will have to check with the special woman in my life if she would like her affairs to be discussed on the internet. No, I have decided to carry this cross alone for now; I have a private life and a special someone whom I have decided not to bring into my public life!
Q. How do you relax in your free time?
A. I don’t really have much free time. I swim during the summer, if I ever have time to do so. I grew up beside a lake, I love water a lot!
Q. Have you ever thought about writing a book about your experiences with your exposé writing, just like Ndaeyo Uko’s satirical book on Babangida’s presidency (Rock ‘n’ Rule)?
A. I have a life that pre-dates writing exposés; I have started writing my experiences down gradually. I don’t like to promise to write a book because I don’t want anyone to hold me to that promise, if I don’t do it on time. I would first love to write about my life as a student activist before I write about the things I did as a ‘roadside’ journalist
Q. One looks at you sometimes and remembers Dele Giwa and his dogged approach to news reporting, something that eventually cost him his life. Are you not afraid of your life?
A. There is a point to which you get and you should never have to worry about your security. I have reached that point in my life. So many attempts have been made on my life already, I can conveniently say that everyday of my life is a borrowed day in life. On this latest trip to Lagos in December 2005, I was held at gunpoint by a bike-robber (Lagos Robbers who operate on Okada motorcycles), I was there in front of him with two of my friends arguing why I won’t be lying down on the street, because he wanted my money, until one of my friends created a distraction that enabled us to escape. This happened to me in full public glare, vehicles were passing by and they watched as we were held up with a silver gun that was conspicuous for all to see. There was street light. It was in front of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) near Agidingbi in Ikeja-Lagos, it was less than three minutes from the office of a major newspaper and about 25 yards from a police checkpoint. After we escaped that ordeal, I told myself once again that no one is safe in Nigeria, it doesn’t matter what you do, and such is the life of an average Nigerian citizen. It has no value really, our leaders treat us the same way an armed robber would treat us!
Q. Have you ever been arrested or detained in Nigeria over some of your stories?
A. I know that we may probably have been arrested or harassed or even killed for every single story we have written. But somehow, they don’t control the media spaces we use. They do threaten us with anonymous phone calls, they threaten to sue us. Once, they broke into my car in Brooklyn, my car windows were smashed. But, I am sure they know that those things don’t mean anything to me. Even, Ngozi Okonji- Iweala (the minister of finance) with her Harvard education was threatening us, saying that Nigerian SSS has contacted the FBI because we published her home address in one of our stories; you can bet she would have ordered our detention if we were within her jurisdiction!
Q. Do you have any role models?
A. I read about role models in primary and secondary schools in civics/history class. In the university, I had to fight each and everyone of them, part of what needs to change are those ideas of role models, our history celebrates crooks, we now know better.
Q. Finally, what are your dreams for Nigeria?
A. People who can’t sleep can’t dream, I would like to see a Nigeria after a revolution. Seriously, the world of dreams smacks of certain laziness that makes me think we are still on our knees waiting for answered prayers, it depicts a surreal life of something out of space. Dreams make me think of complacency, you don’t really need to go to sleep to know how you want Nigeria to be!