Obasanjo and the Nigerian Newspapers

by Femi Sobowale

Nigeria’s immediate past leader; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo can not stop amusing me. His latest diatribe against the Nigerian newspapers while receiving a “Lifetime Achievement Award” in Abeokuta should not go unnoticed. It is quite disturbing that one of the country’s leaders who is supposed to realize the effect and weight of his public pronouncements descended so low as to declare that he does not read Nigerian newspapers. Then, one may ask: Through which medium was he getting feedback on feelings about the people he presided over while his tenure lasted? It is ironic that Nigeria is being ruled by leaders who feel they can say what catches their fancy, which hurt people’s feelings, and get away with it.

For all intent and purposes, Obasanjo’s hatred for the Nigerian press is never in doubt, and it dated back to his first coming as a military dictator. In his estimation, journalists are good-for-nothing bunch of idiots who write about him for their newspapers to make money. To show the seriousness he apparently attached to his name being used on the pages of Nigerian newspapers, he has threatened to ask his lawyer about the possibility of charging a 10 percent commission henceforth.

That Obasanjo is feeding the fingers that fed him is an understatement. During his travails in the hands of General Sanni Abacha, the general feeling in the press was that he was framed up by the military junta. It was the same Nigerian press that fought alongside other democratic elements in the country, and called for his unconditional release from the gulag in which his “boys” put him. At that time, the Nigerian press stood by him and other alleged coup plotters against the military government that almost succeeded in sending him to his early grave.

Now that he has gained tremendously from the goodwill exhibited by the Fourth Estate of the Realm, he has the audacity to call the practitioners names when it suits his purpose. The god of repercussion is watching Obasanjo and his co-passengers who see nothing good about the press, except when they are been praised for doing nothing other than leading the nation into economic and political disaster they left it.

It is recommended that the back-to-school leader should be tutored on the basic lessons that include reading with emphasis on Nigerian newspapers. This way, his interest in reading, not glancing through the pages might be enhanced a little bit. And for all we care, he may change for the better, and becomes an avid reader of Nigerian newspapers.

On a personal note, the story about Obasanjo’s attack on the press somewhat inflicts a psychological pain on me. It also reminds me about what happened on Wednesday, July 26 1995, when as a BBC reporter, I was arrested alongside Wola Adeyemo of Tell magazine during a press conference called by Dr. Tunji Abayomi, the then attorney for the incarcerated Obasanjo. At the Shangisha, Lagos office of the State Security Service (SSS), we had our tape recorders scrutinized and the tapes confiscated. Although, Adeyemo and I regained our freedom about four hours later, Dr. Abayomi was put away for almost one year.

I am not complaining about the incident here because of my personal ordeal in the hands of the security operatives, but just to show that the press can sacrifice for what it believes in at all times, irrespective of who is involved, whether a friend or a foe.

To Matthew Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, I say God will judge you accordingly at the appropriate time. Amen.

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1 comment

Patricia August 28, 2007 - 12:14 pm

The only thing I would like to say in reference to your well-written article is that "God will judge us ALL accordingly at the appropriate time". With that in mind, we should pray for those that we deem who practice inappropriate behavior, and make sure "we" ourselves are walking in ways that will not bring harsh judgment with God. We all can sharpen up in some way. I am not standing up for Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo nor talking against him, for I do not know him like you do. But to pronounce the judgment of God on others, is to say your are in such standing that your life exemplifies the perfection of what God is looking for. Just my thought.


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