The Nigerian press, from all indications, is very vigorous and world-class. We cannot forget the historic roles played by certain great Nigerians, living and dead, in positioning and re-positioning the Nigerian media — making it one of the most vibrant in the African continent. Great men like the late Dele Giwa (who was bombed to ‘paradise’ by the IBB agents), late Bashorun MKO Abiola, Sam Amuka, Chief Segun Osoba, the late Olorogun Alex Ibru, late Chief Olu James Aboderin, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the late Stanley Macebuh, Dr Olatunji Dare etc. These men, sometimes resisting pressure from high quarters and even threats to their lives, bravely planted the seed of a media revolution we are now witnessing with pride.
Today we have a new generation publishers like ex-Governor of Abia State Chief Orji Uzor Kalu of ‘The Sun’, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of ‘The Nation’, the ritual-inclined ex-Governor of Ogun State Gbenga Daniel of the moribund ‘National Compass’, Bayo Onanuga of ‘The News’, Nosa Igiebor of ‘Tell’, Ms Comfort Obi of ‘The Source’ among others adding flavour and panache to the national debate. Some had paid a huge price for standing up for truth and justice when the national conscience was abused and raped by marauding military animals led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and late Gen. Sani Abacha.
We cannot forget the contributions of online publishers as well who have used the internet to further the cause of democracy and national development back home. We recognise here the radical ex-student union leader Comrade Omoyele Sowore of saharareporters.com and Mr Philip Adekunle of nigeriavillagesquare.com. And also the publisher of nigeriansinamerica.com Mr Sola Osofisan and Dr Phil Tam-Al Alalibo of newnigerianpolitics.com. Though defunct the publisher of ‘234Next’, Dele Olojede, must be commended here for taking the Nigerian media to the next level.
Globally acknowledged for upholding, even in trying difficult times especially during the military-organized state terrorism in form of governance, the constitutional right to freedom of expression and of press freedom which constitute cardinal principles in any democracy the Nigerian media has discharged its duty with pride and patriotism. Though there were (and still are) areas of outright disappointment and failure the men and women of the pen profession must be commended for standing up against dictatorship and anti-democratic antics of people in power. That said, there is still room for improvement.
Nduka Obaigbena is a high-flying media mogul in Nigeria. His ‘ThisDay’ newspaper is one of the stable and economically-viable newspapers in Nigeria. The “Leaders and Company” that runs the media outfit is registered in Nigeria as a corporate entity with solid capital. The MD is one great mind by name Eniola Bello whom I hold in high esteem. Mr Obaigbena owns other business concerns but our attention will be focused more on his newspaper and his methods and tactics. The paper boasts of some great columnists including one intellectually-sound Chidi Amuta.
By positioning his newspaper whose founding principles are: democracy, free enterprise and social justice as neither one of opposition nor otherwise he stands ‘neutral’ pulling the strings at any given time and smiling to the bank! The position in terms of editorial policy of the paper is neither here nor there; they blow hot today and tomorrow they catch cold, they are intimidating this hour and the next hour they become collaborators! When the proprietor of a national daily lives an unprincipled life ‘worshipping’ money and seeing ‘no evil’ in the compromised national project it is hard for good journalists working within to embrace courage and investigative journalism for fear of repercussions.
Just last week Thursday bombs went off in ‘ThisDay’ offices in Kaduna and Abuja claiming lives and registering other casualties. Boko Haram, the dreaded bomb-wielding terrorist organization terrorising the north claimed responsibility saying that they targeted the newspaper for its unfairness and half-truths in their reports concerning the ‘western- education-is-forbidden’ group. They charged other media outfits to be positive in their reports or risk attacks. Boko Haram seems to have opened another front in its war with the Federal government.
While one condemns such attack on the media doing their job without let or hindrance, fear or favour, standing in solidarity with the victims of the cowardly act of terror Boko Haram’s position bears certain considerations. Against this backdrop therefore if the pursuit of truth and reason is the major plank upon which the ‘ThisDay’ publisher built his daily and weekly newspapers then he has been found wanting. By exaggerating certain facts, dancing sometimes to the discordant tunes dished out by the government and failing to criticize or condemn some agents of state when they abuse office ‘ThisDay’ has largely failed in its mission.
Obaigbena, much like Prof. Soyinka had described the late Godwin Daboh (of ‘If you Tarka me I Daboh you’ fame) as someone morally bankrupt to the extent of taking money from both the living and the dead it seems our dear Nduka the son of Obaigbena is also interested in taking money or making money from both the living and the dead! He may not have taken money from the dead before but if the cheque-book of a dead man is presented to Nduka in a secret deal proposal there is every tendency and probability that he will not hesitate to ‘defraud’ the dead man if only to satisfy his insatiable quest for illicit riches!
He is always in good company: company of high thieves and criminals! He has powerful friends with high pedigree. He loves living it big a la MKO Abiola of ITT infamy! And to live big in Nigeria one must be ‘highly connected’ and commit certain degree of ‘good crimes’ to climb the ladder of opulence. Obaigbena, by dint of ‘hardwork’, is up there looking down on us, common mortals, in a nation with many seasons of bizzare graft bazzar!
His role in the appointment of the late President Yar-Adua’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Olusegun Adeniyi, who before then, was working as one of the Editors of his newspaper was akin to executive blackmail. When the late President indicated interest in engaging Adeniyi Obaigbena gave his ‘conditions’ one of which was that Segun must be placed on the same salary structure with those of Ministers of state, something Yar’Adua never objected to thus making Mr Adeniyi a powerful man in the corridors of power.
His penchant for fame, power and wealth can only be rivalled by that of another big man in Nigeria with an alleged shady past, the ‘Glo’ owner, Mike Adenuga. Whilst Obaigbena’s name has been mentioned in some dubious deals including (allegedly) collecting some US$6 million from the corrupt but smart former Rivers State Governor Peter Odili Adenuga was alleged to have received millions of dollars in trust for Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
The newspaper’s recent scathing editorial condemning President Goodluck Jonathan for taking a church gift from a foreign contractor Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited only to recant few hours later went a long way to paint the newspaper as an unserious favour-currying media outfit. By publishing a mea culpa which wittingly indicted its editorial policy management invoking “fresh facts” at her disposal “ThisDay” went all-time low in the estimation of discerning Nigerians. So the editorialist never did his homework well before rushing to rebuke the President or an ‘order from above’ was issued with ultimatum of consequencies in the event of non-compliance?
Flamboyant and robustly well-fed Obaigbena has been very lucky indeed with the Nigerian corrupt establishment. He has been using subtle blackmail and what-have-you to cut big his own share of the national cake using his media conglomerate as a bargaining power. We can only compare such strategy to that of a typical Nigerian scammer, a ‘419er’ who uses every means possible to
give ‘bill’ to his ‘mugu’ and prays and fasts for the ‘mugu’ to ‘buy’ his fairy tales of Africa’s stolen millions and billions and part with his money! Sometimes in a fit of desperation, these smart Nigerians serenade and bamboozle their ‘victims’, even going to the occultic extent of using ‘juju’ to bring them to comply with their demands!
Living in a corruption-infested country like ours Obaigbena decided to go wining and dining with the ‘devils’ in Abuja if only to fulfill a dream of hitting it big in life. Indeed success is his thus far as his name could well be changed to ‘the money man’. The University of Benin Creative Arts graduate has since diversified his business empire raking in more fame and money. By hook or by crook Obaigbena is a big dreamer and his dreams often comes true!
Nduka is like Dele Momodu of the ‘Ovation’ magazine fame but unlike him as well. He is like Momodu because the two share certain belief in hitting it big in life; that is, they are ambitious and worked tirelessly, even crookedly, to attain wealth even if it involved patronising the Nigerian looters and power-brokers. On the other hand however Nduka is unlike Momodu because the ‘Ovation’ publisher is not known to have solicited for any ‘contract’ or favours from the ruling elite in Nigeria. He just uses his glamorous magazine to show-case the ill-gotten wealth of the ruling elite for a fee and smartly distances himself from them. But Obaigbena solicits and even campaigns for contracts and favours for his personal aggarandizement.
The ‘Duke’ is known the world over for his ‘Africa Rising’ concerts initiative, a series of music, art and fashion shows which hold in major cities across the world to promote African talent. He has had to bring in some high-profile American musical stars to entertain Nigerians in Abuja and Lagos. In an era of ‘transformation’ in which the ‘chief transformer’ resident in Aso Rock have not succeeded in ‘transforming’ his sleaze-infested administration it is to be seen what impact Obaigbena’s ‘Africa Rising’ could have on the Nigerian damaged international image — one of terrorism, mind-boggling heist etc.
Nduka, ‘the Duke’, lives like a modern King in a modern jungle like Nigeria! His conscience does not prick him any bit whenever he sees poverty walking on four legs even in his village in Delta state. For him, he has found the formula to ‘kill’ poverty in his life and others can go to hell! We wish him well in his world of the rich and famous!