Should Journalists Be Kidnapped (I)?

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“In the final analysis, men are not likely to be assessed by merely their longevity but more importantly, by their contributions to the improvement of human conditions” -Ray Ekpu.

Society has proved yet again to be an ingrate. Why can’t society highly esteem the work, sacrifice and price, even supreme price paid by journalists in their quest to reshape the society and make it a better place for all. The kidnap of four journalists on Sunday, July 11 near Aba, Abia State  with a ransom of N250 million placed on their head make this postulation imperative.

Pray, why should these urchins of society think of extending their stock-in-trade to members of the fourth estate of the realm? Why should anybody ever think of kidnapping Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos Chairman, Wahab Oba, Zone “G” Secretary of the Union, Adolphus Okonkwo, the Council’s Assistant Secretary, Sylva Okeke, Shola Oyeyipo and their driver, Azeez Abdulrauf. Their abduction becomes more awful and perturbing when viewed against the backdrop that they were returning from the meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union in Uyo, the Akwa-Ibom state capital, where they had joined their colleagues from the 36 states and FCT, Abuja to deliberate on how to move Nigeria forward and took far-reaching decision in this regard. Thus, they were on a national assignment when the marauders struck and took them captive. Sad indeed!

In  a piece titled: “Tokumbo Ajayi: Death of a journalist”  – a trbute to NTA Celebrated Newscaster who meet her waterloo in London at 37 – published in The Tide of Saturday, September 9, 2000, I decried the attitude of society to practicing and fallen journalists, how society which the journalist belaboured for turns round to stab the journalist at the back.

In that piece, I strove vehemently to bring to bare the nude truism that society which the journalist does everything to improve in his life-time usually shuts its eyes as the journalist vacates the dramatic stage of life, exim proviso! The moment he ceases to inhale oxygen and expels carbondioxide, society immediately forgets his contribution towards swinging, uninterruptedly, the pendulum of society’s clock. In a twinkling of an eye. What a great disservice to the memories of men of the press.

That was in Year 2000. Ten years down the line, the situation has degenerated, the journalist is not only hated and forgotten in death out while alive he is despised, traumatized, tortured even the more, set  up nailed/kidnapped! Oh! how often this anabolic society brushes aside the immense contributions of the journalist!   Oh,   why should society be so callous?

  Yes, the kidnapper and his godfather need to reflect on the inspiring words of Rey Ekpu (Newswatch, 1986)  that. “In the final analysis, men are not likely to be assessed merely by  their longevity  but more importantly, by their contributions to the improvement of human conditions”. Yes, they need to realize that the journalist is one man that contributes meaningfully “to the improvement of human conditions,” including the kidnappers’ own condition. Why should society fail in its duty or role of assessing the journalist, of evaluating his contribution to society, of appreciating him in life and in death? If at a time the sun and the moon rain their radiance on the head of the journalist, he is not appreciated, but kidnapped, is it when he percolates six feet below that he would be hailed?

Pray, is it nefandous or meandrous for society including kidnappers to applaud and eulogise the journalist for toiling day and night to oil the wheels of society and accelerate the speed of human progress, at nightfall? Society needs to be told point blank that journalism is one profession that does not allow its practitioners any room for rest. The journalist is like a soldier in the battle field, indeed at the battle front. He stays awake, even at night, keeps scheduled vigils so that society would not sink, sink into oblivion, so that society would not group in the dark and plunge head on in the dark, primitive age. 

Society needs to be told, without fear of contradiction that the journalist works 24 – hours a day, seven days a week, 30/31 days a month and 365/366 days a year in his quest to improve society’s lot. In the sun, he is there! In the rain, he is there! At night, his is there! Even at weekends, when millions of his compatriots have retired to holiday resorts with their families, the journalist is keeping sentinel at his duty post!

Not even during nationally – declared public holidays or world acclaimed “Rest Days” is he saved the rigors of his job; for if he slumbs, society slumbs! If he chooses to blacklist society by refusing to report and analyse events, society stands the risk of getting anti clockwise. And in spite of all the rigors he goes through in putting smile on the face of society, society values him not, never highly esteems him. Alas!.

Society needs to be told again and audaciously too, that in the course of toiling in his professional calling for the good of humanity, the journalist does not really have ‘resumption and closing time’. Even the touted profession of ‘learned men’, Law, has! So does the ‘profession of stethoscope’ – the doctor has visiting/consulting hours; he knows when to be on his seat and when to vacate it; it is only in cases of emergency that the doctor flouts the rule of closing when he should. The profession of “Overall and Spanner” prescribed resumption and closing hours for its practitioners. That is why the practitioners, the Engineers, could go home at the end of the day’s work. Nature extends the same magnanimity to practitioners of other professions.

But for the journalist, the story is different. Totally different! There exists dichotomy between him and others. His office is open day and night. He could be assigned to cover an assignment even at odd hours when his kits and kins of other professional callings are snoring in bed, and he dare not say ‘No’; he dare not frown, else he would be ‘contravening’ the ethics of his chosen profession. The journalist is he that is given the heart of a Lord Burdin Powell – the founder of the ‘Boys Scout Movement, at training, the heart of “be prepared” (the Scout Motto, as amply demonstrated by Powell). So “Be prepared” becomes his watch word, the journalist’s watch-word, day and night.

So much so that even when he chooses out of his own volition, to “close” for the day’s work, and he stumbles on a piece of news item that could perish  if not promptly reported, he bades ‘farewell’ to his companions, and retract his steps, back to his office to file the story.

If he is sleeping at night and there is a news out-break  (like arson, for instance), he would bury sleep single-handedly, that selfsame hour, breast-up to the challenge and dash into the dark night to investigate the cause of the incident, conduct interviews, speak with eye-witnesses and find out ways of preventing a re-occurrence… and straightway, to his office to file the story! Work! Work! And work!

The journalist is he that works his heart out for society’s betterment, he is he that inconveniences himself to appease the god of society. The journalist is he that is duty-bound to pass the night in his office with one eye open, because he has to supervise production.

 

To be continued

 

Justus Awaji