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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

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Opinion

A Lesson From Kenya

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The electoral body in Kenya conducted presidential election which was keenly contested by the incumbent vice president, Willam Ruto and the longest living opposition leader, Raila Odinga. The presidential election took place on Tuesday 9th August, 2022, across the length and breadth of Kenya. Voters elected the president, members of national assembly and senate, governors of Kenya and members of the 47 county Assemblies of Kenya as reported by Wikipedia.
Willam Ruto of UDA party with his running mate Rigathi, polled 7, 176,141 of votes cast while Raila Odinga of the ODM with his running mate Marth Karua, polled 6,941,930, votes cast. Willam Ruto, polled 50.49 per cent while Raila Odinga polled 48.85 per cent of the total vote cast.
It is worthy to note that general elections are held every five years. This is the third general election and the fourth presidential one since the promotion of the 2010 constitution. The incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta was not eligible for the third term, nor were two – term County governors as stated by the country’s laws. The 2022 election saw the lowest number of presidential candidates cleared since the multi – party system was implemented in 1992.
Indeed, the constitution of Kenya requires that a general election of members of parliament be held on the second Tuesday of August on every fifth year, which meant that the general election was scheduled for 9th August 2022. If Kenya is at war, the election can be delayed if a resolution is passed in each House of Parliament by at least two — thirds of all the members of the House. Such a resolution can delay the election by up to six months, and may be passed multiple times provided that the delays do not cumulatively exceed 12 months.  Ruto initially fought alongside Odinga in 2007 when police crackdowns on protesters and clashes that turned into ethnic attacks killed more than 1,000 people in post – election violence, eventually promoting a new constitution to devolve power. Ruto teamed up with Kenyatta in 2013. Both Kenyatta and Ruto had been indicted by the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges for their alleged role in orchestrating the post – election violence.
The cases later collapsed, with former ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. In March 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his former rival for the presidency, Raila Odinga, stunned the public when they shook hands and declared a truce after post – election violence in 2017 left dozens of people dead.   Clifford Machoka was, appointed to organise the presidential and deputy presidential debates ahead of 9th August- 2022 polls. The debates were scheduled to run on the 11, 19 and 26 of July 2022 at Catholic University of Eastern Africa; and they were broadcast live across most television and radio stations, and their online platforms. The campaign season officially kicked off in May 2022 as clearance of electoral candidates continued. Although the presidential race was considered a two – horse, with two main opponents, Raila Odinga and William Ruto, George Wajackoyah of Roots Party of Kenya gained significant popularity among the electorate due to his radical measures to quell the ballooning public debt. Kenya Kwanza alliance led by Ruto held true to their initial campaign strategy by self-proclaiming themselves ‘as “hustlers” Calling Odinga a dynasty and a project of the outgoing government.
Odinga of Azimio – one Kenya Alliance branded Kenya Kwanza as an alliance of corrupiont since most of the leaders in the coalition are suspected accused, or convicted of corruption and other integrity issues. Odinga billed himself and his running mate, Martha Karue, as liberators, who fought for multiparty system, campaigned for the new regime in. 2002, and were proponents of 2010 constitutional dispensation.
On 28 July 2022, Ruto’s presidential running mate, Rigathi Gachague, was ordered by the Anti – Corruption Court to forfeit KSH202 million to the state, after it was determined the funds were proceeds of corruption. On 6 August, 2022, all candidates across all elective seats, made their final submission on different parts of the country.
By the end of clearance, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission {lEBC) gazetted a total of 16,098 candidates contesting 1, 882 elective slots. The results were announced at 6pm by the IEBC chairman, Watula Chebukati. All the candidates except Ralia Odinga appeared at the announcement; Odinga’s chief agent Saitabao Ole Kanchory announced that Odinga would not appear until his campaign could verify the results.  Indeed, Odinga  rejected the result and went to the Supreme Court to challenge the Presidential result which was in favour of William Ruto. Despite some major challenges, the electorate were conscious of the presidential election and participated actively in the election. At least for the first time, Post – election violence was not noticed as observed in the past. Thus, the Independent and Boundaries Commission of Kenya was able to work with network operators for smooth transmission of results. Therefore, in Nigeria let INEC be unbiased with its duties in terms of conducting free and fair elections. Nigerian electorate should also wake up and participate in the coming election in 2023.

By: Frank  Ogwuonuonu
Ogwuonuonu resides in Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Soldiers Of Fortune

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When George Perry Floyd Jr. was killed in the American city of Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020, it was said that his last words were “I can’t breathe”. Those words became the rallying cry of activists of all stripes. Some called for police reform, while others pushed for the defunding of the police. In every voice, there was a sense of urgency to do something, anything to fundamentally change the narrative. The economy of Nigeria has been bleeding for so long, and soon, it might not be able to breathe again. However, in spite of the cacophony of voices from every arm of government, especially the National Assembly, recently, there is no sense of urgency.

Not even the fact that the country is projected to lose a whopping $7.3 billion (or N3.038trillion) is enough to declare a state of emergency or outright war in the industry on oil theft. We are the giant of Africa, yes, by population and GDP. We are also the largest oil-producing country in Africa, yes; but that was before the nanny tasted the elixir in the feeding bottle that she was only meant to protect. Countries like Angola and Libya have overtaken us. Currently, we are the former largest oil-producing country in Africa; and it is not because our quota was reduced by OPEC, or that our oil fields have dried up, and neither is it because we are at war. No. Corruption has undergone a metamorphosis; it has shifted from the coffers to the source with the connivance of officials.

Just like George Floyd, the Nigerian oil and gas industry is gasping for breath because it has been garroted by soldiers of fortune. These men have their knees firmly on the diaphragm of the Nigerian economy. But they are not alone. Those who are deployed to secure oil installations in the Niger Delta have now become our nemesis. Everyone in the Niger Delta knows it, the governors, the multinationals, traditional rulers, regulatory agencies, and President Buhari are fully aware of the humongous amount of revenue lost daily. The cacophony of voices from all quarters suddenly harping on the issue of oil theft gives the sense that the country at large, and those in government in particular have been reused from their slumber. Or, should I rather say those key indicators of the arrival of a tipping point in the oil theft pantomime is now in the public domain, and it has become a national embarrassment.

Governor Wike was ridiculed in some quarters; others called it politics when in May 2019 he singled out then General Officer Commanding, 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, and Major General Jamil Sarhem for running an illegal refinery and bunkering syndicate in Rivers State. According to him, “The GOC is doing illegal bunkering; he has his own team that is making money for him through oil bunkering.” In November 2021, Governor Wike explained why oil bunkering and illegal refining will not stop. He made a broad accusation, with the intent that bunkering and illegal refining have percolated every facet of the security architecture of the state, involving all security agencies.

According to him, “You know this bunkering cannot stop; let’s be serious about it, everybody is involved. The military is involved. Police are involved. The Nigeria Civil Defence Corps is involved. If not, there is no way bunkering can continue. It’s a terrible thing”.”I don’t know, whether we should take the issue of bunkering to even be more serious than treason. If you go around and see what has happened to our environment, you’ll have pity on us.”During a gathering of traditional rulers in January, the governor revealed how he acted on intelligence to stop an army major from providing escort services to illegal refiners taking petroleum products out of the state.

Expressing his frustration at that time, he said, “I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy.” Seven months ago, during the donation and inauguration of 14 ballistic gunboats to the Navy, Army, Police, and the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps at NNS Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, Governor Wike reiterated that security agents are working at cross purposes with the government in the fight against illegal bunkering and refining of petroleum products. According to him, “most of the problem we have with illegal oil bunkering is that security agencies are fully involved in this illegal oil bunkering. That’s the truth. Civil Defence is involved, Army is involved, police are involved; Navy is involved. Let us tell ourselves the simple truth.”

Governor Wike’s words were the strongest of anyone in government, and it accurately situates oil bunkering and illegal refining side by side with other treasonable offences where it properly belongs. To date, no high-profile security agent has been prosecuted, even though they are neck deep in this high treason, and economic sabotage. In a recent news conference on the operations of the military, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, tried to disassociate the army from any acts of illegal bunkering, and refining activities. He floated several numbers to show the efforts of the army in curbing the menace.

However, not one mention of the arrest of any high-ranking army officer, or security agent, even against the backdrop of recent allegations from the GMD of NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, that security agents are complicit. Despite the strenuous denials of the army, major stakeholders in the Niger Delta, like the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) have continued to shed light on the involvement of the army in the illegal bunkering and refining business, and also on other criminal excesses of the army. Last week, the spokesman of the IYC, Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, alleged that most of the recent operations of the Nigerian Army had only occurred due to a conflict of interest between them and the oil thieves.  He stated that “in some cases, the Nigerian Military authorities get intelligence report from sister agencies on the complicit involvement of its personnel in cases of illegal oil bunkering and crude oil theft in the region but they keep mute.” According to him, investigations have shown that most of the repeated military invasions of communities have a criminal aspect of armed campaign against the Ijaw nation and the conflict of interests in the proceeds accrued from illegal activities of crude oil theft in the region.

Ekerefe further alleged that some military personnel serving in the region had become richer than those in the Presidency by being posted to the region. He stated that some get as much as N500, 000 weekly to allow secret movement of a whopping 61 thousand litres of stolen crude to a vessel berthed on the Atlantic Ocean under the security escort of combatant armed military personnel. Others own and protect illegal bunkering sites along the waterways and rivers.” The recent award of a surveillance contract to the tune of N4 billion per month to former Niger Delta warlord, Chief Government Epkemupolo (popularly known as Tompolo) is nothing but an indictment on the army, and a testament to their failure to protect critical infrastructure. It is now suspected in some quarters, that most of the Niger Delta groups who vehemently challenged the surveillance contract were in cohort with the army. At this point, only God knows how the synergy between Tompolo’s men and the military would work, particularly due to their divergent interests. Imagine the irony of a civilian security outfit paid to protect critical government infrastructure from renegade soldiers. Regrettably, this is how far the domino of corruption has fallen.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Kyari Syndrome And Nigeria’s Unity

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Former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was reported to have expressed regrets that efforts by past leaders to foster genuine unity in the country have not yielded ideal results so far. Obviously unity is desirable for an ideal nation, but unity does not stand alone, neither does it come by accident. It is obvious that mutual trust and confidence, fostered by social justice and fair play, are quite necessary for unity to grow. There must also be some common goals and interests to serve as unifying agenda. Many Nigerians must have pondered and asked why unity has become illusive in the country, even when it is considered desirable for a healthy nation building. While some serious-minded Nigerians were discussing this issue recently, the plight of Senator Ike Ekweremadu came up also. It was during this discussion that the “Kyari Controversies”, introduced by someone, caused two public notaries in the venue to leave. It was sensed immediately that the two gentlemen did not want to get involved in the issues being discussed.
Kyari syndrome became an alternative caption for Kyari controversies, with someone in the group requesting that the issues under discussion be expanded and made public. Almost like editorial board meeting, issues pointed out in a private discussion were vital and serious enough to be shared with the public. While Ekweremadu’s plight and Kyari controversies provided the pegs, there was nothing personal about the points made. But it was considered expedient that the public be made to share in what was discussed privately. Issues and controversies about ethnic domination, sectional hidden agenda, Islamisation and Fulanisation mission, etc, have featured in private discussions across this country for a long time. It has become needful that these issues be brought up for open and sincere discussions,  with no holds barred, rather than pretend that these are no issues of mass vexation. Whether real, false or imaginary, such issues are the grounds for mutual suspicion, distrust and skepticism. The sooner the issues are accepted as real and discussed in the open, the better for the unity of this country.
Without mincing words, sour-grape syndrome accounts for a part of the jinx holding Nigeria down, whereby embittered persons try to denigrate or destroy what they lack. It goes beyond envy to seek to undermine what is noble in others, as an expression of personal deficiencies. Especially where the gap is quite wide, it gives sadistic joy to pull down what is noble, rather than strive hard to attain to such nobility. Light and darkness have little in common, neither can they blend and work together!
There is one Abba Kyari, whose extradition order to answer some criminal charges in the United States of America, has placed Nigeria in a state of controversy in the eyes of international community. There is another Mele Kyari, whose continued headship of a privatised Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, despite demands for him to quit the post, has exposed much of the shenanigans in the oil and gas industry. Then the plight of Ike Ekweremadu over organ harvest also serves as a further exposure of the intrigues playing out in Nigeria. While it may be wrong to assert that the case of Senator Ekweremadu would have been different if he were a Fulani man, a strong critic of the Buhari administration used it as a peg for comparison. It was pointed out that there are different measures or strokes for different persons, with special reference to Nigerian experiences. From rodents and termites breaking into strong-holds and eating up vouchers and documents relating to N17.1 billion, to granting of presidential pardon to looters of the nation’s treasury, there are usually different strokes and measures for different persons. Join them, if …!
It is of particular significance that Miyeti Allah, an umbrella body of cattle breeders that received a gift of N150 billion not long ago from President Buhari, should raise the issue of Biafra as a reason why Peter Obi cannot be a President of Nigeria. The same Miyeti Allah and Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) have continued to use Islam and cattle as instruments of undermining unity in the country. But for vehement protests from various quarters, the antics and strategy of grazing affair as means of pursuing some sectional agenda, would have succeeded. Nigerians getting wiser! With regards to security situation in the country, it is obvious to discerning Nigerians that there is more to it than meets the eye. Do we not see evidence of double standards as well as some deliberate but clever measures to shield certain groups of persons? With acts of brazen audacity and impunity, some cattle breeders have told Nigerians by their body language, that they have a patron who would look the other way, when they are on the wrong side of the law. Southern Governors as jokers!
Nigerians are watching with keen attention and interest the slant of the Buhari administration, which is evidently sectional in nature. From political appointments to body language, a few honest Nigerians, including Rev. Matthew Kuka, have told President Buhari that the pursuit of sectional agenda is putting the unity of Nigeria in jeopardy. From the shenanigans playing out in the Abba Kyari case over his extradition to USA, to the continued headship of a privatised NNPC, by another Kyari, it is obvious that there are some hidden agenda. The law in America and England is not a respecter of persons, which is not the case in Nigeria. What act of corruption and injustice can be worse than to take the oil and gas from the Niger Delta people via the Petroleum Act and make it a national asset, and under a Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), hand it over to a few private entities? This is what is playing out in the oil and gas politics in the guise of privatisation and with Kyari as a mid-wife in some grand agenda. People of the Niger Delta may clap for themselves for giving them three per cent annual allocation of oil profit, while 30 per cent goes to Frontier Oil Exploration in the North.
Therefore, the Kyari syndrome represents a pre-dilection of a government to use double standards to address issues rather than the use of social justice. Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure would tell us that “Thieves for their robbery have authority when judges steal themselves”. This would mean that “when law can do no right, let it be lawful that law bar no wrong”

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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