Pius Adesanmi: A note to the Nigerian Guild of Editors

by Pius Adesanmi

If the judgement of one of yours is to be believed, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is a credible actor and voice in whatever is left of Nigeria’s anti-corruption effort.

If the discretion of one of yours is to be taken seriously, Dino Melaye, the fellow who represents me in the Senate, is a credible actor and voice in whatever is left of Nigeria’s anti-corruption effort.

The offending member of your guild is the Editor of Daily Trust in whose opinion these two recidivist Senators deserve to be conferred newsworthy legitimacy as anti-corruption actors.

I am only just crawling back to Nigeriana after a forced absence on health grounds and the last thing I need is to be greeted with this level of galling and farcical demission from her fundamental duties to society by one of our newspapers.

The Editor of Daily Trust should be frog-marched to the Eagle Square and flogged publicly.

I have already written about the consequences of the rationality of corruption and I do not wish to go over that territory again here. Suffice it to say that the rationality of corruption is like AIDS. AIDS weakens the body’s immune system and makes it vulnerable to all kinds of opportunistic secondary infections. The rationality of corruption weakens a nation and opens her up to all sorts of opportunistic secondary infections.

Secondary infections such as the book that Dino Melaye has just published in which he presents himself as an anti-corruption crusader.
Secondary infections such as Bukola Saraki’s Preface to the said book in which he salutes Dino Melaye’s struggle to rid Nigeria of corruption before offering his own philosophical opinions on the way forward for Nigeria on the anti-corruption effort.

Now, it is one thing for these two clowns to benefit from the rationality of corruption by positioning themselves in discourse and philosophical reflection as major figures of the anti-corruption effort. It is another thing entirely for a newspaper to legitimise this egregious daylight robbery and embezzlement of the people’s present by reporting it as some credible, newsworthy event featuring legitimate actors on the anti-corruption front. Hear Daily Trust in a story captioned “Saraki Writes Foreword for Dino Melaye’s Book” in the Tuesday January 24, 2017 online edition of the newspaper:

“The Senate president, Bukola Saraki, has shown full solidarity for the fight against corruption in the country, by endorsing a foreword for Senator Dino Melaye’s new book titled, ‘Antidotes For Corruption: The Nigeria Story’.”

The Senate President has shown full solidarity for the fight against corruption? Daily Trust is not done with this gratuitous assault on our sensibility. They proceed to quote copiously and approvingly from Saraki’s so-called Foreword. Hear Saraki:
“Evidence abound that no country can make progress where corruption thrives. In other words, while several factors may have conspired in holding Nigeria back from attaining its full potential as the greatest black nation on earth, corruption, defined as the appropriation of public resources to create private values, would definitely rank ahead of the other factors.
“It therefore stands to reason and common sense that Nigeria would not experience real progress unless we take the bold steps in arresting the scourge of corruption from our public and even private spaces. Dino is as fearless as he is brutally honest. He is the kind of man who would not call a spade by any other name because he wants to be in anybody’s good books.”

These are very strange times indeed when an editor legitimises farce rather than understand the enormous social mission of this important estate of the realm. When a sharp, chastening editorial is needed to rebuke clowns and pretenders and restore the genuine narrative of Nigeria’s anti-corruption war, you do not use the same material to legitimise clowning and corrupt embezzlers of the people’s memory in a straightforward reportorial.

There will always be corrupt clowns trying to use rotten money stolen from the people to legitimise and smuggle themselves into nice corners of national history and memory. That, obviously, is what Saraki and Dino are doing here.
It is the responsibility of the media to be the “watchman for the watchword” (apologies to Christopher Okigbo) at Nigeriasgate. Nigeria is in such dire straits that you need to hold regular retreats and conventions as editors to remind yourselves of the importance of your historical mission, duties, and responsibilities to Nigeria.

I must also say that you guys in the mainstream media cannot leave this struggle exclusively to Sahara Reporters, Premium Times, and The Cable.

Many will read this essay today and write to tell me that the Nigerian mainstream media is a lost cause. They will tell me that it is not that you are unaware of your responsibility to call out clowns like Saraki and Dino in sharp-shooting editorials. They will tell me that the problem is that you function in a mathematical equation which stands in the way of your responsibility:
Recession + unpaid salaries = brown envelopes from politicians
Prove them wrong. Show them that there is still a place for integrity in our blighted nation-space.

Nota Bene:
On a lighter note, I have noticed that Nigerian media practitioners do not know how to make money legitimately. Two of the keywords of 21st-century culture and civilisation are innovation and opportunity. We are summoned to innovate continuously and to maximize opportunity as citizens of the 21st-century.

Our friends in the American media are currently in an existential impasse. Whether it is in mainstream print media, electronic media, or Cable TV, American journalists and media executives are constantly wincing, squirming, groaning. They are at sea. They are lost. They have zero experience in covering a narcissistic, unprincipled Presidency which governs through lies and alternative facts. Disrespect for the office of the President by the incumbent President is not part of their civic experience. In other words, the American media has zero experience covering an irresponsible Presidency. And this is their lot for the next four years.

On the other hand, covering an irresponsible Presidency is THE ONLY EXPERIENCE that you guys have in the Nigerian media. An irresponsible Presidency is the sum total of Nigeria’s entire postcolonial experience – from 1960 to date.

If I were an editor in Nigeria, I would sense opportunity here and innovate. I would organise paid seminars in Abuja and Lagos for American journalists seeking experience in how to cover an irresponsible Presidency. I would design courses and modules that would particularly appeal to reporters and columnists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, etc. I would organise modules for anchors and pundits of CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, etc.

Somebody in the Nigerian media does not know how to smell opportunity…

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada

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