When Failure is A Stimulant

Lack of Comportment & Shouting Down Interviewers 

Last Monday, I felt a wave of real depression sweep over me while I was watching Arise TV’s Morning Show interview of APC’s Adebayo Shittu, former Minister of Communications (who is alleged not to have done the mandatory one year NYSC). He was cocky, condescending, loud, aggressive and verbally abusive to his interviewers, showcasing a lack of understanding of the meaning of a basic word that Tundun Abiola used in a comment/question – ‘buoyed’ (“keep someone or something afloat”) – so much so that he thought there was a negative connotation to him when Tundun used the word, for which he then proceeded to have a go at her, without even knowing the meaning of what she had said. Mr Shittu seemed to have found Rufai Oseni’s questions annoying, lashed out at him and transferred his aggression to Tundun. It was disgraceful. I felt sad at how low Nigeria has sunk. How could someone who displayed such a total lack of comportment, have been a Federal Minister representing Nigeria? 

Festus Keyamo, SAN, the Minister of State of Labour, was only slightly better than Mr Shittu in his own interview with Seun Okinbaloye last week on Channels TV’s Politics Today. He proffered absolutely no panacea for the ASUU crisis, and instead, was only interested in selling the Tinubu/Shettima ticket. Aside from trying to pass the buck (another favourite past time of most members of this administration) to Ministry of Education, Mr Keyamo’s remedy to the pending crisis, is to ask Parents to go and plead with ASUU to return to work! Nigerians did not vote in the APC to become beggars, or listen to buck passing, excuses and whining about what PDP did in the past; on the contrary, APC was voted in to bring about a positive change and right the wrongs of the past, which they had undertaken to do. 

As a PVC-carrying voter who never fails to exercise her civic duty, I find it off-putting when candidates bring those who haven’t done much with their own portfolios, to represent them as campaign spokespersons – I see it as a bad omen; obnoxious empty barrels, whose noises succeed in doing nothing more than riling the public and turning them against the candidates they represent. Why would any right-thinking person have any confidence in spokespersons, who in their own roles, have failed to serve Nigerians well? 

While I certainly am not saying that the ASUU Strike was caused by Mr Keyamo (because it was not); my question is, as Minister of State of Labour, what has he done to try to end the imbroglio? Even if he hasn’t been successful in his attempts, I have not heard ASUU Negotiators on any fora, once commend Mr Keyamo for his efforts in trying to end the deadlock. The only thing that these interviewees are adept at doing, is shouting down their interviewers. 

Usually, when their principal is victorious at the polls. those who have played an important role in campaign organisations are rewarded with important positions when a new government is formed. Therefore, our real apprehension and feelings of trepidation, emanate from the fear that these same people and their ilk, who, if anything, have contributed to Nigeria sinking to an all-time low, may form part of a new Government again in 2023. Where then, is the hope for a better Nigeria?

As for Governor Lalong, while his demeanour was pleasant enough in the news clip I watched, I found it so amusing when I heard him draw His Holiness, the Pope, into his decision to be the Campaign Manager for a Muslim/Muslim ticket, claiming that the Pope did not object to him accepting the role! Meaning? That he calls His Holiness, the Pope, to seek his opinion or permission each time he’s making a decision, because he is a Knight of the Catholic Church, and therefore enjoys unlimited access to the Pope? That cannot be true. I know this because my Mother, Dame Priscilla Kuye, has been a Papal Medalist for over 40 years. There are probably thousands of Knights/Papal Medalists all over the world. Special Audiences are arranged to see the His Holiness, the Pope; he is well respected by Catholics as the Head of the Church, and is certainly not called upon on a daily basis, to listen to baloney or drivel. What will these politicians not say, to justify themselves, to stay relevant and win votes? As Bishop Matthew Kukah rightly concluded, “If you live in Nigeria, you know that the average Nigerian politician is concerned with three things – myself, myself and myself!”. I concur.

Journalism and Its Role in Society

By virtue of my job description, I watch a lot of television interviews, and I must say that while many politicians and government officials sometimes lose their composure when they are confronted with questions from Journalists that they do not care for or cannot answer, many in this APC administration are not just intolerant, they are verbally abusive to their interviewers – ‘wrong and strong’ in a feeble attempt to cover up their failures and inadequacies. Considering the fact that some of these people are what Yorubas call ‘èlèkè ebu’, which literally means ‘abusive cheeks’ or ‘cheeks of abuse’ – they were quick to dish out criticisms and heap abuses on the previous administration when they were in the opposition – but now that the shoe is on the other foot, they cannot tolerate constructive criticism or any form of criticism at all. Many observations made about the shortcomings of this administration, are seen as an attack, hate speech or demarketing Nigeria to the world. Unfortunately, sometimes there is too fine a line or no line at all between reporting true, accurate facts about the country and demarketing it, because the truth can also be bitter. I know that as the saying goes, ‘one shouldn’t talk about dry bones when old ladies are around’, but why should questions about performance or the lack of it be a stimulant to aggression – are these people not accountable to Nigerians? Why get nasty when Journalists put you in remembrance of your unfulfilled promises, or ask APC members to give account? 

Maybe it’s time to remind us about what the role of Journalism is in society. There are different types of journalism including but not limited to Investigative, Political, Business and Crime Journalism. According to Pesach Benson (HonestReporting 2019), “Apprising us of current events, is the most obvious purpose of journalism…..A lesser-considered purpose of journalism, is to serve as a forum for public debate (setting the tone of public debate)”. Definitely, a Journalist is meant to be unbiased and balanced in his/her presentations, but it seems that even having or sharing a balanced opinion is a crime in present-day Nigeria, seeing as most of our realities are discouraging (to put it mildly). 

Last week, Rotus Odiri shared some statistics on the Morning Show; that the Average GDP Growth Rate has been on a steady decline from 7.7% by the end of Obasanjo’s tenure to 7.1% Yar’Adua, 5.5% Jonathan to Buhari 1.1%. Should Rotus have changed 1.1% to 8.1% in his report, to show that he’s patriotic, and loves Nigeria and this administration? The percentage change in the Exchange Rate was 26% by the end of Obasanjo’s tenure, and is currently 150.2% in the Buhari Administration. Should Rotus, perhaps, have talked about flowers and candy instead, or said the economy is improving when it isn’t? The statistics also showed that our External Debt had risen from $3 billion by the end of Obasanjo’s tenure, to Yar’Adua, $10 billion, Jonathan, $15 billion and now, Buhari, $40 billion. If it’s any consolation to APC Members, Rotus did state that apart from the Obasanjo administration which ended with $43.17 billion in External Reserves, the Buhari administration comes in second with $39.18 billion, Yar’Adua third, with $32.34 billion and Jonathan last with $28.57 billion. 

Good journalism is about reporting accurate facts. According to the Nigeria Security Incidents Tracker by Beacon Consulting, “7,222 Nigerians have been killed and 3,823 abducted, as the country witnesses 2,840 incidents of insecurity between January 1 and July 29, 2022”. Does this mean that Beacon Consulting is biased or demarketing the country by making these statistics available to the public? Or it is only when government officials are then asked to explain this unfortunate state of affairs on television shows which they have willingly agreed to appear on, that it becomes a demarketing problem? 

Self-Defence, Provocation & Nigerian Government Officials 

In a way, the scenario of verbally abusive interviewees, reminds me of the legal concept of self-defence. In M.A.Sanusi v The State 1984 10 S.C. Page 166 at 197 per Oputa JSC, the Apex Court held that “Provocation does not excuse murder, it merely has the effect of reducing it to lesser offence of manslaughter. Self-defence is a complete answer to the charge of murder. In Uwaekweghinya v State 2005 9 N.W.L.R. Part 930 Page 227 at 254 per Belgore JSC, the Supreme Court held that “The purport of self-defence in law is to negate the existence of an offence, so that where a person kills another in self-defence, the killing, unlike in provocation as a defence, does not amount to offence, but total exoneration of the accused. Thus, the accused is discharged and acquitted of any offence”. But,“a man is justified in using against an assailant, a proportionate amount of force in defence of himself” – see Audu v State 2003 7 N.W.L.R. Part 820 Page 516 at 563 per Ogbuagu JCA.

Assuming that the interviewers’ questions is the murder charge, in most cases, the pleas of self-defence of government officials/APC members and spokespersons are usually not viable (their self-defence usually being either that PDP caused the problem, or the drop in oil prices, Covid-19 or a global downturn) and cannot give them a complete answer, and absolve them of culpability of the charge, that is, their failure in governance. At best, if a few of the excuses are valid, they will only succeed in reducing the offence from murder to manslaughter. Interviewees (the Defendants in the case), especially APC ones, use more proportionate force than is necessary to defend themselves against interviewers (Prosecutors in the murder case), when they are asked questions about thorny issues. Even if some of the questions fielded by the interviewers may be seen as provocation, at best, it will only prove that the interviewer failed to ask the questions properly; it doesn’t change the charge of murder, nor the fact that the attempt by the interviewees to use self-defence as their defence to the charge, will not fly. 

Conclusion 

As long as the situation in the country remains discouraging, most questions fielded by Journalists which are nothing more than a demand for an account of APC’s stewardship and an explanation for some of its failures, especially vis-à-vis its 2014/2015/2019 campaign promises – for instance, the rising insecurity in the country (instead of its decline, based on APC’s promise to fight insecurity to a standstill), despite the fact that, for example, close to $500 million was expended on the purchase of Super Tucano Jets to fight insecurity, must be asked. 

According to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book, ‘The Elements of Journalism’ which sets out “10 elements common to good journalism”, “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth”; Its first loyalty is to the citizens; It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise”. The role of a good Journalist, is certainly not to pander to the whims and caprices of the interviewees, and paint them in a positive light which they have not earned, in order to massage their egos and to show that they are unbiased and patriotic.

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