By Adejumo Kabir
“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”-
Henry Anatole Grunwald
Quickly, section 22 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution provides that, “the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”
However, we have breach this provision over the years. The last time I checked, a photojournalist with Leadership Ben Uwalaka is still battling for justice six years after he was assaulted in the line of duty. Ben was attacked in LASU in 2012 by one Bayo Ogunsola, a director in the morgue at LASUTH. It is however pathetic that Ben who almost lost his eyes is yet to get justice since 2012 as the matter suffers uncountable adjournment before Magistrate Bola Osunsanmi. Report has it that the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, Inspector Dolapo of Area F Police Division has not appeared in court since, after appearing just once. We however, look forward to March 15, 2018 for mention. Meanwhile, it should be noted that “Justice delayed is justice denied”.
Only this year, 2018, a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN),Taiye Elebiyo Edeni was reportedly brutalized by security operatives, at the venue where President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned Kaduna dry port on Thursday. On 2nd of January, a Nigerian newspaper publisher, Daniel Elombah, who publishes elombah.com, was arrested around 4:30a.m. in his residence by SARS. Kemi Olunloyo celebrated New Year in Prison.
Last year alone, over 22 attacks were recorded, Premium Times head office in Abuja was raided, the Publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi alongside with the Evelyn Okakwu, PT judiciary correspondent were arrested on 19th of January, 2017 over a story exposing the irregularities of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. The people in power seem to have forgotten that: “If journalism is good, it is controversial, by its nature” – Julian Assange
Franz Kafka says: “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
In July, 2017, Police detained Danjuma Katsina in Katsina State over a Facebook post where he criticised, Mansur Mashi, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives from the state. After I read this report, I concluded that no wonder many higher institutions now use Facebook posts to victimise students activists. University of Lagos used that against Adeyeye Olorunfemi likewise a student of Redeemer University, who after submitting final year project was still suspended for not adjusting the truth in his Facebook post.
These attacks are slap on democracy, for no reasonable Journalist will keep shut when he or she sees oppression of the poor and how government trampled on justice. Why? Journalists are arguably moralists. A moralist in a democratic setting should however, be able to speak out when there are traces of inequalities in the country.
Timothy Agbor of The Point Newspaper and Toba Adedeji of the Osun Defender were also recently brutalised on duty by Police while covering protest by Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees in Osun State House of Assembly. Just last year December, five correspondents of national newspapers were assaulted by DSS in Akwa Ibom State Government House. Just to mention few.
The reason for this illicit act is connected to the ‘idi amin’ tendency of our leaders who are mostly pained and affected by the positions of the press against injustice. Press men are responsible to the masses. Leaders must first accept that journalism does not aim at stepping on toes but at putting them on their toes. No wonder Helen Thomas argues that: “We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers”. If journalists are constantly attacked, then, journalism will only be on celebrity gossip and if that is all we promote, the profession is no longer weapon to fight oppressors. Corruption will trend and untold stories will never be known.
My fear, if mainstream Journalists are constantly attacked, what then is the fate of campus reporters. Many Campus Journalists who are scared of their studentship have left investigative journalism for: “Amphitheatre filled to the brim as Olamide, Davido, Wizkid, Others Perform.”
Lastly, to those used by authorities against writers of truth in the society of liars, never hesitate to break the law of government or even law of the land if it requires you to be agents of injustice and inequality to others clamoring for justice and equality.
I am Adejumo Kabir, a writer of truth in a society of liars, a student of Obafemi Awolowo University and a Campus Journalist