By Akin Ojumu

Journalism died eons ago in Nigeria. Many moons have passed since a free and independent press existed in the country. What’s considered journalism these days is a far cry from what used to be in the days of Dele Giwa who together with Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, and Yakubu Mohammed founded the hard-punching Newswatch magazine. 

Under their tutelage were people like Dare Babarinsa, Nosa Igiebor, Kolawole Ilori, Dele Omotunde, and Onome Osifo-Whiskey. These were the crème de la crème of Nigerian journalism.

If one were to write the history of journalism in Nigeria, it’ll be a tale of two eras i.e., the Dele Giwa era and the post-Dele Giwa. The cruel assassination of Dele Giwa marked the end of the golden age of journalism in Nigeria. Nigeria’s journalism was blown up to smithereens by the letter bomb that killed Dele Giwa on that inglorious day of Sunday, the 19th day of October 1986. That was the beginning of the end of bold and uncompromising journalism in Nigeria.

Many of the so-called journalists you find in Nigeria today have no idea what it means to be a real journalist. They might have received academic degrees from some boondocks school of journalism, their professional acumen is a sham, and their tradecraft is quackery. These folks ply their trade at the pleasure of the highest bidder. They are bought and paid for by corrupt politicians who hire them as sycophants.

Like everyone else in the society, many Nigerian journalists are compromised. Having sold their souls for a pot of porridge, they are reduced to propagandists for the unscrupulous dimwits who hold elected offices in Nigeria. Because they’ve soiled their conscience, they are unable to serve as the conscience of the nation. They utterly lack the credibility to hold the people in power accountable.

You can count on your fingers the number of journalists in Nigeria who still have some semblance of credibility left. These are the few who ceaselessly give those in positions of power sleepless nights. When powerful politicians and their lackeys come face-to-face with these principled journalists in interviews, they are made to squirm. 

Unlike the softball questions they are accustomed to from compromised journalists, politicians with inflated egos are easily deflated with the tough questions asked by reputable journalists. 

Expecting to be treated with undeserved deference and obsequiousness, they quickly get uncomfortable. The moment their alternative reality and false narratives are challenged, they become irate. 

When the facts are against them, they argue the law. With the law not on their side, they argue the facts. If, as its often the case, both the law and the facts contradict their dissimulation they pound the table and yell like hell. 

It’s at this stage they lob insults at the journalist asking the questions. They’ve even gone as far as issuing threats of physical harm and loss of job to the virtuous journalist for doing his job.

In the polluted pond of Nigerian journalism, one of the few upstanding journalists still swimming is Rufai Oseni of Arise TV. He is smart, vast, and unfazed. Crafted in the mold of Dele Giwa, he is gifted with an uncanny ability for exposing the obfuscation of unscrupulous politicians. As a result, he has become a subject of fierce opposition from the powers that be in Nigeria. 

Rufai’s unflinching tenacity for asking tough questions that make powerful politicians flinch and sweat has made him a target of a concerted cancel culture campaign to silence him. In their view, Rufai Oseni is not a real journalist but an opinionated, arrogant, and disrespectful young man who is a mouthpiece of the political opposition to the ruling government.

Those who see Rufai Oseni as an “opposition” to the government are disingenuous politicians who deliberately mischaracterize the role of a free press in the Nigerian civil society. Much more than informing, criticizing, and stimulating debate, a free press enables the citizens to have their voices heard in the chambers of power and allows them to monitor and moderate the sources of power that shape their lives.

The news media is not meant to be a propaganda machine of, or an apologist for, the people in power. When the press performs its role properly and adequately in a free society where the rule of law exists, the press is often adversarial and confrontational to the powers that be. That is the nature of the profession.

So, far from being a mouthpiece of the political opposition, Rufai is nothing more than an echo of the voice of the citizenry holding the government accountable to the very people from whom its power derives. Those who are up in arms against him for doing his job are either people who don’t understand how democracy works or are antidemocratic forces who don’t want democracy to work. 

Those who would like to silence Rufai Oseni for asking tough questions that make people in power and their paid proxies uncomfortable are nothing but wannabe fascists who’d like nothing more than to be worshiped and celebrated for doing nothing more than bringing Nigeria to ruin.


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