The clock seems to tick faster as the day silently approaches. All eyes are on the panel of judges, which comprises some elders of the profession — the high priests of journalism. Most of them were in practice, at the very top, before some of the contestants for the award were born.
The scarcity of easy smile on their faces signposts the undisputable assumption that they mean business. Last week, these elders made the long expected announcement. On December 10, 2021, the first winner of Ray Ekpu Award for Investigative Journalism in Akwa Ibom State would be unveiled.
Whoever wins the prestigious award will go home with half a million naira. Something tells me that this is one of the highest financial attachments to journalism award in Nigeria.
When you examine the calibre of people on the award committee, you can be sure a winner will not emerge cheaply. Most of them are old school journalism veterans with truckloads of professional reputation to protect. They would even be ready to declare the contest as a no -winner event instead of compromising or settling for anything less than excellence.
On the part of the journalists, the race is gathering momentum. Everyone wants to win the high prize. In Nigeria of today, five hundred thousand naira in cash seems like something big enough to take someone to the moon. Think about school fees, house rents, and hospital bills, among others. I can even hear someone mentioning Christmas celebration. It’s certainly a big deal.
Let’s refresh our minds a little. On the last Friday in July this year, during the congress of the Akwa Ibom Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Udom Inoyo, the urbane immediate past executive vice chairman of Exxonmobil, announced the institution of Ray Ekpu Award for Investigative Journalism. He made the award exclusive to journalists in Akwa Ibom State.
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This is how he made the announcement: “I have thought of what I could do as my little contribution to the NUJ in Akwa Ibom State with regard to this matter (investigative reporting). Anywhere that I have gone in this world when people talk about journalism, one individual comes to my mind first.
“He is a great son of Akwa Ibom State, an international award-winning journalist, who rose from a position of insignificance to that of global prominence. It is in honour of this high priest of quality reporting that I hereby request the Executive Committee (of NUJ) to accept the institution of an annual award to be called: Ray Ekpu Award for Investigative Journalism.
“This award, to be given out annually by a panel of five first-class journalists comprising two celebrated veteran journalists; one national officer of the Nigerian Guild of Editors; a nominee of the award sponsor; and the State Chairman of the NUJ, is aimed at encouraging quality, factual investigative reporting in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria at large.”
He went ahead to mention the prize money, five hundred thousand naira yearly for the winner, and added: “But the journalist must be operating from Akwa Ibom State.” That automatically disqualified some of us.
As I stepped out of the Press Centre that evening, I put a call to Ray Ekpu to tell him about the award. His response, in his trademark deep baritone, after a few seconds of reflection, stunned me.
He said, “I know Udom Inoyo closely. But Sam, I have never done anything special for him to deserve this kind of honour. This is purely from a heart of love. I’m glad to be so honoured by someone who has never placed a demand on me. I am greatly delighted.”
Shortly after the announcement, there was a perceived long silence. People started wondering when the award would begin. Some of us actually knew that something was unfolding in the background.
A few weeks ago, the Award Committee, led by the former editor of the defunct Concord newspaper, Nsikak Essien, met. The appointment of Nsikak was well received by professionals who know something about his professional pedigree.
Other members are Kayode Komolafe (we call him KK), a sound gentleman columnist and deputy managing director of Thisday newspaper; Akpandem James, a veteran of the Concord, Punch and Daily Independent newsrooms; Professor Ini Uko of the University of Uyo; Amos Etuk, the NUJ Chairman and Mrs Emem Nkereuwem, from Inoyo Toro Foundation which has Udom as advisor.
The committee has already issued guidelines. It says each entry for the award would be assessed based on depth of investigation; conformity with the ideals of journalistic excellence; style and language of presentation; its contribution to good governance in public office; and its impact on the fight against corruption and impunity.
Other criteria are: contribution of the report to national unity and ethnic cohesion in the state; promotion of human and individual rights; its relevance to the fight against societal ills like rape and girl child abuse; efforts to check poverty and abuse of the environment; and attempts to check drug abuse, cultism and general insecurity.
So, who wins this award? Is someone ready to cook up something in the mould of what a certain Janet Leslie Cooke did in 1981 to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize while working for the Washington Post newspaper? Cooke, a black American reporter, born on July 23, 1954, fabricated a story about an eight-year old boy claimed to be a heroin addict.
The story was so beautifully cooked up with all the best ingredients of sound journalism, except factuality, that not even the legendary editor of Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, noted for his professional dexterity in handling the Watergate Scandal, could detect foul play. Eventually Ms Cooke was found out. For the first time in history, a winner of the legendary Pulitzer Award was forced to return it.
The Cooke case should serve as an object lesson to the committee for the kind of things it must guard against. Somebody somewhere is ready to win this award by all means. I would rather advise that if nobody qualifies for the award at the end, it must be so declared. The rules must be adhered to.
Both the committee and those vying for this high-profile award must respect the man whose name this award bears. That name must not be corrupted. The committee members themselves must protect their integrity. We are watching. We are monitoring. Nothing must be done to devalue the award in anyway.
Another concern! Journalists working for online newspapers are exempted from this award. In this age and time, the committee must have strong reasons for doing that. If there is any, for some reasons, we deserve to know. Why should online newspapers be exempted?
Despite noticeable professional waywardness, Nigeria boasts some credible online newspapers. Some of them are published by former editors of national newspapers. I do not need to mention names here. But if certain international and local journalism award-giving bodies recognise and give awards to outstanding reporters from these online newspapers, why should our case be different?
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I am not aware that Udom, who instituted the award, asked the committee not to recognise credible, fully registered online newspapers. I think there is a need for a rethink here. For avoidance of doubt, I do not operate any online newspaper.
Akpe is a journalist based in Abuja.
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Moral Values In A Changing World
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
JUSTICE: This world has degenerated into abysmal filth, immoral ungodly concupiscence, infantile greed, atavistic, primitive acquisition of property, and satanic hopelessness! The judiciary, the political class, the church, our royal fathers, and most other socio-cultural institutions have fallen into the cesspit of indiscipline and lack of respect for ethics! The Labour movement that used to be in the forefront of discipline cannot be trusted anymore!
MARIAM: Hehehehehehe! Okpoyibo! Big grammar is talking. I must invite Hon Patrick Obahiagbon to compete with you on explosive vocabulary.
PROFESSOR: That’s an old song. Our parents said the same thing some forty odd years ago.
UMUKORO: You are right; it is the way of the old to berate the world and say the past was better!
JUSTICE: Kindly don’t reduce the profundity of my introspective submission to the jejune level of the banal as has been the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals in the polity!
MARIAM: I am going to get a new and bigger dictionary. I can’t find Michael West anymore!
JUSTICE: If you still restrict yourself to the archaic confines of Michael West, then you are a victim of historical detention, arrested development, and exploration of the brave new world!
MARIAM: I give up!
UMUKORO: Who still uses a dictionary in the 21st century? Ask Google my dear, ask Google!
JUSTICE: Your infantile and rudimentary knowledge of homonyms limits your capacity to process thoughts of the new century. Away with you, thou physically beautiful body without an intellectual soul. I take exception to people denigrating my exceptionally brilliant exegesis on the state of Homo sapiens!
PASTOR: ‘And in the last days, iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold’, so said the Master. The time is here!
PROFESSOR: A broken record! A broken record waxed hundreds of years ago!
PASTOR: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved!
PROFESSOR: Saved from what? Another holocaust? Another atomic bomb dumped on humanity?
PASTOR: Do you spurn sacred and biblical prophecies?
PROFESSOR: General prophecies mean nothing to me. Look here Mr Pastor. For all the false prophecies which members of your infernal gang of profiteering pastors gave before the last general elections, you should be behind the bars of God!
JUSTICE: It is not late, not too late at all. The hounds of heaven are waiting for all the false pastors, especially those who have commercialized the Lord’s work! A wonderful and abominable thing is happening in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love it so!
PROFESSOR: One preacher I knew used to say that one false prophet was more dangerous than 100 armed robbers. Now I understand why!
UMUKORO: Armed robbery is no longer fashionable. Pen robbery fetches millions of naira with one stroke. Just add two zeros to the figure or transfer public funds to a private account.
PROFESSOR: I spoke metaphorically!
PASTOR: When it is becoming fashionable for persons of the same gender to marry and be recognized by the state, then the world is coming to an end.
UMUKORO: Sodom and Gomorrah incurred God’s wrath with that abomination!
MARIAM: When Supreme Court judges dispense political justice, then the end of the state as we knew it, has come.
UMUKORO: Even in America! Democratic judges give judgment guided by the so-called liberal values of the democrats while republican judges give conservative verdicts like abolishing the right to having an abortion!
JUSTICE: What then is justice?
MARIAM: Self solution! Your name is justice!
PROFESSOR: Aren’t we mixing oranges and apples in the same basket?
PASTOR: Let the tares and the wheat grow. At the harvest the Lord shall do the separation of sheep from goats!
JUSTICE: Eschatological metaphors can be used to rationalize and explain currents and undercurrents of contemporary events. It is very convenient to do so!
PROFESSOR: I am disappointed that our Nobel laureate could make such a one-sided pronouncement on the 2023 general elections. Unlike him, he didn’t speak like a man who comprehends the totality of our traumatic experience in February 2023!
MARIAM: But he spoke his mind. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression!
JUSTICE: He spoke with the finality of a judge. I respect him for that. But he should also like an elder have acknowledged the level of rigging and violence which marred the exercise. The general thinking is that he is silent on that aspect because a friend of his now occupies Aso Rock!
MARIAM: That is a most uncharitable thing to say about a man of such intellectual distinction and moral probity!
JUSTICE: Excuse me! Has he occupied any public office in the country to enable you to arrive at that conclusion? Has he been tested?
MARIAM: His name is a shield. His name travels before him.
JUSTICE: Why did he wait for the PEPT to make a pronouncement before proclaiming his tigritude?
PROFESSOR: Let’s leave that old man alone jor! I’m more interested in the shuffling feet at the CBN. What exactly is going on? Was there no due diligence before Shonubi was asked to act as Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they have suspected that he was part of the rot that ran that institution aground in the dying days of the former president?
PASTOR: Alas, it has given the president the opportunity to appoint his own man as governor. The new man by all account is competent and exposed in the financial world!
PROFESSOR: My only worry is whether he will have the gumption to say no if he receives obnoxious directives from his boss.
JUSTICE: How many appointees in our country have the liver to say no to the indiscretion of their bosses? It is not in our DNA!
MARIAM: In Lagos state, the Speaker of House said no to the governor on the appointment of some commissioners! The heavens did not fall.
PROFESSOR: The heavens almost fell. But that speaker is arrogant. No big man can trust him. Or was he dancing to music being played in higher quarters to spite the governor?
MARIAM: Who knows! It is possible. The ways of politicians are not straightforward. How could he say that he and the governor are colleagues! He has no respect for the office!
UMUKORO: I felt sorry for the governor! This attempt to humiliate him all in the name of politics.
JUSTICE: I hear it is all about 2024. If he is thinking of becoming governor, that statement will return to haunt him in future!
PASTOR: Now! Now! Now! Is the Dubai visa ban still hanging over us or Mr. President got the desert kings to lift the embargo?
JUSTICE: Is there any ‘gbajue’ going on?
PROFESSOR: Hahahahahaha! The more you look, the less you see. Proverbs to bones and silence!
UMUKORO: I don’t think it is ‘gbajue! It is possible that there was an agreement in principle which would require Nigeria to finetune certain details before going public. A federal government cannot tell lies about such public matters!
PASTOR: When the saviour comes, let him that be on the rooftop not come down to be saved. You will run to the mountain and the mountain will be melting!
MARIAM: And the sea will be boiling!
PROFESSOR: Who will save us? Who can take the nation back to factory reset? Shall we invite Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, and Ahmadu Bello to rescue us?
PASTOR: Perish such thoughts please! Those men have not been able to save themselves. How can they save anybody? Jesus Christ is the answer!
A Response To Toyin Falola’s Obasanjo, Obadide And Obajoko
By Yinka Agbetuyi
Toyin Falola’s “Obasanjo, Obadide and Obajoko” is a timely article that captures the complexities and contradictions of a Yoruba (even Nigerian) in transition. It reframes the questions: ‘transition to where?’ How will this transition be better managed? Until these two questions are adequately resolved Yorubaland (and Nigeria) will always be in constant crises.
It is very important that the essay brings out the fact of extant kingships alongside modern polities in Europe like the UK and Belgium, (there are still twelve extant monarchies in Europe) where the monarchs are not subordinated to modern politicians and humiliated thereby. So which West are the Yoruba (and Nigerians) copying? Newfound lands, mainly the US – as well as Australia and Canada- stolen from the aborigines.
Yoruba people and fellow Nigerians must constantly be reminded that the success of the anticolonial struggles was about stopping such occurrence in Africa. Perhaps Yoruba Nation advocacy was geared toward the same goal, but lacked effective strategies. At the last stop before Tinubu’s unexpected victory, the groundswell was for Yoruba Nation advocates to go into partnership with other Nigerian ethnic nationalities and evolve a workable blueprint that takes into consideration each group’s preference and the rate of and speed of integration into the totality – the North’s preference at independence, and Awo’s true federalism- supplanted unfortunately by the adoption of an American presidential federalist model, hook line and sinker! My reaction over the decades is that Nigeria is not necessarily vying with others for the position of the 51st state of the US.
In my own summation in diverse forums, as it exists now in Europe, the royal houses should be clearly delimited and given definite CONSTITUTIONAL roles and worthy remuneration. First Class traditional rulers should earn the same salaries as sitting governors (Nigeria can afford this option many times over from a mere fraction of its stolen wealth if recovered). Monarchs will in turn underwrite the integrity of the polity by being constitutionally tasked with the appointment of auditors who will scrutinise State spending (states and federal) and projects in their domains and report directly back to such MONARCHS for onward transmission to state chief executives and the presidency.
Traditional rulers should be elected and appointed only by traditional councils and their appointment signed into law (but not subject to nor subordinated to) the state governors. After all the days of crass illiterate caricature of traditional rulers is long gone. Traditional rulers should therefore be structured as parallel instruments of and facilitators of governance in a check and balance structuration of governance, in a carefully integrated whole to achieve total governance – the transient and the permanent. Lesser traditional rulers should be administered by the First-Class rulers (in council) who will recommend their emoluments, (and functions) subject to rankings to state governments.
Only First-Class rulers (in council) should be able to recommend the creation and elevation of lower ranked rulers to the states according to the existing norms of such communities, (they did this well enough in the precolonial days) and the state government should only administratively approve or reject such recommendations based on financial contingencies. This formulation should neutralise party politicking in the creation and maintenance of traditional rulership.
Yes, traditional rulers must be constitutionally barred from seeking and accepting contracts from their states of origin and from the federal government, the same way a governor is not notionally entitled to be awarded a contract by their own government. In the British system, this is called declaration of interests by parliamentarians (whether in government or not) in the register of interest book. This is to prevent conflict of interests of the person in government (and their associates) and their official duties. This provision demonstrates that greed is a universal phenomenon unless and until checked by relevant laws (witness the UK Parliament’s expenses claim scandal in 2010.)
Now that the Tinubu struggle has been fought and won, the Yoruba Nation advocates, must in continuation of their activities not rest their oars on the ship of State, but intensify such by taking the lead in the quest for this new reality, by reaching out to like minded nationalities across the country to achieve the constitutional change for a better, stable and prosperous tomorrow for Nigerians.
Prince Agbetuyi is a Professor of Comparative Arts & World History at the Edutronix Institute, London.
Use Your Penis: Hopes, Expectations And Realities Of African Migrants In Europe
By Leo Igwe
The issue of migration to Europe has been in the news. There has been intense discussion on how to tackle the flow of migrants to, not from, Europe. There have been reports of boats carrying migrants capsizing or missing on the Mediterranean Sea. Many Africans have died trying to enter Europe via the Sahara desert. North African and European countries have taken measures to curb illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, the migration flow out of Africa continues and shows no signs of abating. Why has the migration of Africans or migration from Africa become such a huge problem? What are the hopes, experiences and realities of these migrants?
In August I was invited to speak at a seminar on migration. The focus was on the migration of Africans to Europe. The event took place in Bergen, Norway. As a doctoral student, I lived in Germany for six years. I was invited to speak at programs on migration. Governmental and nongovernmental agencies in Denmark and Germany organized the events. I did not find these events interesting because the focus was on human trafficking and the role of African juju and witchcraft. Do not get me wrong. Human trafficking is a huge problem and needs to be addressed. But we have to tackle the problem from the root. These events were by my estimate a complete waste of time and money because organizers and participants were not ready to tell themselves the truth, face the facts and address the real issue. They want to make themselves feel good and privileged while talking about these helpless Africans streaming to their shores. Organizers were more interested in marginal voodoo, and oath-taking issues. They made it seem as if there was something unusual about African migration. But there was not. Migration is as old as human beings. Humans from all races and regions have been migrating from one region to another, from one country or continent to another. Before this recent wave of migration out of Africa, people from Europe, America, and Asia have been migrating to Africa. They are still migrating for business, social, economic, religious, and political reasons.
Contemporary African migration is mainly economic. It is driven by poverty, miserable living conditions, and the devastation of African economies by European, Asian, and American companies. To tackle the problem of migration, African economies must be fixed. The continent must realize an economic leap. Now instead of focusing on the economic roots of the problem and how to address them, many Europeans and Americans expend energy discussing trivialities, such as the role of voodoo and so-called powerful witch doctors in Nigeria. Well, at these events, I told the organizers the bitter truth. I told them to forget this juju or voodoo talk and face the reality: the destruction and revival of African economies. I told the organizers what they did not want to hear. And they never invited me back.
But this time around it was different. The organizers were not Europeans or Americans. A Nigerian student at the University of Bergen staged the event. He contacted me some months ago, drawing my attention to the plight of African migrants in Norway. He explained how many who travel to Norway and other European countries had their hopes and expectations dashed. Many who migrate to this country or other European countries end up entrapped. They are compelled to go into things they did not plan to do. Many migrants end up in a new form of slavery, in a marriage to a European citizen. Left with the option of going back to Africa at the end of their study or marrying to get the documents to stay, many end up contracting a marriage, in many cases a paper or document marriage. These marriages entrap them, they turn these migrants into errand boys and girls. Many of them are mistreated. They suffer silently. If they misbehaved, their partners would threaten to report them to the authorities and get them deported. I was told that many in the African migrant communities were not helping matters. Someone told me that he approached some migrants seeking and wanting to know how he could navigate migration issues. But the person told him: “Use your penis”. I guess for a female it would have been a case of: Use your vagina. While studying in Germany, some African migrants told me how they were sexually exploited, and dehumanized before they could get legal documents to stay in the country. One woman told me that everyman who wanted to help her wanted to sleep with her.
So, the program was cathartic. It provided a space to let out these pains, sufferings, disappointments, and frustrations.
The event brought together ‘free-will’ migrants and Norwegians. The panelists were from Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Belarus. I was the only international guest on the panel. Other panelists discussed the hurdles that they have faced, and the challenges that they confronted trying to live and integrate in Norway. As one panelist noted, many who come to study were unable to find a job at the end of their program. In many cases, they graduated and found out that there was no job for them, or they were unable to speak the local language, which was a requirement for many jobs. Another panelist from Ghana, married to a Norwegian, discussed her challenges as a migrant parent in Norway. She recounted how her child had suffered racism in the school. She narrated an experience where the child did a group assignment with four other white Norwegian children. And the teacher gave her child four marks for the assignment and other group members five marks.
There was some discussion on illegal migration and the risks involved. Some Norwegians in the audience noted that many African migrants knew about the risks they could face migrating to Europe. And still, they decided to embark on the risky journey. There was a lot of focus on migrants and their experiences traveling from Africa. However, little or no attention was paid to the European connection with the problem, the fact that western foreign economic policies have devastating effects on African economies. Africa is a market for Western goods including Norwegian stockfish. Apparently Europe needs African markets not African migrants. Western multinationals are relentlessly plowing and plundering the resources of Africa in ways that have displaced the local populations. African professionals are leaving in droves. They are migrating to work in the West and the Middle East. So, Western economies profit from the migration flow and the cheap labor it provides. Western countries benefit from the economic status quo that has turned Africans into migrants and refugees in Europe and America. To contain the flow of migrants to Europe, the situation in Africa must change. African economies must begin to grow and improve. Western governments must end the economic exploitation of Africa.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
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