In any credible democratic setting, it is elementary knowledge that a journalist is at liberty to think, decide and write on what is believed to be independent opinion on an issue that is topical or of common interest. However, it is also low in logic and intellect for any journalist to assume that the right of free expression is a license to convey baseless, superfluous and reckless aspersions against some persons or group. Indeed, any journalist that assumes such an exclusive preserve to create improper and unfair remarks without just, rational and legitimate basis is huge joke and disaster to professional journalism.
Unfortunately, the tendency of few journalists to misuse the seeming unbridled license extended to the practice of journalism is enormous minus for this honorable profession. This self styled journalism of advancing skewed motives and biased reporting is quite evident in this era of new media where it has become a common practice to publish articles without thorough investigation. Most of the time, this minority set of writers in their attempt to tarnish the reputation and dignity of their targets for self interest, write scurrilous articles with conclusions that not only impute partiality but covey improper motives. Sadly, such reports are converse to tolerable standards in the conduct of proper journalism in Nigeria.
A telling example of such media negativity is found in a recent article, titled ‘Gov Okowa, Goodbye to Second Term’ by one Fejiro Oliver which was published in many online media. The write up which ought to have conveyed views that should provide credible reasons why the incumbent Governor Okowa of Delta State does not deserve a second term deviated entirely from readers’ expectation. Rather it dwelled on an unconnected but sensitive issue relating to Delta state Governor’s unwillingness to go the usual old way of sharing money amongst politicians and supposed friends including the writer, Fejiro. Frankly put, it would not have even mattered whether or not the views expressed in the article are in favour or against Governor Okowa as it is a moral task of any responsible citizen in a democratic setting to hold their elected leadership accountable and critique or interrogate their policies which are considered bad. Unfortunately, the article on prediction of 2019 Delta governorship elections is a far departure from constructive analysis on Governor Okowa’s performance or inadequacy in government.
That Oliver Fejiro’s article did not contain any meaningful deconstruction of the efforts or otherwise of the Delta State government is not strange but remains very disturbing and misleading in this modern era where readers reach conclusions based on newspaper opinions. The write up which did not offer readers any genuine basis for judgement is best regarded as a work of fiction and deliberate attempt to advance deception through journalism. According to the writer’s comments on Governor Okowa, “As a governor, he’s extremely nice and dedicated to work. He has the heart of gold to deliver prosperity to Deltans. He has the desire to truly make Delta the hub of industrialization and a commercial city of repute, but unfortunately swallowed by unseen hands that manipulate him”. These remarks on Governor Okowa are very conflicting, self contradicting and may not even call for any meaningful argument on the topic.
Unequivocally, from this singular narrative, it is obvious that the writer’s major focus was certainly not do any honest analysis on the Okowa’s administration or on what it portends for the people of Delta state but to pour a baggage of criticisms on the aides of the Governor. Infact, it is very twisty, crude and unrefined for any responsible journalist to describe a Governor as good, yet openly stimulate fears into him that he is carrying burning coals in his hands because money is not being shared to persons termed political supporters.
Granted that in a democracy, it is the right of any person to express personal views on issues but from additional comments in Fejiro’s article, the substance in his allegations against Governor Okowa’s aides is of little value to good governance and appraisal of an administration’s performance. Actually, If the real intent of the article was to embarrass and infuse confusion in the minds of the public about Delta State Government’s estimation, then the writer foundered on his weak ability to find quality logic and proof. His introduction of half truths that have no relevance to evaluating Okowa’s governance clearly buttresses the assumption that the assessment of Governor Okowa’s leadership was not a major interest.
Specifically, Fejiro’s political write up which lays great emphasis on Governor Okowa’s defiance to ‘share the money’ after his claim of personal meeting in which he proffered suggestions that have not been implemented probably for Delta State resources to be transferred to individual pockets of politicians and appointees is not only dubious, wicked but exposes his myopic and selfish interest which does not serve common good. Fejiro’s lack of understanding that it is no longer business as usual is because he may not possess an analytical mind to do a simple analysis of the Delta State troubling financial situation nor can he understand that the nation’s recession era has a direct proportionate impact on the State’s revenue especially in the period where militant activities have affected oil derivation revenue and by extension resources of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DELSOPADEC’ which he mentioned has been deprived of appropriate funding. The question herein, is what nature of development one should expect without cessation of violence.
In fact, Fejiro’s engagement in journalism based on distortion of facts to advance non-objective criticisms is very unacceptable. The writer’s spotlighting of Governor Okowa’s aides whom from several accounts refused to recognise him as a credible journalist or patronize his demands is outright blackmail and extortion on the part of Fejiro. This was even affirmed by the writer in his remarks on his interaction with the Delta State Commissioner for Economic Planning, Kingsley Emu whom he mocked and adjudged as being a mediocre in politics for the disclosure that ‘the governor has blocked the loopholes through which funds are siphoned’. Perhaps, this private discussion could have taken place when Fejiro went soliciting for financial support.
Besides the above postulations and facts, truly, if Fejiro was of stable mind, he would have known that there would be historical obstacles to his career in the type of journalism he practices. The point herein is that if he thinks that time would have healed his self inflicted wounds or blocked our memory on his past misdeeds, he has certainly failed on such assumptions by his quick return to public forum of controversy. Infact, any time I read stories by Oliver Fejiro, I wonder at his claims of being an investigative reporter without an intrinsic probing mind and knack for details. If really, investigative journalism were to be all about engaging in loose reporting ethics and blackmail, then Fejiro is on a good track.
Otherwise, he may just be counted as one of those that integrity means little to and would at any slight opportunity use such a title of investigative journalist to advance sinister motivations.
Indeed, it is actually shocking that Fejiro forgets that when he writes and publishes on new media, his old articles are readily available for review and critique. Indeed, after reading some of his previous articles where he praised the actions of Governor Okowa and his aides, my guess now is that his initial idea was to pretentiously promote the government with the expectation that so much millions of naira will be tossed in his pocket. Obviously, when this ploy did not yield immediate harvest, he reverted to his plan B by terming Governor Okowa “a promise and fail politician” and began to attack the many aides of Governor. Unfortunately, for him, these aides may be more clever than he had rated them as they have little or no respect for him given his ugly antecedent of failed attempt at extorting the former Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, an incident which was foiled by the gallant officers of the Department of State Services and was widely reported in National news media.
From all superior logic, Fejiro cannot be regarded as an asset to credible media and journalism in Nigeria. Certainly, he is not the everyday journalist that is satisfied with “thank you for coming’ brown envelop even in all its dishonorable forms. Rather, he runs a media outfit a.k.a. ‘Secret Reporters’ which he purports conducts investigative journalism but in reality it is a phony scheme with a special agenda that is alleged to be a first class brand of blackmailers which not only churns out negative stories but manufactures lies to make them look like truth against individuals he has marked out for extortion.
That the aides of a governor are not collaborating with a particular journalist cannot be termed a political negative against such a Governor but Fejiro definitely feels different on this and he is entitled to his opinion. Nevertheless, from every good judgement and wisdom, it is easy to decipher that there is a bit more to Fejiro’s motivation in journalism. Particularly, his remarks that some persons in Delta State are not happy probably because money is not being distributed, suggests that Fejiro must be seen as he is, a nagging worry for more money. His deliberate, motivated and calculated attempt to bring down the image of the Governor in the estimation of the public because of self aggrandizement is quite disappointing too.
Any credible journalist should be aware of the diminished economic situation in Delta state as an oil producing State but to Fejiro, everything else is less important including the Governor’s attempt in tackling the high levels of poverty and ensuring equity through the new job creation initiative, improved security, construction of link roads in all sections of the State, appointment of political appointees across the state, facilitation of visible major socio-economic development, struggle to ensure monthly salary are paid to over sized sixty thousand civil servants, bridging gap in communication with the governed through establishment of a very vibrant Orientation Directorate and credible efforts to sustain ongoing economic empowerment of youths and women. In truth, if Fejiro was not blinded by falsehoods, he would have noticed that all these bear testament to the quality leadership of his state Governor that operates with less than a third of monthly revenue earned by his predecessors. In any case, such achievements remain a visible chapter in the Governor Okowa’s less than two years stay in office and are signposts of developments ahead.
Specifically, on Fejiro’s ranting on Governor Okowa’s appointment his personal aides from his region, I doubt if any politician will resist the temptation to do what is needful provided it does not affect the even distribution of major appointments across the State. Fejiro’s reference on alleged payment of two billion naira for Asaba airport safety enhancement by the State Government is false. In fact, from this it is obvious that Fejiro is a man that is comfortable with conflicts and engages in a spiral of distortion of facts. Perhaps, this could have been his reason for stating that a project which is contractor financed through a bank guarantee and under the direct supervision of certified experts by the Nigerian Aviation Authorities has been paid for. Again, his analysis on Delta Sports Commission is clear exhibition of ignorance because what the former Governor Uduaghan disbursed as monthly grant to the Commission through his in law, Amaju Pinnik which Fejiro referenced to as a performer is more than what the present leadership of the same Sports Commission has collected in the past one year despite the fact that it being headed by Tony Okowa, a seasoned politician and brother of Governor Okowa.
This is where it is expected that the fundamental action for Governor Okowa’s media aides should be to call for an end to Fejiro’s impunity and engagement in falsehood by providing credible evidence to counter Fejiro’s many lies especially given that a lie becomes truth when it is repeated without objection.
From Fejiro’s antecedent, he appears like a man trapped in a lazy world of blackmailers that use the media to persuade people to think and behave in a certain manner that will ensure that money is disbursed to him. Indeed, his style of journalism not only makes a caricature of many credible unbiased media outfits that erroneously publish his lies but creates anxiety in the minds of the reading people on the quality and integrity of Nigerian journalism. The only comfort herein, is that Fejiro’s practice of journalism will in little or no time be crushed by greed and selfishness.
Fejiro’s unceasing desire to write Okowa’s government to tatters with a plethora of half truths cannot change the reality in Delta State recent improvements. In truth, Ifeanyi Okowa may not really be an angel in politics because it is calling where angels don’t thrive, however, he remains a man that stands head and shoulders above his predecessors given his leadership style and work done with minimal resources. For now, let the leadership in Delta State remain focused and undistracted by Fejiro’s tricks as 2019 elections will confirm the veracity of claims in favour or against Governor Okowa.
***Okwuosa, Co-ordinator, Anti Corruption Advocates, Area 11, Garki, Abuja