Reports of hardship in Nigeria, mere propaganda….This makes me to wonder whether all the seeming orchestrated campaign in the media was not mere propaganda to make the Buhari regime look really bad.
Are the media and bloggers really painting a correct image of our country? It’s time for the media to objectively conduct a reality check about our reports, whether we are not over sensationalising so-called hardship that we talked about. – Bayo Onanuga
Is this the same Bayo Onanuga, celebrated journalist? Is he the same reputed defender of the weak’s human rights against the predatory powerful in government?
Bayo Onanuga was appointed last May, only three months ago, as managing director, News Agency of Nigeria, by President Buhari. It would appear three months is long enough to effect a strange metamorphosis from celebrated journalist and human rights/pro democracy activist to defender of the oppressor’s faith.
Onanuga has a long high profile journalist career. He was CEO of The News/PM News before which he was editor, of the African Concord Magazine. In the 1990s, he had runs-in with the SSS under the Abacha regime over confrontational reports for which he and his colleagues reportedly went underground for months and self exile abroad.
It is this man who has turned on his former media colleagues, saying they are orchestrating unfair criticism and propaganda of calumny against Buhari and his policies. This is the man who says reports of hardship in Nigeria ares mere propaganda. What is it about government appointments that turn appointees against the people?
As a professional journalist of many years standing, how could Onanuga use a few personal observations of a single source, himself, to reach conclusions on the crushing matter of growing national poverty, saying that journalists reporting poverty in the land are not objective but engaged in mere propaganda to make Buhari’s regime look bad. Take note of his use of “regime”, a hangover of military colonialism. Perhaps too, the report of the National Bureau of Statistics is mere propaganda against Buhari. The government accepted recession is not real and its effects non-existent.
Let’s look at his reasons for his vitriol on the media: That his daughter on a Virgin Atlantic Flight to London sent him this text: “Daddy, the flight was filled up o.” So a single full flight without investigations on whether the airline might have collapsed multiple flights, or if all other airlines’ international flights are full, is good reason to aver Nigerians are on a good roll. Did he bother to check the statistics: if the criminals loaded up on unearned rent and filthy lucre is just ten percent of the population or 1.8 million crooks, international flights will continue to be full, recession or not. That leaves 90% of the population or 178 million people without the luxury to fly to London like Onanuga’s lucky daughter.
But then, Onanuga tries to balance his perspective with reports from local markets for the common man. The reports again come from the same single source, himself. Here is the summary of that market report:
In Bauchi and Jos, food was reportedly “cheap everywhere” as he paid N700 for a plate of semovita with a choice of cat fish or chicken. And with “just N1000” he bought over 50 oranges, two giant water melon and 10 pieces of sweet potato.
In an Abuja market he reported that he found he could “make a big vegetable soup, with tomato, pepper and roasted Titus fish,” with N1400.
Did Onanuga wonder why any sane person will give away over 50 oranges, two giant water melon and 10 pieces of sweet potato from hard manual, subsistence farming, for just N1000? For Onanuga the elite, N1000 is no big deal. For the poor, who live from hand to mouth, to pay for school fees, rent, healthcare, food etc, it is survival money. They sell their sweat and produce for a pittance and die in poverty.
The fat cats loaded to their ears with free cash, extol cheap food and never bother how the millions of subsistence farmers, the salt of the earth, in villages and hamlets across Nigeria who feed this nation and who collectively contribute over 40% of the GDP from their barely fertile farms, are ignored in their penury by government and treated as leprous risk by banks.
It is like the developed world who buy cheap cocoa from the poor world and then sell chocolates at such high premium that farmers of the primary cocoa are unable to buy the chocolate bars made from their cocoa. How many children of those who sell cheap food to elites like Onanuga can afford flight tickets to London. That is even too much. How many of the farmers can pay the fees and charges of dilapidated village schools or buy kerosine at N400 a liter or buy a bicycle which prices are exploding with crazily zooming dollar exchange rates?
My dear Onanuga, you have unwittingly revealed the insensitivity of the Nigerian elite, politician and leader over the cruel plight and sorry fate of the teeming majority of citizens. You are enjoying and luxuriating at the expense of your poor kindred at the bottom of the social ladder. There is grinding poverty in the land. As an editor, I traversed this land, some years ago, into remote villages and communities and found that the common denominator of the majority of Nigerians from north to south, east to west is harrowing poverty. Nothing has changed. If anything, things have gotten really worse under Buhari. Onanuga may want to ask the Bureau of statistics, the data on the percent of Nigerians in extreme poverty.
A guiding principle of journalism is to protect the human rights of the weak from the predatory powerful. But on this score Onanuga has blundered big time, bringing obloquy on his reputation as a journalist and veteran of the pro democracy struggle and leading to the question if his radicalism had been mere posturing for the ultimate goal of appointment into public office which he has now achieved. And from where he now seeks to destroy his former hard earned reputation and to sneer at his former colleagues in the media. It is sad that suddenly the celebrated journalist is turned defender of the oppressor’s faith
A well worn but sacred cliche in the journalism profession is: A dog does not eat a dog.” But Bayo Onanuga, who has been a big dog in journalism is now eating other dogs big time. It is indeed uncharitable for him to publicly excoriate his media colleagues by insinuating they are enemies of state stating: “seeming orchestrated campaign in the media was mere propaganda to make the Buhari regime look really bad.”
He could have called some bloggers and newspaper editors to test his hypothesis that Nigerians are having a great time, through investigative and analytical reporting. But no. He needed a Big Bang exposure. I think he knows deep in his core that his hypothesis will fall flat on its face. So why the Facebook post? Hunger for a more plum appointment? May be. The sycophantic fallout of the “Come and Eat” syndrome? May be.
Either way, Onanuga should not forget the biblical injunction: A good name is more desirable than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). He spent decades building a solid reputation. He should not throw it away for nobody, least of all President Buhari who is proving to be a looming disaster.
. The writer, Tadaferua is a media commentator and public policy analyst.