PREMIUM TIMES has come under a stinging attack from one of its columnists over its report referencing Josephine Anenih, a former minister and politician, as an “elder stateswoman”.
Mrs. Anenih, a former minister of women affairs, is one of the government-nominated delegates to the ongoing national conference.
She was appointed to the conference under the “elder statesmen” category and has pushed for greater participation of women at the conference.
Mrs. Anenih is also a former wife to Tony Anenih, a controversial figure and chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees.
Mr. Anenih, himself a former works minister, has been indicted in multiple corruption investigations by the National Assembly, but has remained at the highest rungs of the ruling party.
A report published April 3 by this newspaper named Mrs. Anenih as one of the few delegates opposed to suggestions for payment to delegates in lieu of meals which they complained were lacking in quality.
Mrs. Anenih claimed a central feeding allows for interaction among delegates outside normal sessions, and that the trouble might be with the rather high number of people benefitting from a lunch planned for only 500.
The report referred to the former minister as an “elder stateswoman”, reflecting the category under which she was nominated to the conference by the federal government.
But the description, a departure from this newspaper’s reputation for discarding titles in names of government officials and public figures, a practice common with the traditional media, sparked angry reactions from readers.
A PREMIUM TIMES’ columnist, Pius Adesanmi, ridiculed the designation as part of the “rape of meanings” of titles by the Nigerian media that rewards corrupt politicians with undue reverence.
“How did Premium Times decide that Mrs Josephine Anenih is an elder stateswoman? I know that any Nigerian above the age of sixty begins to self-describe as an elder statesman after stealing a couple of billions in public office and the media readily participates in that national assault on meaning without thinking, without asking questions,” Mr. Adesanmi, a professor of english at Carleton University said in a sarcastic reflection on the ongoing conference.
“Must we also extend that rape of meaning automatically to their wives, estranged wives, ex-wives, concubines, girlfriends, et al? What next? PREMIUM TIMES will wait for Mrs Roli Bode George and Mrs Alamsco to cross the age of sixty and begin to address them as elder stateswomen?”
He added, “There are genuine and worthy elder stateswomen all over Nigeria. Retired teachers and nurses gracefully queuing in pension lines in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. As a public assignment in the restoration of meaning and as penance for the crime of dubious conferment of elder stateswomanhood on Mrs Anenih, PREMIUM TIMES must identify an genuine elder stateswoman and interview her for the Nigerian public in the coming weeks. The media must stop participating in the national rape of meaning.”
Other readers joined Mr. Adesanmi in criticising the paper. “I do not understand how the media helps to promote setting bad examples to young Nigerians,” another commentator, Seyi Ajayi, said. “As long as we continue to promote the morally bankrupt individuals, so shall we continue to have more of them.”
Yet another commentator, Olaniran Nasir, said, “It’s not national rape of meaning per se as emphasised. It is rather a furtherance in the complicity of lopsidedness and quagmire which the nation has sunk deeply into right from its creation. Our problem is beyond semantics. The cumulative effect of corruption is staring us in the face.”
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