Ethnic Slur: Vanguard editorial board chair seeks forgiveness from Yorubas

Ochereome Nnanna
Ochereome Nnanna

The chairman of the Vanguard editorial board, Ochereome Nnanna, has issued a second apology for castigating the Yorubas as “sophisticated morons” on Facebook, describing the outrage that followed his comment as “a nightmare.”

Mr Nnanna, who said he has written columns for more than 20 years, came under heavy criticism after posting the controversial comment on Friday.

He initially walked back his comment on Saturday morning, apologising for it and saying he had also forgiven those who criticised him over it.

The Vanguard also issued a statement on Saturday, distancing itself from the comments. The paper also promised to investigate Mr Nnanna and take direct actions, but did not specify.

But calls for Mr Nnanna to step down from his position or for the Vanguard to sack him if he failed to resign, grew over the weekend.

Some commentators, like Wale Adedayo, a journalist, gave the Vanguard until Wednesday to oust Mr Nnanna or there would be a call to boycott the newspaper.

Mr Nnanna moved to address the controversy again in a Facebook post Tuesday, saying the fallout threatened not just his livelihood but his entire career.

“Once again, I wish to humbly appeal to all Yoruba people to please forgive and forget my indiscretion on my Facebook comment on Friday, 9th June 2018 which, understandably sparked off widespread outrage.

“I never imagined in my wildest dream that an offhand remark could provoke an anger of volcanic dimension which has threatened my career and Vanguard Newspapers as an institution.

“The offensive comment did not come out the way I intended it – as familial joke – but as an adult I am solely responsible for the outcome.

“One moment of madness has threatened my 29 years of living and working in Lagos during which I have made friends from all ethnic groups, and not among the least the Yorubas. I sincerely regret this unfortunate incident.

” I must say that the indiscretion was not done at the behest, or on behalf of, Vanguard Newspapers. That is why I have serially issued my heartfelt apologies to my Yoruba compatriots both as a group and personally to those whose contacts I possess. Happily, almost all of them have shown uncommon understanding because they know me very well and have followed my work as a journalist closely.

“Nothing could be further from the wrong notion of “ethnic hatred” some have ascribed to me. I have enjoyed mutually beneficial relationships with people of Yoruba ethnic stock as with a cross-section of other Nigerians, both high and low.

“This is probably not the forum to go into details on this because of space constraints. Therefore my apology is total and without reservations.

“I take the blame for my failure to realise the damage such careless and irresponsible comment could cause. It is a big eye-opener and lesson to me. I regret the trauma this unfortunate episode has caused everybody.

” I am willing to play any role required of me to end this matter peacefully and promote understanding. I have learned my lessons and I am eager to prove that I have no hatred for any group whatsoever, not least the Yoruba ethnic group.

“Their generosity of heart has promoted the corporate existence of Nigeria and provided all Nigerians and even foreigners a condusive environment for self-actualisation.

“On this note, I completely retract that offensive post because it neither represents what the illustrious Yoruba nation stands for nor my perception of them.

“I call on all my friends, kith and kin to please join in all efforts to restore confidence, mutual respect and love which were badly shaken since this nightmare started,” Mr Nnanna said.

The Vanguard has not issued an update about its investigation into Mr Nnanna’s ethnically-charged outburst, which critics said fits into a pattern of his longstanding rhetoric on social media.

It was also unclear how the paper plans to respond to the threat of boycott if Mr Nnanna remains at his job as the editorial board chairman beyond Wednesday.

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