The Chicken Chasers is a book written by Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike that used to be popular with college students some decades back. Its title, The Chicken Chasers, is an extended allegory founded on a straightforward aphorism: Those who make a habit of chasing chickens will harvest continual tumbles and many a great fall.
Though an Igbo adage, this saying is a well-validated existential truth, and holds true in all of our many tongues. Nowhere is it truer right now than in biased, often deliberately falsified, reportage of events in Kogi State by sections of the Lagos press and in particular The Nation, which is clearly now a captive media to some political interests.
The sudden uptick in such condemnable coverage appearing in the press as The Nation, joined in arms by discredited media outlets, is fooling no one. Appellate verdicts are due in the Election Petitions challenging Governor Yahaya Bello’s election to office in Kogi State, and some passengers want to take over the driver’s seat from the Judiciary.
Those who follow events in the press would have observed this upsurge since the last week of June 2016 when Governor Yahaya Bello took down his electoral foes at the Kogi State Elections Petitions Tribunal. It was a historic and serial drubbing of nonsensically desperate politics, the kind Nigerians have come to hate, and it was celebrated across the nation.
One per working day of the week in five days of the same week, starting with James Abiodun Faleke, the Tribunal stood firm and did spectacular justice for Kogi and indeed Nigeria. It considered in best judicial fashion and in unambiguous judicial language, consigned the cases of all five challengers to Governor Yahaya Bello’s election to the dustbin of failure. By the time that week was done, all five of them had kissed the dust, for reasons of law and facts, which anyone could easily comprehend.
To any lover of law and justice in this country, many of whom have since indicated so, the Tribunal’s judgments were a welcome elixir. To the good people of Kogi State, who had labored long and hard under bad governance, especially in the last two administrations, it was a divine confluence of liberation and deliverance. To The Nation, which was not surprising given her antecedents, it had the opposite reaction on The Nation. Kogi’s streets of joy and jubilation seemed to madden that media house and her fellow travellers-to-no-end. Their lies against the state’s leadership, though iniquitous enough before, acquired added malevolence thereafter.
The most rabid of such attacks against the People and Government of Kogi State by The Nation, and the most recent, is to be found in that installation of Palladium, which appeared on her back page of July 3, 2016. As one suffers through the tasteless tripe, one gets the image of the columnist, Idowu Akinlotan, consumed by his commercial hatred for anything Kogi, frothing at the mouth and convulsing as he strung together epithets, the more divisive and corrosive the better, as he laboured to please his not-so-unseen paymasters.
For the records, July 3, 2016 was the second time that Kogi State has had the dubious honor of being a feature on Palladium since the present Administration came to Office. The first time, on 26th February, 2016, the Administration approved a response for reasons that include the two main purposes for which this rejoinder is now being allowed. The primary purpose is to bring healing to readers of The Nation, many of whom still bear wounds on their enquiring minds dealt by the deceit of a trusted medium. Two, to reply a fool according to his folly, lest he remains wise in his own conceit.
Despite the passage of time between July 3rd when it was published and now, we still meet people poisoned against the Administration by that article and they are astounded by the truth when it confronts them in the form of documents and credible sources. So, we had to wonder, how many people, especially Kogi people, seared in their conscience and the wound cauterized by falsehood as dispensed by The Nation are out there?
Unlike The Nation, we are not afraid of the Truth. We are therefore the first to admit that The Nation has power. The media is the fourth estate of the realm, and The Nation is high on the organogram of media power in Nigeria. Without doubt, one ignores negative news from her at one’s own peril. Except for the obsessive compulsive disorder evident in her mindlessly repetitive efforts to de-market the present dispensation in Kogi State, The Nation is otherwise quite proper as Nigerian dailies go.
We would ordinarily let this type of media goof go as we usually let go tons of negative press out there because we understand some people’s lives are not worth living unless they do mischief. We let the small fry knock themselves out, or let the law deal with them while we focus on transforming Kogi.
Sometimes though, you have to push back. One will be foolish to let a man with tuberculosis envelope him in a bear-hug and repeatedly cough into his mouth. If The Nation and her ilk are not restrained from their tubercular intentions for Kogi they will start an epidemic of violently spasmodic upheavals among our people. We cannot let that happen, hence this rejoinder.
All of this prologue now brings us to the importunate question: How does a supposedly ethical media enterprise stoop so low so often? How does The Nation justify routinely carrying inciting, non-factual, contents designed to fuel passions against the Government of Kogi State by her people? How does she come to terms with actively working to undermine the social order in Kogi State through fabricated inflammatory fiction? How does a newspaper of The Nation’s calibre defend the use of gutter language and utter garbage against anyone on her pages, let alone a people and their leader? What is the price is this perfidy in a medium ordinarily sworn to defend the reading public with the Sword of Truth?
One does not have to dig too deep to unearth the answer.
There are parochial interests at play, and The Nation, against the ethics of journalism, is caught in the crucible and boiling in the cauldron. She is marooned somewhere between the allegorical Scylla and Charybdis. Each time the order comes to malign Kogi, her choices have been narrowed to no choice. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We sympathize with the strictures of those who have to answer to godfathers, but we cannot empathise, having none ourselves. The Be-all and And-all of all our endeavours in Government is the Almighty God alone. He is always fair, and He helps with the task at hand even though He is the one Who assigned it to us. We can therefore only guess at the tortures of those like The Nation, who must act against conscience at the peremptory snap of the fingers of some vested interests.
Some background information will be necessary in order for the reader to properly situate the level of irritation, which has provoked this rejoinder from Lugard House, especially its hard tone. This is the second time a functionary of the Kogi State Government will be forced to kick Idowu Akinlotan (and his column in The Nation, Palladium) into the dust like some mangy Chihuahua. Agreed, it is distasteful, cruel even, to kick dogs, even sick, ill-mannered, sub-breeds notorious for their deficiency of good sense but sometimes unruly dogs leave one no choice. Not if they insist on being distractions, nipping and yipping, when one has serious business at hand.
The rotten roots of The Nation’s unprovoked animosity to Kogi State, her government and her people are tied, like some ancestral curse, to the umbilicus connecting her and the discredited interests of her known associates in Kogi State. These individuals and their gubernatorial cum financial interests in Kogi are well known and documented. With the validation of Governor Yahaya Bello’s mandate by the voting populace, the electoral umpire, and lately, the Judiciary, these individuals are faced with the specter of their received a little above N13bn in FAAC allocations and little other funds under Governor Bello.
Everyone knows that Governor Bello has paid salaries up to date to genuine workers and has made massive inroads into the arrears owed Civil Servants by the previous administration, in some case defraying as much as 5 months. Everyone that is, except the geniuses at the Nation and at Sahara Reporters.
They also happen to be the only ones, who do not know that the Agassa Road they cited as paid for but non-existent is not fully paid for and over 50% completed. These are facts which they could have verified by a simple phone call to a source within or without the Administration. But to them the truth is beyond inconvenient; it is a threat to their masters that must be suppressed. Such despicable chicanery can only flow from unspeakable ineptitude.
The aim in these anti-Kogi charades is apparently to influence public and judicial opinion against the Bello Administration in the hope of disinterring their client’s long dead and buried aspirations. How quaint!
Now, we have no problems classifying the Sahara Reporters and The Nation in the same category. Faced with a compromised internet tabloid like Sahara Reporters, we need not to worry because everyone knows she only provides grist for the gossip mill. It is her sole raison d’être and market niche. Those who read her must first give them a hefty discount on credibility, and they still come away disappointed. No reasonable person will dare place reliance on them. They have no probative value, in court or elsewhere. To cite them for anything serious is to court derision. Which description aptly encapsulates The Nation as well when she enters into her Kogi mode.
All lovers of great and ethical journalism must deplore the fact that The Nation, by journalistic misconduct and editorial malpractice, has chosen to reduce itself and become one with Saharareporters. Both of them, whether by concert or not, have dealt in like falsehood. It is like that time in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when man, choosing to party with beast, seemed to merge their species so that onlookers could no longer distinguish one from the other. I mean, it is one thing for a journalist like Idowu Akinlotan to be induced, especially by moral poverty bordering on the criminal, to turn his column into a wrecking ball of the Edifice of Truth, but it is another thing altogether for the editors of an otherwise credible news source as The Nation to let such detritus into print and circulate to a trusting nation. Now see them looking and sounding like Omoyele Sowore and his gang of wannabe journos.
We must sadly accept the fact that we will never know the trade-offs for this outrageous conducts at The Nation, and to a lesser extent, at Sahara Reporters, but we can safely conclude that something bigger than that cricket has finally taken over its burrow, at least as far as the affairs of our dear state is concerned. For us in Kogi State, we will continue to order our steps in probity, but since our adversaries have no use for honourable conduct, we are continuously improving on vigilance too. They will learn, these Chicken chasers, that a White Lion guards these borders, and by divine mandate and help. They will learn too, that to them belongs the great fall.
Kingsley Fanwo is the Chief Press Secretary to the Kogi State Governor