By Martins Oloja
We should not get it twisted in the media, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC’s) still trending scoop on two randy lecturers at the University of Lagos and a University in Ghana may be rightly interpreted as a consistency in the Western media’s strategy to de-market our universities so that their universities will continue to admit students from West Africa. But I would like to add that the sting operation is, indeed another wake-up call for the Nigerian media.
And here is the thing, while editorial writers are drafting and redrafting condemnation of the randy lecturers in West Africa and other consequences of the damning report, I would like to appeal to media owners and operators especially in Nigeria that the development has exposed a log in our eyes. And so, we need to remove such a reproach that can further diminish our stature as an African giant and tower of strength for the black race.
Which is why I agree with a colleague, Anike-Ade Funke Treasure’s brief but seminal post on this on a digital platform where she wrote:
“No Longer at Ease. BBC is back 59 years after to give leadership in this sector. Shame of a nation. Kiki Mordi is a star now. Allow young people shine. Let their ideas fly in the newsroom. Stop sitting on their reports forever. Stop killing their morale.
Finally, Special message to the Federal Government: With NTA and FRCN these investigations would be done but many politicians own Radio (and TV) stations now, we should not kill the two giants for yours. FUND them. RESTRUCTURE them. Value your OWN talents. Again, Nothing new in this investigation. Nigerian journos have shouted themselves hoarse on this issue in the past.
What is unique in this one? Three things. The LIBERTY to tell the story, the FUNDING to stay on the story and the availability of a CREDIBLE & TRUSTED NEWS BRAND. And then Corporate Nigeria, I ‘hail’ thee…”
What else shall we add?
Immediately the BBC broadcast the exclusive story, I recalled Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s counsel to Editors on May 29, 2013 ‘Democracy Day Dinner’ he organised for us at the Protea hotel, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi Lagos. The Governor’s clear message on the occasion was a curious response to Mr. Lanre Idowu’s concise keynote titled, “Today’s Reporting”, which in any case was an analysis of flawed reportage of events at the time. Here is an excerpt from the 1,227-word keynote in which he (Idowu) wondered why Nigerian media could not report accurately the Governors’ Forum election that took place then and why the media was not conflict-sensitive in reporting the kidnap of Kehinde Bamigbetan, a Local Government Chairman in Lagos at the time.
“…It is all too easy to predict media content these days. The subject matter is strikingly similar, the treatment, painfully predictable. Politics remains the main staple of the media, with the economy, a distant second and episodic interest in stories of conflict, disaster, prominence, consequence, and novelty bringing up the rear. If our media are not emphasizing the trifles of daily governance, they are busy throwing heat without light on issues crying for media clarity and direction. Too often there are gaping holes in the stories we publish, which tend to suggest insufficient attention to detail…”
The conclusion of Fashola’s response to the keynote that night was that if the Nigerian media would not step up from mediocrity and incipient descent into lack of thoroughness that a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (FNGE), Mr. Idowu contextualised, more resourceful foreigners would come to the country with their capital and capacity to take over journalism practice as business.
Most of Fashola’s guests including yours sincerely were taken aback by the virulent remark of our chief host.
I would like to say that the same Fashola became an oracle to me last week when the “BBC African Eye” came quietly into the University of Lagos and threatened to ruin the brand equity of the Nigerian university system through their report on two randy lecturers. There is no doubt that the BBC ‘sting operation’ is a good scoop that will have long lasting effect on the governance policy of universities in Nigeria. My take, however, is that the limited operation that has become prominent would have been more significant and comprehensive enough if we had heeded the caveat by citizen Fashola: that we should have been more diligent in monitoring governance at all levels beyond Abuja and a few government houses we cover in the country.
The BBC would not have come to Lagos if we had followed up on the discovery of a randy Professor Richard Akindele who was sentenced to two years in prison in December last year. The scandal a student, Monica Osagie touched off in her own ‘sting operation’ that was promptly handled by the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife authorities and the civil society organisations should have set off more robust investigations into operations of the university system in Nigeria beyond poor funding. We did nothing and left everything to God.
As God of all grace hadn’t punished the scoundrels in our universities, the BBC came in and did a curious job while we Nigerian pressmen dozed off on the all-important education beat. That is the echo of my sister, Funke Treasure, former General Manager of Radio Nigeria’s FM Station, Radio One who said, BBC…came to give leadership in this sector, 59 years after our independence from the owners of the public broadcaster (BBC). It is, according to her, ‘shame of a nation’.
I had on February 4, 2018 (on this page) suggested a restructuring of the Nigeria’s public broadcasters too to reflect independence and vibrancy that the “BBC” too, a public broadcaster depicts, in this connection.
In the article (marking a BBC good product, Ms Kadaria Ahmed @ 50) titled, ‘A time to restructure NTA, FRCN and VON’, (https://guardian.ng/sunday-magazine/a-time-to-restructure-nta-frcn-and-von/) I made the following observation:
‘…I would, therefore, like to join the train of institution builders this week too through a suggestion within the context of my old “Operation-Fix-Nigeria” theme.
This time, I would like to ask for restructuring of one of Nigeria’s most significant institutions that successive governments have been competing to ruin: the public broadcasters known as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and Voice of Nigeria (VON).
My interest in these public broadcasters as they should be called, was renewed recently though two related issues involving two Nigerian significant female journalists, Kadaria Ahmed formerly of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Yoyosi Ogunseye former Sunday Punch Editor who just joined the same BBC, a very successful public broadcaster. The first was Kadaria’s when she marked her 50th birthday in December last year with a colloquium on the state of the media and a book presentation.
At the parley attended by notable people including the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, her first employer in Nigeria, Dr. Wale Babalakin, who built and still manages the best local airport in Nigeria, the Channels Television founder and chairman, John Momoh and wife Olusola, vice chairman, among others, Kadaria who hails from Zamfara state but raised in Kano was unveiled as one of Nigeria’s best journalists from the stable of the BBC.
Kadaria, a former editor of the defunct Next, which once threatened to change the face of journalism in Nigeria, signifies the distinctive journalism at the BBC. I was there and listened to all the testifiers to the quality of Kadaria in learning and character.
John Momoh too spoke to the sterling quality of journalism that Kadaria brought to Nigeria from the same BBC where she spent thirteen good years. Dr. Babalakin spoke glowingly too of her exceptional emotional intelligence before her book was publicly presented.
Yinka Oyegbile, an old soldier from The Guardian who was with her at Next and now of The Nation spoke of the quality the artful Kadaria exhibited. She demonstrated quality from the BBC world service when in 2011 she had to take over from where the CNN’s Jonathan Mann pulled out at the last minute of the presidential debate. She was to assist Mann who was the advertised anchorperson on the platform of the then NN24, organisers of the 2011 presidential election debate. That was the event that announced the former BBC brand ambassador called Kadaria Ahmed.
At the NIIA, Lagos where Kadaria was celebrated, I wanted to draw the attention of the political leaders on the occasion to the prevailing conditions in the country that have not made the Nigeria’s public broadcasters too brands of good equity. I could not. But early last month, an opportunity came for me when Ms Yoyosi Ogunseye generally believed to be the next editor of The Punch daily, assumed duty as the Head of BBC West Africa.
The two striking stories of Kadaria and Toyosi and the BBC have set me thinking about the expediency of discussing the rise and fall of institutions in Nigeria. What is more, that is why I am fully persuaded that instead of reading regularly from the book of lamentation on how the military juntas in Nigeria tactlessly seized the then Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS) and changed it to NTA now in focus, we should think of how to rebrand it now from the ruinous clutch of the federal government and indeed the presidency.
There has been no credit to give to any government since the takeover: no government has added value to the NTA, FRCN and VON. We only pretend that it is well.
And here is the thing and conclusion of the whole matter: why is it that Toyosi can join the BBC, a public broadcaster instead of a Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS)? How is it that the only reference point is that the FRCN and NTA too made John and Sola Momoh, for instance? And sadly, why can’t Channels Television get some values from the FRCN and the NTA that trained its owners some years ago?…’
I just want to conclude that media owners and operators in Nigeria need to reflect this week on how the “BBC” again just took the steam out of what we could have done better. What is more, I want to pay tribute to Prophet B.R Fashola who predicted in 2013 that we could lose steam and relevance to more resourceful foreign media if we continued to celebrate mediocrity in journalism in this age of disruptive giants.
Behold, we need to disrupt our business model to reflect what BBC, et al can learn from us, lest they will be covering corruption of our system while we will be covering it up.