“Flatterers are the worst kind of traitors, for they will strengthen thy imperfections, encourage thee in all evils, correct thee in nothing, but so shadow and paint thy follies and vices as thou shalt never, by their will, discover good from evil, or vice from virtue.
- Sir Walter Raleigh
There is something pernicious in a columnist who devotes himself in blaming the people of Nigeria for the folly foisted on the polity by the same leaders he devotes his entire career praising and adulating. That columnist happened by the way to be This Day’s gypsy writer: Dele Momodu, a self confessed purveyor of junk journalism, someone whose claim to fame is etched in flattery of celebrities; from Shina Peters to M.KO. Abiola; from Dora Akunyili to Terry Wayas of this world.
One can safely conclude that Dele Momodu had never found a government official he can’t flatter, because he never found a Nigerian government official he cannot patronize. The sad state of journalism in Nigeria is such that some of our journalism has turned patronage into a profitable enterprise. First they will take a deliberate jibe at a celebrity or political office holder, excoriating him/her for a well deserved non performance in office. Once you do that, pronto the particular politician will come running to you for favors. You then load your subsequent write up/column with the usual pejoratives praising their supposed “sagacity”, something you have suddenly discovered after you met with him/her.
Meanwhile, the people these so called government official are supposed to serve continue to suffer with little or nothing to show as democracy dividends. This indeed is where the likes of Dele Momodu hurt not only their credibility but the very institution of journalism that brought them into prominence. We all know that in journalism, to be persuasive, you must be believable; to be believable, you must be credible; to be credible, you must be truthful.
In his latest article in This Day, Momodu, consistent with his latest itinerary which allows him to junket around Africa on behalf of a corporate behemoth like Globalcom Network, get into a rhapsodic state of effusive praise for the host country president. What is not lost on us his readers is that we invariably know that this is usually a hollow attempt to launder the image of that president because it has recently approved GlobalCom business license.
Most salient readers knows that every time Mr. Momodu travels to any African nation two things will invariably follows: An effusive praise of that country leadership; be it Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and now Benin Republic, followed by an invective laden, crocodile tears about the sorry state of Nigeria. His latest installment follows his most recent trip to Benin where he found Benin to be an Eldora do where Nigerian are running in drove to due to the misrule of his friends in power.
The irony apparently is lost on him as he devoted three paragraphs in the same column to an effusive praise on President Umaru Musa Yar’adua; for settling a dispute between a member of his cabinet, and the Executive Director of National Communication Commission. He concluded that Yar’adua is a good man, because the latter reads newspaper.
My first retort is to yell, “Yes you are damn right he reads newspaper! I bet he reads your columns filled with flattery. After all, “the art of flatterers is to take advantage of the foibles of the great, to foster their errors, and never to give advice which may annoy.” When you keep blaming the customs man at Seme’s border whilst you excused the corruptions of ministers and ex-governors why will he not read the garbage you spew every week!”
The one thing that jumps out at me from his latest piece is the amount of "arguments" constructed on things like "I am beginning to think” , “it would probably”, “I should be able..” , “We were forced to think..”, “It was my conclusion”, “you probably...", "I bet you...", "I'm sure you...", and the like. Assumption is piled on supposition, mixed with profanity, and sprinkled with pejorative, in an endless series of virtuoso displays of muddled thinking. No serious attempt to think through the policy permutations that led to the status quo on both sides of the border. No serious effort made to excoriate the authorities involved in the misrule going on in Nigeria. No attempt to challenge the re-branding crusade of his patron, Ms. Akunyili.
It is as if Momodu’s tortured logic bestrides the gargantuan facts like a colossus. Why would any serious governmental official take such write up seriously? An exercise in flattery superimposed with a contorted attempt to blame the masses for the wrongs of their leaders. Like Samuel Johnson famous quote: “"Men who stand in the highest ranks of society seldom hear of their faults; if by any accident an opprobrious clamor reaches their ears, flattery is always at hand to pour in her opiates, to quiet conviction and obtund remorse."
One can safely opine that the “shame on us” tour of Momodu is better directed exclusively at the “us” exemplified by Momodu’s and his cohorts in power. It is self evident that the mischief of flattery by the likes of Momodu’s perpetuates the corruption going on in Nigeria; as Edmund Burke rightly pointed out “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver; and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings.”