Announcer: …and now your Tonight Show host, Dr. Njakiri Damages.
Dr. Damages: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. In the news today, female students at some Nigerian universities are threatening to dance naked in the street in protest against…( I don’t remember what the protest is about. But I can assure you that it is something noble). I believe that I speak for all men of my age when I ask, why didn’t this wonderful idea come up while I was a university student in Nigeria? I would have used my brain to design rockets and nuclear reactors instead of using it to imagine how Titilayo would look when naked.
Talking about women and nakedness, our guest tonight knows a thing or two about that topic and many other topics. He is the Publisher and Editor-in-chief of ThisDay group. Please give a warm welcome to Mr. Nduka Obaigbena.
(Nduka Obaigbena walks into the stage, shakes Dr. Damages’ hand and takes his seat.)
Dr. Damages: Welcome to the show.
Nduka Obaigbena: Nice to be here, home boy.
Dr. Damages: Why is it that I don’t like you?
Nduka Obaigbena: Shoo! What a nice way to start an interview.
Dr. Damages: I really mean it.
Nduka Obaigbena: You have to ask yourself that question.
Dr. Damages: I have. I could not find an answer. That was why I invited you.
Nduka Obaigbena: Could it be because I dress better than you?
Dr. Damages: Olusegun Obasanjo dresses better than me and I like him.
Nduka Obaigbena: I don’t know. Could it be because I hang out with Beyonce?
Dr. Damages: I must say that the picture where you were staring at her breasts, ogling her, was disgusting to me. But it wasn’t because of that.
Nduka Obaigbena: Is it because I succeeded in a career you failed in.
Dr. Damages: Reuben Abati is also a success in journalism. And I like him.
Nduka Obaigbena: Don’t insult me.
Dr. Damages: How?
Nduka Obaigbena: It’s an insult to compare me to Reuben Abati. I have paid my dues in journalism. I was detained for a whole seven days by Sani Abacha. I went on exile for two years afterwards. What price has Reuben paid? Has he even been stopped by the police? Has he ever gone on vacation not to talk of going on exile? I own ThisDay Dome. I maintain a penthouse at Ritz Carlton in Washington. For Christ’s sake, I own a private jet. Does Abati own a private jet? Does he? Does he pally with the likes of Jay Z, Usher, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna? What makes him a success? A piece of land in Abuja that the minister gave him for being a good boy? Lookia, my friend, my editors own mansions in Abuja. And if it is because he wrote an eleven part series on Jonathan for peanuts, I have passed that level. I make much more than that by simply wrapping Jonathan’s picture around my newspaper. So don’t ever compare me with that Lilliputian. I am a media mogul. Nigeria has not seen the likes of me. What Zik started and Abiola perfected, I have taken to the stratosphere.
Dr. Damages: How did you make the money to buy a jet?
Nduka Obaigbena: My boy who used to carry my bag in London bought a jet ten years ago. So it is no big deal. I’m not one of those southern men who sleep with rich northern men for money, network and business leads, if that is what you’re thinking.
Dr. Damages: Was it true that the FBI was once looking for you to clear various hotel bills you incurred all over America while in exile?
Nduka Obaigbena: That’s nonsense. I have maintained suites in various five star hotels around the world for decades.
Dr. Damages: Who was the benefactor that wrote you a check to clear your debts?
Nduka Obaigbena: I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s all part of the rumors swirling around me. Rumor mongers say that Abacha paid me not to publish anything negative about him. But they fail to acknowledge that Abacha locked me up.
Dr. Damages: So why don’t I like you?
Nduka Obaigbena: It must be bad belle – pure and simple. Because you cannot play the game so you hate the player.
Dr. Damages: I used to think it had something to do with what you represent in Nigerian journalism.
Nduka Obaigbena: I represent excellence.
Dr. Damages: What was that? Is it the failed dream that professionalism will only come to the media when journalists, not politicians, own the media? Is it the same kind of excellence Clarkson Majomi of the defunct Daily Mail represented?
Nduka Obaigbena: By excellence I mean, cutting edge innovations, industry and daring. The New York Times called me a cross between P. Diddy and Bono.
Dr. Damages: The same way Bill Clinton called Philip Emeagwali the Father of the Internet.
Nduka Obaigbena: With all due respect, my pal, Bill Clinton, did not know what he was talking about.
Dr. Damages: But your sister newspaper, the New York Times, knows what it’s talking about?
Nduka Obaigbena: Yes, of course. Like ThisDay, New York Times is a paper of great repute.
Dr. Damages: So how is ThisDay?
Nduka Obaigbena: Great. Still leading, still influencing things and still breaking news. We take Nigeria to the world and bring the world to Nigeria. No other newspaper in Nigeria comes close.
Dr. Damages: How is your staff feeling about all these innovations?
Nduka Obaigbena: They are a happy lot.
Dr. Damages: I guess you have never watched any of our shows before?
Nduka Obaigbena: Not really.
Dr. Damages: I could see that. Don’t fee bad. I haven’t read Thisday in years and I never missed any important news as a result. If you’ve watched any of our shows, you will know that we don’t take bullshit answers from guests. If I want bullshit, I will go and interview Richard Akinjide. I will ask you again, how is your staff at Thisday? Have you paid them?
Nduka Obaigbena: I’ve created more millionaire journalists than any other newspaper in the country. I even go to the extent of giving babies to a selected group of beautiful female staff of Thisday. My generosity is endless.
Dr. Damages: Have you paid them?
Nduka Obaigbena: Listen, monthly payment is overrated. The world has changed, you know. It is no longer the journalism of your father’s world. These days, churches collect gate fees. So, journalists have many other options on how to remunerate themselves.
Dr. Damages: Why has there been an upsurge in scandals on the firing and suspension of staff members?
Nduka Obaigbena: I don’t micro-manage the newspaper. There are people that I pay good money to do that.
Dr. Damages: But your name is mentioned in some of the published reports.
Nduka Obaigbena: Don’t mind those frustrated journalists operating online websites. They write rubbish and call it news.
Dr. Damages: You mean that their stories are false?
Nduka Obaigbena: Of course. In fact, if I reveal what I know about those online websites, people will marvel at the iniquities they commit.
Dr. Damages: Please do.
Nduka Obaigbena: No. I don’t want to bring myself to their level. I wish to maintain my dignity.
Dr. Damages: If your daughters…
Nduka Obaigbena: (Interrupts) What about my daughters? Don’t bring my daughters into this. In fact, those people writing about my daughters online will soon hear from my attorney.
Dr. Damages: I did not intend to talk about your daughters. I was just trying to make a comparison of the way you treat your daughters with the way you treat your staff.
Nduka Obaigbena: I did not choose my daughters but I chose my staff. My staff signed contracts with me. If they fail to abide by the terms of the contract, I reserve the right to fire them. I cannot fire my daughters. My behavior has nothing to do with how my daughters behave. I could not run my daughters and I run Thisday. So I decided to run ThisDay. I have to set the tone for ThisDay.
Dr. Damages: But it is part of your responsibility to pay staff for the work they do.
Nduka Obaigbena: I pay them in many folds. I pay them in cash and in kind. I give them opportunities to be rich. And many of them who know how to seize opportunities are already rich. So what are you talking about?
Dr. Damages: But from what is published online…
Nduka Obaigbena: (interrupts) You know what? I know those online boys. Two of them are always in Abuja blackmailing and extorting politicians who think that online blogs mean a thing. Online blogs means no shit. I can tell you that. How many Nigerians read them? One of those online bloggers recently interviewed Ibrahim Babangida. Do you know how much Babangida used to settle him? Do you know that he bribed the Tribune newspaper to publish the same Babangida interview as if the Tribune editors did the interview themselves? That is interview laundering. It is similar to money laundering. You get a dirty interview and you find a way to get it into a legitimate media system.
And there is this one who calls his site huhuhuhu or something like that. That one faked an arrest in 2008. We were told that the SSS arrested him for violating national security. And suddenly, this unknown job man became somebody. His northern handlers who faked the arrest used it to raise his profile so that he could collect more money in shakedowns. And he has been doing that ever since. Do you know that the former National Security Adviser collected millions of dollars from Yar’Adua to counter the online media? Some of these online media are beneficiaries.
We know what they are doing. We know the people who funnel money to them to neutralize the legitimate online site that they actually fear, Saharareporters. A former minister recently told me how one of these extortionists cum bloggers was pestering her, demanding ten million for transportation after an interview. ThisDay will expose them one day. You just wait and see. The leg that moves in a zigzag way is closely followed by an eye that moves in a zigzag way. There is nothing hidden under Aso Rocks.
Dr. Damages: So what happened to Thisday South Africa?
Nduka Obaigbena: It went south.
Dr. Damages: Was it the business climate that failed you or your managerial prowess?
Nduka Obaigbena: You see, South Africa is not Nigeria. They do things differently there.
Dr. Damages: Really?
Nduka Obaigbena: Yeah.
Dr. Damages: Your charm could not work?
Nduka Obaigbena: I did everything. Mbeki’s people did not want to pay millions for us to wrap his picture around my newspaper. I tried to wrap Jacob Zuma with Indian prostitutes but the man was not buying it. I even told playboy Zuma that he wouldn’t need to take a shower afterwards. But it did not help. They do things differently over there in South Africa. But I’ve bounced back with Arise. It is a magazine that is sold in over 150 countries of the world.
Dr. Damages: You really aim to conquer the world?
Nduka Obaigbena: Like Rupert Murdoch.
Dr. Damages: I’m impressed.
Nduka Obaigbena: Thank you.
Dr. Damages: But I still don’t like you.
Nduka Obaigbena: You’re not the first. People like you cannot help it.
Dr. Damages: Thank you for coming.
Nduka Obaigbena: Thank you for having me. Please warn those online renegades. Those who know me will tell you that there is nothing that I hate like blackmail. If those online boys think they can blackmail me they are kidding themselves. I personally wrote the law of the new Nigerian media. I invented what some of them are practicing. Warn them not to mess with me.
Dr. Damages: Thank you, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena. You’re a correct guy. (wink, wink). Until next time, good night.