Your *?!?* Front Page By Sonala Olumhense

Columnist: 
Sonala Olumhense

The front pages of the press are a wonderful classroom.  Pay close attention, and they open your eyes to this moment in time.  It is when you turn the page that you largely encounter the sundry gremlins who seek to interpret the front page.

In a chaotic carnival such as Nigeria, it is important to be mindful of those interpreters, for they can poison your soul.  They can tell you what to think or how to rethink what you thought you had thought through.  

But you know all that, and so you stick with reading the front page news, which is by implication a summary of the most important stories.  

But are you really reading the lead stories?  That is, are you reading the front page you should be reading, or are you reading the front page someone is trying to persuade you to accept?

In an ideal situation, the front page is the editor’s proudest and most profound professional summary of the moment.  His signature and the date on the product affirm that for History.

But what if the editor and his signature are lying?  What if that front page was manufactured for convenience?  

Let me provide one proof that this is sometimes—may be, often-- the case: not simply that the front page does not always tell the truth, but that in Nigeria, it may be a perpetual, even habitual liar, with grievous consequences for our country.

For my argument, I am going to examine a powerful story-telling tool known through History as the follow-up.  Moms and Dads, Grandpas and Grandmas have used it since the Garden of Eden, the objective being not simply to hold the attention of restless children, but to answer the question, “What happened then?”

In principle, the editor chooses the stories for his front page based on his professional judgment that they are the most important for the reporting period.  By making those choices, and then writing--or causing to be written in his name--headlines that draw attention to them, the editor also affirms that those stories have important implications, and a shelf life beyond the facts as known at that time.

That, then, is the territory, and necessity, for a follow-up, or several of them, to educate the public of significant subsequent developments of public interest.

In journalism, it is a debt owed to the reader.  In Nigerian journalism, however, it is often treated as a favour or an option.
A big story appears on the front page, covered with massive fonts and screeching verbs, and readers are falling all over themselves to buy copies of the publication:

 
Emperor Indicted!
50 Human Heads Found Under Bed of Governor’s Wife!
Governmemnt Budgets for 8-Lane Expressway
Billion Dollars Traced to Former Leader’s Bank Account!
Government Gives N500 To Fire Victims!
Emperor Promises 1000 Buses To Ease Transportation!

We see them all the time.  In a country as tortured as Nigeria, every news publisher can find stories of this nature with very little effort.

That explains why they are so common on the front pages.  You can tell the time by them.  The trouble happens the following day, and the day after that: there is a new story being marketed, a new headline screaming for attention.  Yesterday’s headline is…yesterday’s news, and forgotten.

In Nigeria, you rarely learn what became of the Emperor’s indictment or those 50 heads that were reported to have been bleeding under the bed of the governor’s wife as she slept.  The editor does not get back to you with the billion dollars in the bank account of the former leader, nor does he seem to care about the delivery of those 1000 buses or their deployment or whether a single fire victim ever saw a kobo in relief assistance.

Instead, the public will be assailed with a fresh batch of mind-boggling stories, or maybe the journal would simply report society stories or quote from speeches:

“Oga Has Said…”
“Oga’s Wife On Trip to London…”
“Deputy Oga To Buy Private Jet…”
“Lawmaker Says Do As I Didn’t…”

Abdicating responsibility for follow-up stories is how the press in Nigeria helps the connected, the rich and the powerful hide in the headlines.  The truth about our country lies in those abandoned stories, with many journals pretending to be merely forgetful.

Anyone can peddle stories that make government officials and politicians happy, but that is called public relations, not journalism.  True journalism, especially in a context such as Nigeria’s, should constantly and consistently expose the various dimensions of our national malfeasance, and follow up on those stories.

The lack of critical follow-up in many journals may be somebody’s incompetence or inexperience.  But when it becomes the character of that journal, it amounts to complicity, which yields the impunity that now runs our lives.  

The failure of otherwise reputable journals to do whatever it takes to ensure that a story big enough to garner screaming headlines is adequately and persistently followed up has become part of our culture of poor governance, which is partly traceable to complicit journalism.  It is journalism looking the other way and permitting the camel to pass through the eye of the needle.

That is how your front page news may be lying to you, and why some of Nigeria’s worst seeds have become the Iroko trees we worship.

Some stories may not be so obvious, such as how we have managed to award parallel contracts for the same roads for 30 years--across several governments and through many Ministers--each contract with a different completion date, but it is there.  

Some stories may be screaming for attention, but if an editor is looking the other way, he will never see it.

Why would an editor be looking elsewhere?  For the same reason that before the very eyes of our front pages and headlines, our nation’s worst criminals and saboteurs have continued to ‘progress’ into positions of power, influence and affluence.   That is not despite the power of the front pages, but with their approval and collusion.  When the headlines blink or pretend to be distracted, that is what happens.  

As we speak, Nigeria is rife with rumours of looters, indicted persons, 419-ers, former governors with atrocious records, former Ministers who never did a thing in public office, and sundry weaklings and liars who cannot point to one electoral campaign commitment they have ever fulfilled, preparing to run for public office two years from now.  

The front pages will be alive with exciting asterisks when they make their announcements; we have seen them all before as they boisterously reported electoral promises.  They are never there to report whether those promises were fulfilled, or point out where.

In other words, contrary to what I said at the beginning, it is really not when you turn the front pages that you run into interpreters and commentators.  In the end, the front pages are the ultimate commentator.  What are yours saying, or not saying?  Are they telling the truth?  
Is the front page in your hands a part of the problem?

Correction
In my column, “My Mumu Don Do. Your Mumu Don Do?” (December 30, 2012), I mistakenly referred to Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s run for the presidency in 2007.  The correct year was 2003.
That error did not and does not affect my message: that I proudly endorsed Fawehinmi as a man of principle and integrity.
 

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Buhari withdraws from d 2015 presidential race

CPC led by Buhari and the leaders of ACN, have agreed on the sharing of party and political offices and that Buhari might have tacitly given indication of withdrawing from the 2015 race.It was gathered that the former head of state had agreed with Tinubu to play the godfather role to the planned coalition and that the emerging party would then search for a younger element to carry the flag. Sources, however, said that Tinubu is planning to contest the presidential election, while he would also consider a running mate position if he loses the race for the ticket of the proposed party. However, contrary to public pronouncements which indicated that all was well with the merger effort, it emerged that formation of the mega opposition party is still facing serious hitches arising from personality clashes among key opposition leaders.

Sonala lied to us no matter

Sonala lied to us no matter how we may try to color it to suit our needs here

Facts Shall Reign

Most Journalists of this generation have become joke in all sphere of human entities. One of the greatest mistake these writters dont know they do is that when a word has been interpreted cannot be reversable. Sonala made mistake which he quite sure of, by correcting himself although too late.

Now about Deri, the hunter Dog of Dumbo the resistance(as if). You see I once said that I like this guy, and I mean it. I mean just imagine we dont have people like him here we wouldnt had known this writter misquoted the year on Gani. But my only headache with him is his incessant hatred on Gen. Buhari, haba?, you acting as if the man raped your mother or sister. You dont know what God can do, maybe this man could be SS breakthrough. So slow down and be patience, because the music is bored already.

Facts Shall Reign

Most Journalism of this generation has become joke in all sphere of human entities. One of the greatest mistake this writters dont know they do is that when a word has been interpreted cannot be reversable. Sonala made mistake which he quite sure of, by correcting himself although too late.

Now about Deri, the hunter Dog of Dumbo the resistance(as if). You see I once said that I like this guy, and I mean it. I mean just imagine we dont have people like him here we would had known this writter misquoted year on Gani. But my only headache with him is his incessant hatred on Gen. Buhari, haba?, you acting as if the man raped your mother or sister. You dont know what God can do, maybe this man could be SS breakthrough. So slow down and be patience, because the music is bored already.

News organizations all over

News organizations all over the world flourish in what is new (news). Returning to follow-up on old news does not sell newspapers unless the follow-up is also news-worthy. “IG Indicted”, for example, is a good front-page lead story on Monday. And “IG Sentenced to Life” is also a good front-page lead story on Friday. But between Monday and Friday, “IG in Court” is not a good front-page lead story, unless it is a slow news day. I understand Sonala’s grouse with burying or neglecting to do follow-up stories by Nigerian newspapers. However, the issue is media-wide (radio, TV and the Internet) and it is international, to include here in the U.S. Further, Sonala was a member of the press in Nigeria and he worked for organizations that were guilty of not doing good follow-ups. This is not to say that he is not entitled to criticizing with the view to improving. I just have a problem with casting Nigeria and Nigerian institutions as the worst.

Lie or error

Errors and lies are not the same. A deliberate attempt to deceive or misled is a lie. To err is to unknowingly act or say the wrong the thing. To err in dates, statistic may be construed as a lie or to misled. Solanla did not lie when he asserted that Gani contested an election. He made an honest mistake. He erred when he misplaced the date of the historical fact he stated. If you want to take him to the cleaners, hang on to the error as a lie. If you wish to see through the error as the "printer's devil", stick to the issue. I guess public discourse like this can never be free of errors and undertakers ready to bury the messenger.

Deri's game is blackmail

@ jabolo

The danger is that Deri (there are three of them) is that Deri is worse than a propagandist; he is a blackmailer.

The true test of blackmail is that the blackmailer hides behind a mask, leaving him free to use lies and to manipulate facts without having to fear reprisals. People who use their names in their writing are conscious of the need to stick to facts, and can be held to their errors.

Can Deri write in his true identity? If he cannot, he is not just a propagandist, he is a blackmailer.

But you are right in one respect: everything he writes is a nail in the coffin of his paymasters. I will be quoting you.

Re: It is time to ban Deri

@ Bashir

It is such a shame that Deri is permitted to continue to abuse people here day and night. He contributes nothing to public discourse but poison.

Banning is the ineffective tool of a megalomanic assembly. Every vituperation spouted here by the character DERI is another nail in the coffins of his paymasters.

You know it, I know it, other useful minds know it.

Instinctive propagandists were tried at Nuremberg and strung up with the Nazis. I reckon he goes to bed each night fearing this fate.

In case you missed it, let me recommend this gem of a counsel from an anonymous commenter on this topic below:

The good Nigeria we seek will transform the lives of these wasting bigots, and usher them to the era of quality discourse and ideas for national development that they never thought was possible.

kudos to Deri

I often hate to get myself involved with Deri! But one thing I know about him on SR is that, the guy does not bend back and forth with his views like some of us do here. Sonala actually lied when he said Chief Gani contested the 2007 elections against late president Yara Adua. I am happy that he admitted his mistakes and apologized for it. So Mr. Deri let us move on. But Sonala should also remember that singular mistake of his will hunt him till death do us part! He should cross check his facts properly b4 going to town with them! Again why should Sonala blame the Nigerian press when he like his professional friends in journalism, also lied to us in the last article he wrote for us. Methinks the guy is a little bit confused.

Elitist Newspapers

Newspapers in Nigeria are doing what they are established to do. Almost all the newspapers in Nigeria were established to inform the masses what the elite and the rulers wants them to know. The publishers, the Editors and the so called journalists who work there know it. The only one that does not know it are the gullible masses that buy there crap and believe the newspapers are there to inform them as obtainable in other countries. Like Nigeria Newspapers so goes with Nigeria Pentecostal Pastors. Nigeria Pentecostal pastors don’t even believe in God. Nigeria Pentecostal pastors will tell their members to go about their normal business as they are protected by blood of Jesus, while the Pastors buy bullet proofed SUV with armed body guards to protect themselves and their families. To expect anything different from Nigeria Newspapers is like expecting Nigeria Pentecostal pastors to hand to God the tithes and seed money collected from poor and deluded members on behalf of God to God.

sonala lied against d spirit of late Gani

No doubt about it-sonala lied against the spirit of late chief Gani whom he claimed to have endorsed. Rather than have u tell us that Sonala lied-u want to endorse his fake ideas-these are the same people who claim to want to end corruption from the micro-wave societies that they reside in with their visa lottery card in d USA! Ban me from SR? U must be out of your regional mind! Who would have (TOLDED) u that Sonala, aka buhari pikin lied-facts are known to be scared-u just dont play games with them-sonala would have gotten away with his lies if not for Deri-if i am banned from airing my views cause of dat, so be it-again who on SR can-in the so-called free information society that they often preach about-No dem call it freedom of buhari speech-like master like servant--was buhari not locking ppl like late tai solarin up for speaking out against his atrocities against the human family in 9ja? So why not silence Deri-animals

SR, It is time to ban Deri

It is such a shame that Deri is permitted to continue to abuse people here day and night. He contributes nothing to public discourse but poison. NO matter what the issue, his only agenda is to interpret it in terms of Buhari. While this is clear confirmation about how scared Dumbo is about Buhari, he should not be allowed to obfuscate every discussion and insult every writer under the guise of free speech.

Absam aka tundemess u brother sonala don mess for church

@ABSAM pls tell Sonala to go hide his head in shame! He is a disgrace to the profession of journalism! which he hides under to protect Buhari! Luku here-the question is did Sonala lie to us? The answer is yes--I would rather he is told to stop disturbing us with all these alawada rubbish that he often pens for SR. Its only a confused mind that will want to teach us about the ethics of d journalism profession in 9ja instead of discussing global or national issues outside the watery visions of buhari-what has bloggers got to do with the editorial opinion of newspapers? Editors are trained to follow the thoughts of their owners-in 9ja-as daily trust is 4 arewa or kaduna mafia-so is sonala is to buhari and boko haram. Sanala would have gone away with his lies if I had not raised d alarm here-Late chief Gani hated liars like hell! So he could not have allowed Sonala 2 endorse him the way he did to buhari-who jailed fela cause he called him a thief! EWU GANI CONTESTED ELECTIONS AGAINST YARA

na Deri write this one also? who is now d mumu-sonala or Gej

(In my column, “My Mumu Don Do. Your Mumu Don Do?” (December 30, 2012), I mistakenly referred to Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s run for the presidency in 2007. The correct year was 2003.) unquote--Sonala lied and lied and attempted to 419 us that he wrote an article in praise of late Gani when he contested against Yara in 2007-what a shame! Was Sonala on Gbana when he told that lie? Its not about Deri-the shame is on sonala and not Deri-Did he lie to us --the answer is yes-hence the above apologies abi!? now Sonala the baby pancake of team-buhari has come to apologize via some yeye editorial policies that he manufactured for us from the bed-room of his dead mentor buhari-In journalism if in doubt-u drop it-Sanola did not-he attempted to impose his failed boko haramic ideas on us-shameless liar!

DERI IS GETTING OUT OF HAND

@Deri. Your contributions to intelligent articles always make me sick. Not even when your lap dog Jonny-go-slow is not mentioned. You are quite right that your blogs, in your own word, "depict Ijaws ( You mean DERI) as the lowest creature on earth" We all know many SS and Ijaw people who are intelligent. But as for you Deri, you are truly pathetic.

Self-inflicted sickness

Contributors and bloggers here have known you DERI as a bigoted tribalist of SS extraction. But to expose yourself further with a self-inflicted sickness of shallow, rapidly depreciating reasoning in the name of responding to quality articles, is another dimension. Your envy and delusion knows no bound. Readers should know that DERI is now a PR company with school drop-outs, militants, and the like populating its workforce. The company receives subvention from a hideous 'performing' governor of a SS state in collaboration with a federal agent. The good Nigeria we seek will transform the lives of these wasting bigots, and usher them to the era of quality discourse and ideas for national development that they never thought was possible. Ignorance to knowledge is not a punishable offence. It is a self-inflicted deprivation by choice, especially when you drop-out of school and drop-into crumbs from corruptionand militancy.

Well said. The Nigerian

Well said. The Nigerian press/media is neck deep in the quagmire of corruption.

follow up on buharis thievery in d oil industry-u no be editor

Sonala is not different from the greedy, dishonest, disloyal, unpatriotic editors & politicians who sponsor trashy articles, to deceive the masses into submitting to the whims and caprices of the boko haramic trouble shooters on a killing spree in d Fulani North. Sonalas satanic attempt to recycle Buhari for us failed woefully when d lies he tried to sell 2 us that late Gani slugged it out with Yara in 2007, were detected by Deri! Sonala even lied dat he wrote a piece 4 Gani in 2007 when he contested against UMYA! Editors embargo stories they are not sure of! Not Sonala aka Buhari pikin! Shameful 2 see Sonala try 2 mis-inform d public with d help of his pick and pay pals here! Never ever taken the sermons colored with regional thoughts, syndicated troubled liars like Sonala, Pius and Okey often preach to depict Ijaws as the lowest creatures on earth via d lap of Jonah here! Writers write to change society not destroy it with their lies and hatred for GEJ!

Nigerian Journalists and Public Relations

Sonala has said it all. They don't bother to follow up news about the looters. That is why many of these people who should be serving time in the jail are parading themselves around as politicians who have something to say. They use hungry journalists to launder their decadent image in the public

What is wrong with the Black race?

In response to an article "How Britain corrupts Africa and makes it poorer " http://apache.saharareporters.com/article/how-britain-corrupts-africa-an... John Iteshi on February 9, 2010 - said:
"In my opinion, we need to begin to tell oursleves the hard truth about our failures. We need to focus on the challenge of proving that we are not inferior by building civilised/successful societies!".......
"The Asians have since their independences been pursuing development, but no Black African country has achieved anything tangible. Black people are the only racial group that cannot point to any successful society of their own. Black Africa and the Carribbean have proven incapable of building their own Malaysia, India, Indonesia etc".

His comment then is still as relevant, as revealing as it is today even considering that it is a different subject matter @Sonala is dealing with! There is a lot our society lacks and does not even know it!

This headache is for those

This headache is for those who read or patronise Nigerian newspapers. I do not and I have been happier with that decision long time ago. If you wish to spoil your day, pick up a daily newspaper. It is all trash. I used to enjoy the columnists of the old Guardian, not Abati's version. Since I can read a few fellows online, the newspapers can burn to ashes.

You are very correct

Sonala you are very correct. Many Nigerian journalists appear to have been compromised. So they come up with these outlandish headlines. Lately, Nigeria papers are awash with women who have passed their child bearing age giving birth at 59 years ,sixty five years etc. These are usually after so many years of infertility. I suspect that these newspapers are engaged in baby laundry there by giving tacit support to the now prevalent baby selling and abduction in Nigera. These couples that usually do these publicity stunt would simply drop the name of God and viola Nigerians will start peaking in tongues. No body asks questions not even journalists

Many of the reporters do not even ask these couples pertinent questions like who was the doctor and where is the hospital were these miraculous births occur. However, they will quote the pastors of the couples copiously.

The Sun newspaper has become the newspaper of choice for these fairy tales.

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