Journalism has come of age in Nigeria. It is often referred to as the fourth estate of the realm. Journalism, more than any profession helped our war against colonialism and facilitated our journey to independence without much bloodshed. During the locust years of dictatorship, when most politicians had become servants and apologists of the dictators, it was the media that continued the fight for freedom until it was won. The journalists were principled and each newspaper and media house had its ideology which it pursued to achieve its objectives. When people and institutions act on principles and ideologies in societies, positive changes occur. However, in the 1980s and early 90s, some group of unprincipled journalists came on the scene with fake and bombastic news channelled towards making fame and fortune that nearly ruined the integrity of the journalistic profession. This brand of journalism was dubbed “junk journalism” and whenever anything is dubbed junk, it simply denotes that it is not good for the health of human beings and should be discarded.
Democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999. It was led by a former military head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo, that never served as a civilian under a democratic government. Contrary opinions were viewed as enmity and spokesmen of the government were chosen by their ability to abuse the opponents of the government. By the time the regime ended, the President had changed the leadership of his party 5 times and the Senate President, leader of the National Assembly, of same party was changed 5 times. This meant that each of the changed officers served for an average of less than 2 years in his 8-year regime. By the twilight of his regime, he had become so powerful that he believed that he was entitled to third term and declared the office of his Vice vacant for daring to oppose his third term agenda and had the audacity to jump to another party to realise his presidential ambition while the Vice had frustrated his own ambition to rule forever. He effectively emasculated party leadership and subsumed the party leadership under the government’s leadership. It is to his credit that whoever is the President of Nigeria is also regarded as the leader of his party. The President of Nigeria is not bound by the manifesto of his party because the manifesto of his party is subordinate to his own manifesto once he wins. The results of the general elections of 2003 and 2007 were determined by phone calls from the presidency to INEC chairmen and the INEC chairmen did not even pretend to be independent. For the first time in world history, the Politician who won the Presidential election conducted by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, President Umaru Yar’Adua, described the election that brought him to power as flawed. One can therefore safely conclude that those were junk elections. We are still suffering from the effects of those elections till date. Junk elections, unfortunately, can only produce junk politicians. Nigerians concluded that the regime was merely a civilian regime not a democratic one.
There is no greater testimony to buttress junk politics than what is happening in Edo State now. In 2016, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, paraded Godwin Obaseki as the best thing that has happened to his regime and government. He publicly declared that he made Obaseki the head of the economic team because of his intellectual power and economic sagacity. Against the wish of many other qualified candidates, including his former DG, campaign organisation, Ize Iyamu, he stood by his support of Obaseki and ensured his victory as Governor of Edo State. His former campaign organisation DG, Ize Iyamu, defected to PDP to contest the 2016 gubernatorial election. For daring to challenge the Comrade’s decision on Obaseki, Adams publicly called him unprintable names. He called God as witness and promised to waive his immunity and should be held liable if he lied. He told the world how Ize Iyamu poured acid on another man and destroyed the man’s manhood. How he was rusticated from the university and never made it to Law School. This is akin to calling somebody a devil because no humane person can do this. The comrade even labelled him a hypocrite as he advised Edo people to disregard his pastorship label as even the devil manifests as angel of light.
In 2020, when nothing has changed about who the Pastor is and Oshiomole had fallen out with his godson and hitherto the angel of Edo State, Adams, made a 360-degree turn around and swapped their position. Obaseki, who was a genius in 2016, suddenly became a dunce who couldn’t qualify to study in University of Ibadan with three credits at the Ordinary Level. Obaseki has become a liar and deceiver who was not even qualified to be the APC candidate. Oshiomhole disqualified Obaseki from contesting the APC ticket. When Obaseki refused to appeal the disqualification, Oshiomhole appealed on his behalf and told the world that Obaseki lost the appeal. Have you ever heard that a man did not appeal a judgement, yet the appellate court gave judgement against him without even hearing from him when he had publicly told the world that he will not appeal? This can only happen in Nigeria. On the other hand, Ize Iyamu has become an angel who alone is qualified to govern Edo State. The worrying thing about this somersault was the reasons given by the comrade for doing what he did in 2016. He said they were political statements and political marketing. In his words, you cannot be working for toyota and be marketing mercedes benz. He revealed that his statements were based on hearsay and he acted based on what people told him. He actually admitted that he lied but refused to take responsibility. To confirm to the world that he lied, he now agreed that Ize Iyamu went to law school and is a gentleman Pastor. A sitting Governor, who had access to security reports, based his destructive untrue comments against political opponents on unsubstantiated hearsay just to achieve his selfish ends of being the godfather of a state, who alone must decide who governs the state. If this is not poisonous junk politics, please someone should educate me what it is.
PDP, on the other hand, scored Obaseki’s regime F9. This means abysmal failure. It went to court to contest the qualifications of Obaseki. Indeed, Oshiomhole claims it was in the PDP’s court processes that he learnt that Obaseki was not qualified to be Governor. The party had closed its screening exercise and had qualified 3 candidates for the primary election when Obaseki was disqualified in APC. The three pre-qualified candidates vowed they will never step down when they saw that the body language of their party was positively receptive to an Obaseki’s candidacy. They were told to “calm down”. When the chips were down, not only that Obaseki was given the ticket unopposed, the candidates became the Chief spokespersons of the Governor. The screening that was closed was suddenly lifted to accommodate him. The PDP remarked the same answer sheet and scored Obaseki A1 within a week. To them he is now the best Governor in Nigeria. This can only happen in Nigeria. What role did principle and ideology play in all these? None. The only thing that was paramount was the quest for power and resources. Treachery upon treachery, all was treachery. No heroes will emerge in Edo elections, no matter who wins, because heroes hardly emerge from treachery. Violence is also likely in Edo election because Mahatma Gandhi opined that politics without principle is one of the blunders of the world that lead to violence.
The danger in this trajectory is that the electoral attitude of the political parties is spreading all over Nigeria, including even the legal profession. Abuja branch of the NBA was factionalized for almost 4 years because of sham branch elections and NBA could not do anything about it because of entrenched interests at the national level. The 2018 national election of the Nigerian Bar Association was reported to be glaringly manipulated, with two NBA officers, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide, facing criminal charges by EFCC for their ignoble roles in rigging the election in favour of the present NBA President, Paul Usoro SAN. In 2020, the trend appeared to be worse. I was the no 2912th lawyer in the first list of eligible voters for the election. The election list was doctored about 3 times before the election day. I logged in my details and we were told to wait for the link to vote. I waited for 24 hours for the link on the election day, July 29th-30th, to vote, only to discover that I have been disenfranchised. Significant number of other qualified NBA members, about 13,000, were also disenfranchised. Some branches favourably disposed to some candidates were deliberately sidelined while other branches favouring some candidates were deliberately inflated. More than 4000 ghost voters were believed to have participated in the election. It was a sham and a shame, yet, results were announced and winners purportedly emerged. If these abnormalities are not duely investigated and corrected, the purported winners are simply products of an illegitimate junk exercise and the future of NBA elections uncertain. In the words of J.S. Okutepa SAN, “the nobility of the legal profession is in a terrible mess in Nigeria. The profession is in deep trouble. Nothing is noble anymore … No more character and integrity … Things are just falling apart”.
No matter how grave the situation is, we cannot lose hope. The solution will never come from the evil men but from the good men. Our country is going bad not because of the violence of the evil men but because of the silence of the good ones. “When you see something, say something and when you say something, do something. We must be willing to get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble” to thwart the evil plans of the evil men and ensure that we keep the sanctity of our republic and democracy, preserve our fundamental rights, especially our right to freely and fairly elect our leaders and ensure that junk leaders no longer proceed from junk democratic processes. Thanks to John Lewis, the foremost African American civil rights icon who recently passed away but left us with those indelible words quoted above. May his soul rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.