By Emmanuel Nwachukwu
I know I should not be talking about this. I should let this matter rest. Yesterday, Bukola did send me a message, requesting that I let go, and yes I gave him my word that I will speak no more about it. I was determined to keep my word to a trusted friend and comrade, but the decision of the Editorial board of ThisDay newspapers, to, throw to the dogs, every sense of dignity, reason, ethics and professionalism was just too much for my mind to take in. I just couldn’t hold my peace anymore. Now I find myself breaking a vow I made to a brother. Hence, I deem it expedient to tender an unreserved apology in advance to Bukola (or @zebbook as his twitter followers call him), for breaking a vow I made with him. That said, I will move swiftly to the reason why my heart is in pains.
The right and freedom of speech that God and human laws have bequeathed to us, is, maybe life’s greatest gift. The fact that we have the freedom to incubate thoughts and propagate them somehow is amazing and must be cherished. However, as the Bible says, life and death can swiftly be produced by our expressions. They shape, not just our own lives, but that of all you read or listen to. It is an irrefutable truth that you and I are a product of what we hear, watch and read. Hence, it is safe to say that the world knows no human force greater and more powerful than the media. When I say the media, it is convenient for your mind to quickly think of the likes of BBC, CNN, FOX, London Times, AIT, NTA, PUNCH. Well, if you just did, then you are very correct. They are the front-line media we all have come to know and depend on for dissemination of information andpropagation of various ideology.
But limiting it to the mainstream media is just not different from believing that wildlife is all about Lions and Tigers! Your Church, School, Clubs, Associations, friends, neighbours etc, are all part of the new age media. With the advent of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, you and I are now essentially “journalists”! You would be shocked to know that a seemingly innocuous tweet you wrote with your small Nokia phone in the comfort of your bedroom in Isiala-Ngwa, would forever change the life of a man on the streets of Mumbai in India.
That brings me to the tweet made by @zebbook, wherein he used Jesus as subject in a simple analogy. @zebbook has over the years not hidden his disapproval for how President Goodluck Jonathan has conducted the affairs of the nation, nor has he shied away from showing his disdain for the mode of operation of his media aides. To drive home his point that these aides find an occupation in “mudslinging”, @zebbook opined via twitter, that if a man as righteous and perfect as Jesus was to criticize Mr President’s actions, his aides would smear his image by going as far as accusing him of immorality! Writing this, I still can’t find a single thread of blasphemy in what that was said! I saw the tweet, and by virtue of his large followers, I’m certain hundreds of others saw it. But little or non of them reacted.
One of those who saw the tweet was former FCT minister Mallam Nasir El Rufai, who found the tweet funny and clearly showed that when he retweeted it. But that was the perfect opening some unscrupulous persons wanted to perfectly play on the fickle minds of some religious bigots. Notable amongst this mischief makers was regrettably Prof. Pat Utomi. One would expect an academic Don of Utomi’s standing to spot a harmless analogy when he sees one. But for reasons I don’t know but would certainly be keen to know, the Prof made use of his media strength to create a notion of blasphemy in the minds of many. What ensued was a chaotic and disgraceful show of holiness from many.
Suddenly, the same Jesus who couldn’t find as much as two persons to fight for him when his life was literally in danger, had hordes of twitter and Facebook Voltrons! They cursed, swore, condemned and even made death threats and promises, so much so that I was left wondering if Jesus was really that vile and violent. The same people who scream the name of Jesus shamelessly at the height of sexual pleasure with a man or woman who is clearly not their legally married spouse, turn around to show an impeccable height of holiness that would make even the Almighty God feel he has just sinned. But condemn this shallow minded ones the much you like, it is crystal clear that their line of thought was guided by persons they looked up to, who unfortunately turned a tweet on its head to score cheap political points. To say these ones are a colossal disgrace to humanity will be showing amazing self-control on my part, as they are worse than that.
Later that day, both @zebbook and elrufai, in separate statements, apologized to those who honestly found the tweet and retweet offensive. Let me say categorically that, while I see nothing wrong in the tweet and retweet, recognizing that some persons are offended by our actions, and saying sorry is great maturity. Nasir elrufai should, by virtue of his position in the society, be more careful as the rules that apply to the ordinary man on the street are different from his. As the saying goes, “to whom much is given,much more is expected”. Although your actions are not wrong, its effect on the people might be negative, thus discernment is needed from men like el-rufai. However, that apology, which in Nigeria is a rarity from “big men” would suffice. For me, it shows they understood the discomfort they caused and wanted to calm the storm. How wrong I and so many of my specie were to think so!
This morning, ThisDay newspapers, a media outfit with an audience spanning the length of the country, carried a report on the incident, but for reasons that only they (and maybe) God knows, deliberately distorted the facts of the matter. ThisDay reported that elrufai was the one who tweeted the supposed blasphemous tweet and when he saw the uproar it generated, sought to douse the tension by adding LWKMD(Laugh Wan Kill Me Die) by way of a retweet. Now that is a LIE!
But while will a media house choose to distort facts and feed an unsuspecting public with false and damaging information? What does ThisDay stand to gain by bringing the name of Mallam elrufai to disrepute? What was the price paid to ThisDay to throw all the values, principles and ethics of journalism to the dogs by publishing outright lies in the name of a news report? Without mincing words, ThisDay’s performance has been disgraceful, shoddy and pathetic. That was A crass display of gutter journalism and clear intention to live by standards that would make the devil shrink in fear.
Unfortunately, the man they sought to attack has lived the last 6 years as the focal point of the federal government’s venom and attack. If he has not only survived but come out of them all, stronger and more determined and focused, then, I think ThisDay would have to do better than that to get at him. That they even alluded to a perceived 2015 Presidential ambition on Mallam El-rufai’s part, indicates that the editorial board of ThisDay has allowed political affiliations to becloud their sense of reasoning. I sincerely hope that someday, jaundiced media houses like that would be put in their place. Unfortunately, what used to be our last hope, the judiciary, has now become a premium partner in the project “Ruin Nigeria”.
I am not a lawyer, judge or judicial expert. But do I really need to be one to understand that the judiciary has in recent times, become a cog in the wheels of the nation’s progress? Lawyers can argue and seek to confuse anyone with their legal terms and terminologies, but what matters to me is the result their exercise produces. The effects of judicial pronouncements these days are mind-blowing and heartbreaking.
The judiciary now glorifies high level corruption and slams the hammer on petty crimes in such a manner that I’m forced to think that what brings the wrath of the Nigerian law on you is not what you did or did not do, but the magnitude. How do you explain to me that the same law that sentences a young man to 10 years in jail with no option of fine for stealing a goat, sentences another to two years in jail or a N750,000 get out of jail free card! I am sorry, I’ve just been informed that the criminal pleaded guilty and asked for mercy, after he purportedly forfeited 32 houses to the federal government. How touching!
Why didn’t the judge just discharge him? He has suffered enough, after all, it is just N23, 000,000,000 he stole! Idiotic reasons! Judgements are not just meant to be meted out, they are also a means to educate the public. The judiciary is supposed to be the final hope for the common man. But most importantly for me, judicial statements are sacred words and guidelines that tell us what path to take.
Now I ask, what lessons are there to learn from the judgement handed down by Justice Abubakar Thalba on the stealing of over N23billion by Mr John Yakubu Yusufu? Give me one good reason why, by virtue of that judgment, I or anyone else shouldn’t go stealing our own N23billion and paying N750,000 for our own get out of jail free card? What happened to that law that condemned some thieves to death or massive jail terms? Why can’t same laws be applied in massive frauds?
For those who are advancing the now annoying plea-bargain theory, was that the reason Bode George and Tarfa Balogun also got mild punishment for stealing? Or was it plea-bargain that gave James Ibori a clean bill of health in Nigeria only to get a dose of first-class justice in the United Kingdom? I admit wholeheartedly that I am a layman and you my lawyers and judges are learned, hence I implore you to teach me the now magical nuances of the Nigerian law.
There is a conscious effort to frustrate Nigerians into accepting the dubious and criminal system as a norm and standard of life. So far, their tactics has been working. But let it be known to all and sundry, that while judgement is reserved for God in heaven, we shall someday, separate the wheat from the weed. And that day, is just some days away.
I’m Nwachukwu Emmanuel, and I love to hear from you on twitter. My handle is emma_dele