Before I am misunderstood


Ordinarily I would not have bothered to offer an explanation. It is not that I am a man who takes an ego trip. Before I am misunderstood, that is not who I am.
Talking has not been one of my best attributes but writing always has. Those who know a little about this side of me would readily agree that I have done so right from my days as a youngster at Radio Rivers.
I have put that talent, more than 40 years after, to the service of my State and the service of journalism.
Long after serving in government, in the executive arm and later in the legislative branch, I have remained committed to the practice of journalism.
So, those who are born in an era of social media, who exchange the access created by search engines for abuse instead of the transmission of knowledge and the flow of information, and those, especially younger folk, who enjoy villifying others – older and more experienced – travel along a narrow gauge of ignorance.
From our stable in the Telegraph which published trice a week before we joined politics, some young journalists in Rivers and Bayelsa states who work in major newspapers and Radio stations of repute as editors and correspondents passed through the Telegraph.
No paper based in Port Harcourt has so far beaten the three times a week record that we set with the Port Harcourt Telegraph, Midweek Telegraph and the Weekend Telegraph.
Before I am misunderstood, my wish is not to beat my chest. I have only told the truth, perhaps to those who know nothing about a past, not to talk of a present that is daily unfolding before their very eyes.
Those in the habit of chastising us, particularly for continuing our practice; who say we are so old it is not fashionable for us to practice; who say we should be ashamed of reporting events that we did not create; should ask themselves why Larry King remained an anchor of “Larry King Live” late into his life at CNN.
They should also ask why Walter Cronkite anchor of “60 Minutes” spent most of his life at CBS.
I recall the day Larry signed off, the day he had his last talk show on television. Larry broke down and wept, overrun by emotions. He was about to give up a part of the “who” that he really was.
There are many more examples of men and women who were married to their profession, outside Nigeria, inside Nigeria.
The other day, a friend of mine, Joe Ezuma passed away. Joe should be seen for what he was, a journalism hero.
He practiced journalism until his last breath. Age or a tardy feeling of retirement as he aged, did not deter him.
He continued to contribute to a sub sector verily concerned with the agenda setting process; a profession that still enjoys the statutory backing of the constitution to wit, to hold government accountable to the people.
Joe’s profession was similarly empowered by our founding fathers to transmit, inform and impart knowledge as well as ideas. Until Joe died, he was proud to belong to an institution which continues to promote a marketplace of ideas through information dissemination.
Why should I stop practicing journalism because nature allowed me a window to climb upstairs?
It still beats my imagination that anyone could come to the conclusion that I have become too old even to handle a biro.
I’ve always marveled when people who do not know me talk. This class of people seem to think that politics is all that there is. They have even been sold to the idea that politics made me.
They have become too used to the idle claims of persons who say they made this or made that.
That thinking which has become quite suffocating in politics is so erroneous. People worked, people slaved so there could be results.
It was journalism that made me. I owe everything that has changed my life to it. I owe it to the courage and fearlessness that God gave us abundantly.
Otherwise, we would have run away in the heat of battle to take shelter outside these shores like some of them did.
Do they even remember that which was the sacrifice of others to the actualisation of a good cause now that they have risen to dizzying heights?
This is not for me to worry about. I am ever grateful to God for that grace which located me and turned me in the direction of journalism. God willing, good health on my side, I shall continue practicing until the day I die.
Someone wrote, albeit ludicrously about the appearance on the internet, of the works of the Telegraph that I edit. I felt so sorry for him.
Oshilem, I think that’s his name, did not appear to know that there are newspapers published on the internet. Newspapers like Sahara Reporters, Premium Times, Next and The Cable to mention a few, are published online. They have never been on the streets!
If Oshilem knew a little more about the way the media works, he would probably understand that all major publications that operate on the streets also own websites which dot the information super highway.
If he were to be conversant with these trends in a changing media world, he would have come to know that traditional media have become accustomed to the use of the internet.
Will he find time to engage in a little more research, so he can update a little and appreciate a little more of a subject matter that he knows very little about before communicating to a mass audience?
It isn’t sufficient to pose for the camera lens with a stack of books on the rack behind him. Gosh! Men like him make me sick!!
Men and women who are divorced refer to their spouses as their ex-husbands and ex-wives. Even boys and girls refer to their boyfriends and girlfriends as ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends.
So, it has become commonplace to talk of ex-this and ex-that, an ex lawmaker, ex- commissioner, ex,-Governor and ex-Head of State for instance. When did the use of this ex and ex that become abusive?
Why has my reference to Dr Farah Dagogo, a federal lawmaker as an ex-militant become an issue?
I do not need to refer to the dictionary to understand that the word ex could mean former. It could be used to refer to someone who has held office at a given time; someone who has been engaged in a profession or in some form of social activity.
When used in a descriptive sense, say ex militant, it simply means that person used to be a former militant. It does not suggest or connote anything else.
Farah for crying out loud has a PhD. He is lettered. He is richly exposed, endowed and enlightened. So, his level of socialization which is a function of his education and background speaks for him. Today Farah lives within the law, operates within the law and enjoys the protection of the law. That’s not something a fugitive takes for granted.
Those in a hurry to read the minds of men without having the necessary qualification, who have a poor working knowledge of the art of writing and writers, who think they make mince meat of others with tiny posts on the social media, should tarry a while, especially if they are not as adept in the use of the written word.
Many years ago, when the flames of struggle were lit in the creeks of the Niger Delta, many shied away from identifying with what meant more than bearing arms. But a few of us born in this region, armed with our pens, stuck out our necks.
I was one of them and if history were to play any role in the matter, it would recall what roles I and a few other journalists played in advancing the cause of the Niger Delta people.
It was the advent of an era, an era which became known as an era for the struggle for resource control.
It was an era when youths of the Niger Delta dared to say no, particularly after the Kaiama Declaration.
It was an era when Niger Delta youths became agitators, when bearing arms if it was absolutely necessary became a signpost of the struggle.
There were times when men like us picked up the gauntlet in defence of men like Farah who stood up to be counted, men who otherwise would have been treated as common criminals.
Maybe, some day, history would remember the heroic period when journalists like us told the story to a world that did not know anything about the sordid events in the Niger that had led to armed struggle.
Men and women dubbed militants have become pilots. Many years ago, in South Africa, I was flown by one of them in a training aircraft.
My colleagues in the House who were on ground to see what the money spent on the Amnesty Program was achieving had refused to board the aircraft. I flew with the young pilot from the creeks because of my firm belief in the goodness of man, and the transformation of man.
I remember hearing the Head of the Amnesty Program under the Jonathan administration telling my colleagues I was an intellectual militant. Did I feel belittled? The answer is no.
Perhaps, for him, it was is own way of acknowledging the role that we played, the risks that we took in support of the struggle fought by them. Where were these men who crow now? What was their contribution?
Men who did nothing, who understand nothing about the days of struggle when the world came to know about the injustices done to the Niger Delta people should please say nothing of the things they do not know.
To this day, I still keep an excellent relationship with some of the men and women who rallied so that the Niger Delta would be liberated economically and developmentally.
Farah was a militant with a cause, a good cause. That cannot be taken away. The Nigerian press refers to such men as ex-militants and ex agitators of the Niger Delta. So, what offence did I commit?
Today, Farah sits on the floor of the National Assembly as a distinguished member of the House of Representatives.
It is evidence of the strides that he has made.
As an intellectual militant as some have described me, I perfectly understand the sacrifice that men like Farah made while fighting for the common good as so-called Niger Delta militants.
Our states earn fabulously through derivation. It is the product of the struggle in the creeks, the contribution of leaders of thought in the region and the fearless journalism of the time championed by some of us in defence of our stake in the Nigerian project.
When men like Oshilem who call themselves Etche sons talk, when others like them from our dear State write stuff on the social media for political and ill-conceived reasons, they should please ask appropriate questions. Ignorance is not a virtue. It has never been.

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Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
1 year ago

Writing throws you into battles.
Ride on Ogbos, through your pen you have fought many wars. Your efforts shall not be in vain

Last edited 1 year ago by Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
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