By Nathaniel C. Adoji
The Guardian is without any doubt one of the leading newspaper in Nigeria but when such a brand is put in the hands of an incompetent and biased editor, then one must fear for the future of the tabloid. Abraham Ogbodo and his ilk Terhemba Daka are managing the newspaper like a propaganda medium, something that is typical of ‘Brown Envelope’ journalists.
A simple search on Google and you will see articles written by Ogbodo to tarnish the image, personality and career of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and that of the VP’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, but I believe his latest attempt will be his undoing.
A look at Mr Akande’s Resume and you will see that this is a heavyweight versus lightweight match up.
In their last attempt published on 12 April and titled ‘The fumblings of a presidential spokesman’ the duo rightly acknowledged that Mr Akande served as the North America Bureau chief of The Guardian newspaper, a job he carried out with pride, respect and honours to show for it.
While Mr Akande was pushing his weight in the US and carving a niche for himself, Ogbodo and Daka were chasing press statements, something they do till now.
Any journalist in Nigeria and abroad who looks at the career path of Mr Akande and his trajectory will know that his present position was earned through hard work, dedication and diligence. Not one that was earned through blackmail and cheap op-eds.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have included Mr Akande’s achievements in this piece but as a young aspiring journalist aspiring to greater things, Mr Akande was one of the shining light in Nigerian journalism. For starters, Mr Akande is the only Nigerian journalist so far to have interviewed a sitting American president in the White House when he interviewed former President George W. Bush.
Hold your breath and wait for it. He has also exclusively interviewed American folk hero, General Colin Powell, billionaires like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the real estate billionaire Donald Trump, now President of the United States.
If you say Mr Akande has a thing for Presidents and Presidency in Nigeria and abroad then you’re totally right, not to mention interviews with several African leaders and presidents.
Aside from working for TheNews Magazine, Tribune Newspaper and The Guardian in Nigeria, he worked with Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Newsday in the United States. He also worked briefly with the United Nations as a Press Officer and later as an Advocacy and Communication Consultant between 2002-2004.
In the US where he was also an adjunct college professor, Akande founded “The Empowered Newswire”, a publication that has continuously reported about Nigerians and Nigerian issues especially in the US and Canada in the last 13 years.
Let’s not go any further into his staggering career as a journalist, editor and founder because his Resume almost never ends.
When he joined the Nigerian Tribune and became editor of the weekend paper in 1997, he became one of the youngest newspaper editors in Nigeria. That however brought him in direct confrontation with the military and he had to leave Nigeria about 14 months later alerted that he may have become a target after publishing a cover story with a screaming headline “WHO WANTS DIYA DEAD?” not knowing that on the day of the publication the Abacha junta will declare Diya a coup plotter.
Fast-forward to 2015, President, Muhammadu Buhari officially appointed him to be the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the vice president, Yemi.
What The Guardian Wrote
The Guardian editor, Abraham Ogbodo, displayed his lack of editorial judgment and bias in his piece titled,Understanding Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. He broke every journalism ethics and brought his political one-sidedness to bare. Here’s an excerpt from the piece. “But today, Osinbajo is sounding like Adams Oshiomhole, a union leader, who by the grace of God, became governor of Edo State for eight years. The revelations about big thefts in the economy had come more from Adams than even Ibrahim Magu, chairman of the EFCC. It was Adams who said former petroleum minister; Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke alone stole 13 billion British pounds from the national treasury. That is like saying she stole in raw cash almost twice as much as the entire fortune of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and whose worth in 2017 was put at a paltry $12.2 billion by Forbes Magazine. What exactly is driving Prof Osinbajo into talking like a not-so-educated union leader? This is most worrisome. As an acting President while Buhari was away on medical vacation, he was acclaimed to have done very well.”
This tells a lot about the professionalism of the editor and where is allegiance lies.
What Laolu Akande Replied
Mr Akande only explained what the VP said at the Quarterly Business Forum held on the 19th of March, 2018 to the press release-loving Guardian duo. “His basic premise was that grand corruption constitutes the preeminent problem of Nigeria’s economic development.
He said that, unlike any other country, it would be either ignorant or negligent of any economic planner in Nigeria not to fully appreciate the massive hemorrhaging that comes from corruption.
He went on to point out that despite the fact that the nation earned between $100 to $114 a barrel of oil between 2011 and 2014, investment in capital was abysmal.
He argued that the difference between the current government and the previous one is that the current government has tamed grand corruption and the impunity in the looting of public resources and is thus able to spend more on capital even when it is earning probably 50% less than the previous government.
He gave one example of 2014. Then, oil prices were consistently over $100 dollars a barrel. Actual capital releases to the Ministries of Works, Housing and Power was N99bn. Ministries of Transport and Agriculture got N15B and N14B respectively.
In total these 3 ministries got N139B. He compared that with capital releases to the same ministries in 2017, when oil price was between $50 to $60 a barrel: N415B for Power, Works & Housing, N80B for Transportation and N65B for Agriculture, totaling N560B.
I’ll let the readers be the judge but if the management of The Guardian will allow their editor to run the newspaper like a one-man business then I fear for the future of the newspaper. If the mischievous duo think they will destroy The Guardian that was built by heavyweight journalists then they must be called to order. The readers expect balanced journalism which is what the Guardian stands for and I’m sure many will be surprised if these two remain as staff of The Guardian following this piece of mine especially when they don’t send an unreserved apology to Mr Akande.
Nathaniel C. Adoji is a public commentator and an aspiring journalist