Monday, November 9, 2015

The Sun, The Nation Media War, Legacy Or Disgrace?

Editor’s note: The recent war of words between two major newspapers in Nigeria, The Daily Sun and The Nation, is a thing that many have been concerned about, with pen warriors allegedly defaming themselves on the pages of various newspapers and the Internet. Eustace Dunn,  and Naij.com’s senior editor, faults both media organisations for their actions and inaction, suggesting they are sending wrong signals about the media industry at large.

When on Tuesday, November 3, The Daily Sun newspaper published an article with the headline Kalu, The Sun Slam N2billion Suit on The Nation, Omatseye, what readily came to mind was the media war between two local media outfits in Ndokwa area of Delta state sometime in 2011. Ndokwa Chronicle had first fired the jibe with a broad front-page headline targeted at the publisher of The Event magazine, Dave Onyia, who also did not leave any stone unturned as the editorial in the succeeding edition became a core focus on the publisher of Ndokwa Chronicle.
Such issue was forgivable owing to the fact that it was among local publishers who probably did not really know the nitty-gritty of journalism ethics as to what should be published or not. The two publishers were not politicians — unlike the two owners of The Daily Sun and The Nation newspapers, Orji Uzor Kalu and Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu respectively.

Headlines and war of words

The Sun had also in the previous week published a front page headline, The Sun Replies The Nation Columnist, – The Sun condemns The Nation Columnist for Circulating Libel Suit on the InternetAnother headline published on The Daily Sun was Call Omatseye to Order – Kalu Tells TinubuEventually, Premium Times reported that Sam Omatseye, the editorial board chairman of The Nation and columnist, had filed a libel suit against The Daily Sun for trying to malign his reputation before the right-thinking people of the society.
Kalu had reacted to Omatseye’s criticism of his newspaper over an earlier report which claimed that the federal government had placed Tinubu under security watch. In the article titled Kalu for FIFA President, the top-notch columnist had also lambasted the former governor of Abia state for nursing such “laughable ambition” to become the president of FIFA.
In this light, would one stand aside and clap for the media brouhaha and be excited about it? Of course not. The late Winston Churchill, a British statesman and prime minister of the United Kingdom, once said that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future. Albeit a fight in the street is a thing we all hate to get involved in, but should most revered set of people in the media industry be engaged in intellectual war and cast aspersions at one another? Now that they do, what legacies abound?
It should be noted that the only difference between the fight on papers and fight on the street is the absence of physical punch among the ace media guys and the absence of written words among the guys on the street.
One keeps wondering why top media men keep allowing themselves to be used by political businessmen. Where is the principle of professionalism and absolute responsibility in paving the way for younger generation of journalists in the country? As it stands, they are being thrown into the Caspian Sea. Instead of letting it go, other editors from both newspapers decided to join in the attack and defence media war.

Sincere writers vs politically influenced writers

On the basis of what has been conceptualized, it is very conspicuous that The Daily Sun has become more of promotional tool in the hands of Orji Kalu as it’s the one projecting the issue the more with its many headlines. It has also on many occasions campaigned for the Kalu as someone whom the FIFA cap fits. But a close read of Omatseye’s column would reveal the fearlessness in his piece. This he affirmed to us, the-then Campuslife reporters with the late Ngozi Nwozor, in a hall at Mainland Hotel Ebutte-meta, Lagos, in 2007. Both Omatseye and Reuben Abati had talked more on valorousness in journalism. They had motivated many of us. They had condemned the idea of being bought over by politicians and money-bag business moguls.
Ordinarily, one would have always averred that the reverse would never be the case listening to the duo. While Abati had openly betrayed the ideals of his column with The Guardian having had a splendid romance with the government and not talking when eating, dear Omatseye keeps his painted political proximity very low even though he never fails to attack in order to strike a chord.

Omatseye’s controversies

From the look of things, there seems to be a very controversial trait that rears its head when Omatseye writes about the upwardly mobile class. In 2011, he had written a piece titled Awo Family without Awo; this sent many into calling for his head. Even the late HID Awolowo, Ebenezer Babatope, and his Itsekiri people joined words with him. He was accused of insulting the Awos and adhering to his master’s dictates. The Awos newspaper, Tribune, also lashed out on him. His commentary on the Awos was described by some other media analysts as a badly written one.
He had also drawn criticism to himself with an article he wrote where he placed Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka higher than the late Chinua Achebe. He wrote that Achebe’s greatest work, Things Fall Apart, is big in ideology but lacks in literary essence. From the vituperative review, many came up to fire him for belittling the amazing works of the envied famous novelist.
Even though one would say that the columnist has his opinions to be aired, he has a way of coining his words when he attacks, it injures softly. That was the case of his attack on Kalu which led to the unleashing of the dragons on him by The Daily Sun. In such fearless system of analyses in especially the political clime, with the many alleged goofs on the part of the All Progressives Congress leader, Tinubu, Omatseye is yet to bring on his column a reprimand on the publisher whom he represents. This also goes a long way to unequivocally send the signal that it is basically not only Kalu’s newspaper that obeys its publisher’s orders or influence if you like, but also The Nation and every other media owned by politicians, businessmen or private individuals.

How the media should tread

Be that as it may, if I were the editor of Kalu’s newspaper, I would have decided that even though such libel suit becomes news on the law desk, it should never make front page headline. The Nigerian big figures ought to understand that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. They will always be pelted by the media. An attack on a political figure should not culminate into intellectual fight, especially in the case of the former governors, Kalu and Tinubu.
Having said that, The Daily Sun and The Nation newspapers should note at this stage of media competitiveness that they are the very propelling force for young media owners and actors alike. They are the societal arbiter and not catalysts for brewing altercations.
And finally, it is high time the media jettisoned the idea of fighting another media on the basis of attack on their publishers. It should not warrant a calculated and influenced attack on fellow media writers. Examine your crisis, pick up your faults, correct your mistakes, and settle out of court because two wrongs can never make a right. Stop being the anthills of the savanna used in making things fall apart. If this is ignored, the legacy you intended to leave would turn out to be media disgrace. Over to you both.
The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.
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