Last Sunday 31st of August, Daily Trust published a scathing article from one of her columnists, Ilyasu Gadu.
I needn’t repeat the title of that famous article on the personality of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, but suffice to say that the article wasn’t very flattering of the Chief, who himself had had many terrible things to say about everyone depending on what side of the divide he finds himself at each point in time.
Chief Femi is a handful.
I recall when he boasted of having used Igbo women aplenty, including the wife of an Igbo icon.
The next thing, he was getting married to an Igbo woman, and suddenly became an avatar for Biafra.
I think people like him should be very used to trouble because they stoke a lot of it.
It is even a wonder that he would be shaken by the current problem, which he precipitated with his brutal put-down of a correspondent of Daily Trust.
I hear he is suing Daily Trust for N6 billion and if it is true, he is just baiting more trouble for himself.
I can tell him he will come off with a bloodier nose.
My concern is not about Chief Femi though.
It is about the reaction to the article by reading public, especially netizens (young people who read the news, and live their lives, on the internet).
Daily Trust had initially published the article without attribution, but any discerning mind would have been able to tell that it could not be an editorial.
Even after the article was updated and attributed to Ilyasu Gadu, many shared same and captioned it “Daily Trust Hit Back”.
Many of my friends from Southern Nigeria buttressed their points by claiming that the Cross River State reporter must have been commissioned by Daily Trust to ask the ‘embarrassing’ question.
It was just too bad that a certain Ilyasu wrote the article.
To some, the ‘north’ had spoken.
Suddenly Fani-Kayode became a symbol of Southern Nigeria’s struggles.
They (the north) were out to get him – through Daily Trust.
The situation escalated after he apologized in a video.
‘Why can’t they forgive him?’, they asked.
Even when I tried to explain to some, that the article could have been sent days before Femi apologized, some had already made up their minds.
That the article was syndicated and published at least by The Cable, was of no interest to these Nigerians.
I was shocked at the reactions and the thought processes of many young people.
I argued for a bit with a good friend who tried to make me understand that it was an APC vs PDP affair.
Femi has been critical of Buhari, and so Daily Trust must have been commissioned to embarrass him by APC – after all Daily Trust is a ‘northern newspaper’.
Now this is where I get off the bus.
I think many people in southern Nigeria unwittingly give whatever power they have left, over to the mythical united north where anybody that speaks must have consulted the whole north and therefore represents them.
I tried to convince someone recently that even the Northern Elders Forum does not represent everyone from the north of Nigeria, just as Afenifere or Ohaneze Ndigbo do not represent everyone from the South West or South East respectively.
I think this idea of attributing too much cohesion and importance to any statement from the north has unfortunately been transmitted to younger generations.
I propose however, a situation where young Nigerians see everybody rather than this us versus them.
The north, just as the south, has people with disparate opinions, and indeed people with caustic pens.
No specific attribute is any particular people’s preserve.
The north has accomplished as well as up-and-coming intellectuals that you may denigrate at your own risk.
The north is full of human beings with their failings and doubts, just as the south.
No culture is perfect, and so we will see flaws in the cultures of the north, as well as the south of Nigeria.
In truth, geographically, there is nowhere to draw a boundary between north and south.
Instead, the two broad regions flow into each other.
The other day a friend said Nigeria should be shared into two, using Rivers Niger and Benue as boundary.
I looked at the map online and realized that most of Adamawa, Taraba, Kogi, Kebbi and Kwara States with all their multitudes of nation and tribes, were south of Rivers Niger and Benue.
I wrote in support of Daily Trust as I am part of the team even though not a permanent staff of the organization.
I may have written this before but a time like this makes one repeat the story. I started writing for the group while a banker sometimes in 2003/4.
I was encouraged to so do by the then GM Finance, Mallam Shehu.
When I went for my Masters in the UK in 2005/6 they called me that they will be commencing a new brand called Sunday Trust and offered me a column.
I was initially afraid of being unable to keep up with a weekly column but I took the challenge.
I have hardly missed a column since then.
Daily Trust also offered to pay me a token even though I didn’t ask.
It was then N16,000 per month, reviewed after some years to N25,000 per month, and then N40,000 per month and I think later N50,000.
Of late, they let columnists know that these payments must reduce because of the effects of COVID.
Everyone agreed with the Management.
I also write widely for some newspapers and magazines, but none of them have offered me a dime.
I have also never had to call Daily Trust for one day, asking for the payment.
They fulfill their obligations to me, like clockwork.
I know many newspapers in Nigeria who don’t believe in paying columnists even though they make tons of money from adverts.
They usually claim to have ‘given you a platform’.
This reminds one of the troubles that our journalists go through.
Many are corrupt because their publishers claim to have ‘given them a platform’ to make money.
They never get paid sometimes for years.
They become desperate.
With the standard that Daily Trust has shown me, I believe this newspaper will do better than many of its peers.
Media Trust Group I believe has more integrity than most.
Of course, no organization is perfect.
So Daily Trust will certainly have its failings.
I think it is high time for those who have deliberately ignored this newspaper’s meteoric rise and standards, to sit up and take notice.
Even though I have been called names in the past because of my relationship with DT, I am proud to associate with the brand.
They have not let me down.
Is DT in the pockets of Buhari?
Well, I don’t know, but I doubt.
I recall when their office was raided by Buhari’s DSS with many computers confiscated.
No sitting government raids a newspaper that it has in its pockets.
I must also say that when I was too gung-ho about Buhari pre-2015, some of the people who knew him too well within DT cautioned me in a friendly manner, even though they didn’t expatiate on why the concept of a Buhari Messianism was fatally flawed.
I wish Fani-Kayode the best with his suit.
But I have seen so many personal opinions about many people in many newspapers.
I should think the opinion piece writer bears the primary liability while the newspaper could be joined in a suit.
Well, like Yorubas say ‘taa ba fa gburu, gburu a fa’gbo’.
In other words, Femi is tugging at what may be bigger than his gargantuan ego.