adiba has gone. Nelson is no more with us. Mandela is now in the place of lesser mortals. He came, saw, fought, conquered and now has returned back to where we all shall return after our brief sojourn here. "It is not life that matters," an African sage once said, quoting from the Yogi Tea of the Orientals and Sir Hugh Walpole, "but the courage -all lesser mortals as individuals- bring into it." Some took a lot and removed plenty from life: peace, joy, mirth, happiness and love as Adolf Hitler, Nicolae Ceausescu, Idi Amin, Mobutu, Sani Abacha, Saddam Hussein and many more did to a cruel, complicated, execrable and loathsome world; while some put more into it more than life gave them: Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. Ruth First, Dele Giwa, Kudirat Abiola, Ken Saro-Wiwa, MKO Abiola, Benigno Aquino and now the great Madiba. For each part we played in the journey of life, William Shakespeare once reminded us, posterity and history will chronicle each part we put into life as individuals. As the well-deserved accolades, plaudits, encomiums and deservedly-earned tribute fall in torrents on the man who walked on earth and lived his unmistakable footprints, we should spare a thought on the real Madiba we never knew. Madina, was after all a human being like the rest of us as he too acknowledged thus: "'I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."
Five years after his 27- year incarceration to free the South African people from the erstwhile laager, Madiba put pen to paper and enriched our world with unarguably his magnum opus: "Long Walk to Freedom," which I first read during my years as a writer/journalist in exile in Ghana and Benin Republic in the 1990s. A decade later, Mandela's autobiography became a work I had to study for one of my master's degree programs at grad school. Leafing through that dense tome, Madiba took us into his inner life and how he gave his all for all; sacrificing his family, wife, passion and self for a nation. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that if a human being has not found something worthwhile to die for, he/she is not fit to live. I don't know whether the paths of these two great men-Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela crossed; for the latter was at the notorious Robben Island when the former was assassinated on April 04, 1968 but there were ample evidences of inter-contextual synchronicities in the lives they lived.
A life lived not for self but for others is a life worth living. These icons lived lives that were selfless, devoid of self-serving, but truly dedicated to worthy and enduring causes greater than self-causes. Rolihlahla was indeed a Troublemaker but a Good Troublemaker. He gave migraine and compounded headache to the white minority racist boars who murdered sleep by treating Africans majority like slaves in South Africa. The oppressive and illegal regime unleashed its arsenals of repression and death on the defenseless black South Africans from 1947 to 1990 and at long last, apartheid had to give way to a democratic South Africa. Tanks, bayonets, batons, guns and the other instruments of oppression were no match for a determined people yearning for freedom. I could still remember in those days while an undergraduate and later president of the students union at the University of Lagos when we organized rallies, demonstrations, lectures and seminars on campus and many venues across Nigeria in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters suffering under the white minority oppressors of South Africa. Martin Luther King Jr. saw the Promised Land afar but as he said in his "I have a Dream" speech of August 28, 1963 "…we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to ta.ke the tranquillizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. .Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand's of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood…"
Those who etched out in life and do the extra-ordinary often go through extra-ordinary paths of solitudes and inconveniences to make the world and our world far better and richer worlds. Martin Luther King Jr. was beaten, harassed, intimidated, hounded about, blackmailed, harangued and called all sorts of names and was eventually murdered; Madiba was labeled a terrorist, communist and his freedom was take from him and put out of circulation for nearly three decades, but he was unbowed and unwavering, because he believed his cause was just and right. Heavens concurred with him and the Good Lord gave him his 27 years back until he left us last week. Going through Long Walk to Freedom, one could glean the love-deprivation that this extraordinary individual suffered. It is possible to be loved by all and yet, feel unloved by that particular person who swore to love you nor matter the inconveniences: your Significant Other, who has a special place in your life. As Madiba himself lamented, it is terrible, indeed an anguish of the soul to be away from your family, torn-away from your spouse, deprived of your personal freedom, told when to sleep and wake up and treated by a system that had scant or nil regard for your life when you could keep quiet and profit from the system. Instead, you stuck your neck out, gave your all so that others would be free and live in a democratic society. Winnie Mandela's parents and family members warned her when she married Madiba in 1958 to think twice before committing her life to an activist. Madiba parted ways with Evelyn, his first wife on account of the struggle and Winnie put a knife in his heart when she cheated on him during and after his freedom.
Many may be hard on Winnie but how do you develop a meaningful and enduring relationship with a man who you hardly knew at an intimate level; who you could count the number of times you saw in 27 years of marriage? Every struggle has its own demand. The life of an activist is not easy. I say that with all authority as someone who has had my own fair share of deprivations. Going to prison as a writer/journalist or a political prisoner cannot and can never be the same. Life is never the same after prison life. When I came out of Sani Abacha's Gulag in 1998 after spending two years under that tyrannical regime, I lost my first wife to adultery and nearly lost my head. The scars do not heal, they remain forever. It was Madiba's lot to love those who hated him; to repay the intimate one who betrayed him with further love, and pray for those who spitefully used him. In spite of the adultery of Winnie, Madiba gave her more than she asked for at their divorce settlement in 1996 but as Madiba told the judge at the final settlement and sharing of assets: "Can I put it simply, my lord? If the entire universe tried to persuade me to reconcile with the defendant (Winnie) I would not … I am determined to get rid of this marriage….I was the loneliest man (in the world)." Madiba loved every human being; his Significant Other who cheated on him; his jailers who tortured and tormented him, his traducers who called him all sorts of names and now pay tribute and those who betrayed him, but how many people really loved Madiba? The world admired his courage, tenacity, spirit of forgiveness, democratic credentials, humility, forthrightness and fortitude, but if we really love and loved him, we should demonstrate it by being him.
FOR THE RECORD: Madiba's impression of Nigeria: "'You know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions'. Now I was curious. I knew of course that he led our suspension from the Commonwealth after the hanging of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni compatriots. It was also no secret that South African governments including one he headed had considerably cooled off towards Nigeria, and by the time I was meeting him, Nigeria was a dirty word in most cities in South Africa. I mentioned that Nigerian people had very strong and positive dispositions towards South Africa and the Southern African region, and many were puzzled that people who marched all the way with South Africans can be despised by the governments and people of South Africa. Yes, he responded. Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down and Africa and the black race very badly. Not this time'. The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence. Nigerians love freedom and hate oppression. Why do you do it to yourselves? He remembered Tafawa Balewa, the first leader who gave his party, ANC, financial contribution. 'Your leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people's resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are', he continued. 'Let me tell you what I think you need to do' he said. 'You should encourage leaders to emerge who will not confuse public office with sources of making personal wealth. Corrupt people do not make good leaders. Then you have to spend a lot of your resources for education. Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring changes. Poor, uneducated people can also bring change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and the wealthy." Account of encounter by Dr. Baba-Ahmed, a retired federal permanent secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria with the Great Madiba, (Culled from People's Daily).
With Much Ado about Something: The Punch vs. Premium Times
When I gave kudos to The Punch Newspapers of Nigeria for blazing a trail in sanitizing the news industry in the age of ambidextrous journalism when ethics are routinely out of whack, I knew it would precipitate a new wave of internal policing among media practitioners. The current sparring between The Punch and Premium Times Newspapers over the copyright "ownership" of former President Olusegun Obasanjo's diatribe to his anointed-successor, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan is just the beginning. In a vinegarish ambience that President Jonathan has foisted on his nation by non-performance, it is not far-fetched to hazard the reason why Premium Times Newspapers wanted to court history. "We broke the news first," is any newspaper editor's delight any day and a feeling of professional gung-ho in the newsroom. But not so fast, Premium Times! Though relatively new, Premium Times is anchored by Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, one of the best in the business. But there is no ethical breach in what other Nigerian newspapers did, including The Punch in non-acknowledgment of the Premium Times in reporting the acrid missive by the ex-president to the incumbent.
The Premium Times tarred all Nigerian newspapers-with the exception of two-with unethical brush by accusing them of plagiarism in not crediting the newspaper as the source of the letter. I think the charge of plagiarism by Premium Times is over the top. "If it is not yours," I keep reminding my students, "it is not yours and when you use what is not yours, acknowledge the original owners," period! Plagiarism, as Prof Black, my Media Ethics teacher at grad school and one of the original drafters of the ethics codes of American Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) once said, is high treason in the media world. To be accused of plagiarism in the academy is to be called a terrorist, a thief and a felon and such accusation undoubtedly is a career-buster.
Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi levied two weighty allegations against his colleagues: plagiarism and non-acknowledgement of news source. The Punch is the only mainstream medium that has replied to the allegation, while the rest newspapers have predictably kept mum. There is a global standard or rubric for measuring any work that passes for "copyright" either in the academy or media world, going by the World Intellectual Copyright Act under World Intellectual Copyright Organization. Simply put; if it is not yours, give credit to the original owner(s). In this context, no Nigerian newspaper, including the Premium Times, owes the copyright right to the letter written by ex-President Obasanjo. The only person that has the copyright right to that letter is Olusegun Obasanjo, period! On the plagiarism case, Mr. Olorunyomi goofed. No Nigerian newspaper violated any intellectual property right-in this case the 18-page letter which is the original creation of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo-as alleged by the editor-in-chief of the Premium Times. Now on the other allegation of non-acknowledgment of news source, there is a muddle ground and thin line between sustainability and substantiality. In the absence of non-enforcement or even the availability of ethical codes from the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ)-if there are, do they cover the New Media?-we will recourse to the ethical codes formulated in 1926 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) where the SPJ-of which yours sincerely is a member-borrowed its code of ethics in 1973. In its four cardinal ethical principles, American journalists are expected to seek truth and report it; be accountable, act independently and minimize harm. The Holy Grail that Mr. Olorunyomi could charge his media colleagues with in this instance was failing "to be accountable," because journalists are not only ethically-bound to be accountable to the public, they are also ethically-bound to be accountable to one another. But it is difficult to hold all media practitioners to this ethical code, precisely because, a medium that assumed it's the "breaker" of a particular news story may find that its competitors have other means of obtaining the same story. Mr. Olorunyomi assumed it scored a bull's -eye and the Premium Times is now Nigeria's media gold standard. Not true.
Mr. Obasanjo sent the letter first to the intelligence community here in the United States and the UK even before it reached Aso Rock. I sent a text message to a top official of the Jonathan Administration in Abuja from the United States here before the letter was published either by the Premium Times or any Nigerian newspaper. The writer of the letter himself alluded to this fact in the letter when he wrote: "...The international community knows us as we are and maybe more than we claim to know ourselves…"and in his PostScript: "I crave your indulgence to share the contents of this letter, in the first instance, with General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who, on a number of occasions in recent times, have shared with me their agonising thoughts, concerns and expressions on most of the issues I have raised in this letter concerning the situation and future of our country. I also crave your indulgence to share the contents with General Yakubu Danjuma and Dr. Alex Ekwueme, whose concerns for and commitments to the good of Nigeria have been known to be strong. The limit of sharing of the contents may be extended as time goes on." (Olusegun Obasanjo Signed). It was from this source that I am using the letter for my forthcoming co-authored book: "Jonathan: The Squandering of Goodluck," coming out next year.
Every medium has its unique in-house editorial way of obtaining news and exclusive stories, including ascertaining their veracities and authenticities thus no newspaper, radio, television or online platform should peremptorily jump into conclusion as the "breaker "of an exclusive news story, even though it is the first to race to the newsstands or cyber world.
This type of journalist's dilemma has occurred numerous times in Nigeria. One of such tragically memorable occasions was when the Babagida spooks leaked a story to all top editors of Nigerian newspapers in 1985, but Mr. Dele Giwa thought it was an exclusive story for Newswatch magazine which he co-founded with Messrs. Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Muhammad and Dan Agbese. Mr. Giwa was completely oblivious of the fact that the same story which he thought was exclusive was also leaked to his professional colleagues. Mr. Olorunyomi should know that the incident precipitated a smorgasbord of events which led to the murder of Mr. Dele Giwa in 1986 by the Babangida dictatorship which I reported extensively in the 1990s in Nigeria. Ethically speaking, it is very difficult for an editor "to be accountable" -in this case acknowledge a rival publication as source of the same news which the editor independently sourced-simply because the rival publication was the first "to break the news story." As media ethicists would tell you, ethics is different from morals; for while the latter deals with good versus bad, the former deals with choosing one out of two or many competing good. As a veteran journalist, Mr. Olorunyomi should know this.