By Adejumo Kabir
“He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command” – Niccolò Machiavelli
It is no longer news that the repeat of what happened in the military era is fast becoming the order of the day in Osun state following various supervision of attacks on citizens by the state leadership.
It wasn’t really a surprise to hear about the recent act of Adebayo Adeleke – Osun State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who allegedly ordered the beating of a DailyPost Reporter on Monday while enforcing COVID-19 order.
It may not be wrong to conclude that the commissioner lacks the understanding of Section 22 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian 1999 as amended which provides that: “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.
It must be noted that any leader who tries to withhold information or control the flow of news has power to set the nation on fire. Hence – Osun is sitting on a time bomb waiting to explode if Mr Adeleke is not quickly called to order.
Already, he has a strong history of bullying even before Monday’s saga. This same commissioner witnessed the beating of the Agboowu of Ogbaagba, Dhikirullahi Akinropo but refused to condemn it. Despite multiple sources confirming how Oluwo of Iwo, Abdulrosheed Akanbi attacked his colleague, Mr Adeleke who is in charge of chieftaincy affairs took the part of a tyrant.
The commissioner never appeared when invited to give his account of the incident. He claimed to have traveled – only to be seen shortly after the meeting. Leaders don’t sit on the fence when obvious facts are available. But because Mr Adeleke knew that he has the tendency to be more brutal than Oluwo, he boycotted the meeting.
I recalled that Agboowu with water dripping from his eyes asked Mr Adeleke to swear by Ogun (God of iron) if he never witnessed the attack on him. Arguably, the commissioner did not. It is certain that if he had done, Ogun would have also done the needful.
While it is right for the state government taskforce on COVID-19 to carry out their activities, it is incorrect to turn the enforcement of Coronavirus order to an opportunity to extort and harass citizens. The DailyPost reporter observed this and decided to do the needful. Rather than listen to the reporter, Mr Adeleke led taskforce unleashed attack on the reporter. When ordinarily a good leader with good listening ears would have intervened, the commissioner in his own wisdom felt the reporter works for the opposition, hence, he should be delt with.
When did radical journalism become a sin? When exactly did exposing the fact that the public need to know and holding authority to account become crime? It is sardonic, pathetic and disheartening that despite pictorial evidence, Mr Adeleke maintained that he never witnessed any assault. Sure, Elders don’t lie they say but the commissioner indeed adjusted the truth with his defense.
Mr Adeleke needs to be told that it is time to start tolerating pens that bleed rather than those pens that praise-sing him even after goofing. He must be told the truth that reporting has gone beyond the act of writing, editing and publishing of news stories on blogs. Journalism is expected to expose the irregularities in the system such as human right abuses, oppressions and illegal acts of stakeholders that would not have been read anywhere else.
He must first understand that unlike most politicians who are after personal interests, passion and a sense of nationalism still motivates a generation of wide-eyed – young journalists to practice core journalism in Nigeria. The beating of DailyPost reporter by Banik led JTF on Monday simply signals that more attacks may be recorded in future. But he should be reminded that Henry Anatole Grunwald says “journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
Journalists are arguably moralists and are expected to speak out when there are traces of inequalities in the country. If the profession is no longer a weapon to fight oppressors, corruption will trend and untold stories will never be known and Franz Kafsa says “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
I have read the commissioner’s rejoinder but it appears too watery to be addressed in this piece. Rather than address issues, he was addressing tissues. I am certain that Mr commissioner will again see this piece as a sponsored post rather than have a rethink. Rather than paying folks to write another rebuttal, do the needful.