HAPPY New Year to all Vanguard readers and their families!
I used to write for Vanguard when I was a twentysomething youngster. In those days, my weekly column was known as “Londonline” and mostly focused on UK issues.
Then, having taken a LONG break from Vanguard while I was growing up, I returned to my beloved Uncle Sam Amuka’s team in 2007 as a middle-aged woman. And it was decided that my column should be renamed “Sweet And Sour”.
Sam Amuka owns Vanguard and is a great boss, the distinguished doyen of the Nigerian media scene, a precious surrogate father and a very dear friend.
When I was kidnapped in August, the leader of the gang that abducted me called him several times; and he tried to reason and plead with the guy and expressed so much pained concern for my welfare that the guy developed a fondness for him and told me, in a very impressed tone of voice, that “you have a very kind Oga. He no talk like normal wicked Big Man who no give damn for person wey work for am.”
The day after I was released, despite being in his 80s and very busy, Uncle Sam took the trouble to fly from Lagos to Port Harcourt, to make sure my mother, sister and I were OK. May God shower blessings on him throughout 2016.
Anyway, this is my 400th Sweet & Sour column. And I like to think that it is significant that I’ve reached this special milestone at the beginning of a brand new year and hope that you will continue to peruse the comments that appear on this page and share your thoughts with me, even when you don’t agree with me.
At this time of the year, it is customary for people to make resolutions about ways in which they can improve themselves and make life better for those around them.
I’d love to hear Vanguard readers’ resolutions, so please email or text yours to me!
In the meantime, here are some of mine:-
1.I intend to eat less, regularly visit the gym and lose weight because slim folks look better (in my opinion), because exercise is good for the heart and the body in general and because excess fat is bad for one’s health and can trigger off Type 2 diabetes and a bunch of other unwanted ailments.
2. I intend to be less selfish and do more for the Needy.
I also feel that my profession as a whole needs to resolve to undertake more investigative journalism projects in 2016. There are so many scandals to uncover in this country; and we need to make serious efforts to uncover them…and acquire the courage and integrity to publish findings that will disgrace various VIPs.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, a reader (who didn’t want to be named) wrote to me, to complain about local government malfunctions, which he largely blamed on arrogant and corrupt governors. I published his letter earlier on this month. Let me repeat his last two paragraphs, in case you didn’t see the original letter:
“A strong Local Government (LG) system is the ideal foundation for the type of society we all yearn for. And we all share in the blame for the rot. Our collective silence, ignorance and nonchalance over the years has emboldened the main culprits (Governors) to continue to exploit LGs, knowing that hardly anyone will query them.
The media, as the fourth estate of the realm and a supposed watch-dog, is perhaps largely to blame for the impunity that Governors enjoy. The day journalists wake up and decide to do an expose on the management of LGs in Nigeria, I suggest that they start with Anambra. The revelations will knock us over but reawaken us.”
Interestingly, another reader, Ifeka Okonkwo, also mentioned Anambra when he contacted me to respond to my claim that most Naija Local Governments are lousy:
“Donu, what is the essence of Local Government Areas when those at the helm of their affairs do not take responsibility for refuse collection or construct roads or dig boreholes or build housing estates or provide electricity and healthcare services to those who voted them into power?
For example, Orumba North Local Government Area in Anambra State where I come from and which was created in 1991, is yet to carry out these essential services to our people.
Due to the abysmal performance of Local Government Areas, they should be scrapped and their staff absorbed by state governments that provide these services that should have been carried out by Local Government Areas at the grassroots level!
It is very shameful that those at the helm of the affairs of our Local Government Areas enrich themselves at the expense of their people instead of rendering selfless service to them.
It should be noted, sadly, that the problems of our Local Government Areas have been compounded by some State Governors who tamper with Local Government funds, thereby hindering their services, with none of them being sent to jail to serve as a deterrent to others since May 29, 1999 till date.”
I often shake my head in wonderment and disappointment when I watch senior public servants being interviewed on TV or when I read the interviews they grant newspapers and magazines. Too often, they are asked ridiculously tame questions and allowed to get away with blatantly dishonest or evasive self-serving answers.
We journalists are always sanctimoniously criticising others for doing – or not doing – x or y. But we rarely go far enough and hardly ever dig deep enough to provide concrete evidence of the widespread wrong-doings and incompetence that are preventing this so-called “Giant Of Africa” from fulfilling its potential.
Nigerian journalists deserve considerable criticism for not meticulously researching as many dysfunctional scenarios as possible, in order to expose powerful miscreants and facilitate social, political, economic and moral reform.
We need to up our game and I sincerely hope that we will do better in 2016!!!