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Before An Open Grave … and thinking of Daily Independent

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Dateline; Abuja’s Gaduwa Cemetery, Saturday 12 October 2019. Mr. Nicholas Adeolu Tanimowo, who we had come to bury, was all of 41 years old.

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His wife was seated beside the open grave as the Pastors prayed and admonished the living. Tanimowo’s two-year old son was on his mother’s laps, playing with her phone.

Later, he would look at the pictures taken on that day and learn that his father’s lifeless body was in the casket that was resting atop some poles that formed a crude bridge across the open grave. To worsen my heartache, the woman was pregnant with a child that wouldn’t know its father.

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I know that death does not consider someone’s age before it strikes; even day old babies die, and not all pregnancies come to full term and result in successful births. Sudden disasters do claim otherwise healthy, plucky and zestful lives.

And Tanimowo was victim of a sudden disaster.  He was in a Volkswagen Golf car right within the city of Abuja when one of the rear tires on the (kabukabu) illegal or unregistered taxi burst. The obviously inexperienced driver stepped on the breaks and the car summersaulted thrice before resting in a gutter. Mr. Tanimowo, who was sitting on the back chair, had been thrown onto the front seat, wedged between the car and the gutter. He was the only immediate casualty.

It was natural that my mind went into “what ifs”?

What if the Abuja city planners had not approved that archaic open gutter system that stretches on both sides of the road from the Airport Road, to the major Abuja Ring Road that veered off near Katenkpe hill (the centre of Nigeria’s map) to Kubwa?

If the gutters were covered as they are supposed to be, it is likely that Mr. Tanimowo would still be alive today for the car would not have fallen into any gutter. But we all know that the gutters were not covered because the uncovered ones silt over easily, flooding and spoiling the roads, simply because Nigerians dump rubbish into the gutters. But open gutters are easy to clean and de-silt.

So, those who obstruct the free flow of Nigeria’s gutters and those who remove the iron guards that cover the holes where water flows into gutters (those covers are purposely constructed to trap leafs and sundry pieces of rubbish too) should know they may have caused people to die on Nigerian roads, especially as people on foot easily fall into the manholes they have created and cars trip over on them and skid out of control.

I wondered if I, yes even I, had a hand in Tanimowo’s death as I was among those who talked him into returning to Daily Independent newspaper. Mr. Tanimowo was already working in The Authority newspaper, when Mr. Monday Ashibuogu was posted to Abuja to head Daily Independent’s Northern Operations. To help Ashibuogu succeed, I convinced him to return. What if I didn’t do that? Would death have come calling for him when it did?

Then my mind wandered onto other areas! Would he have had the need for a taxi that day if the car meant for Daily Independent advert staff was functional? But that red-coloured car has never worked since it was brought from Lagos. And the man who bought that car for N1.4 million now calls some shots at Daily Independent.

And he has not seen it fit to cause that car to be repaired.  That same person had once, when I was visiting the Head Office, approved N180, 000 (yes, one hundred and eighty thousand Naira) to buy a printing press timing-belt, and I intervened, saying I had got one for N50, 000 (fifty Thousand Naira), yet he had his way, brought in that timing-belt and later paid N120, 000 for it (after I had spoilt his show), so there is little to expected from him. Even the circulation van is usually in terrible condition until I, as Publisher’s Assistant, intervenes.

Actually, Daily Independent went bad before the timing-belt man arrived. One particular man ran it like a personal fiefdom. It was as though he thought the Publisher who was incarcerated in London would die there. Good journalists were sacked whimsically and were replaced with terrible ones. Exclusive stories were shunned.

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Please, don’t ask me about any teddy bear because I’m recounting real facts and no tales by moonlight. For instance, the Publisher was shocked to hear, last year, that a long backlog of salary arrears remained unpaid – after he had made over two billion Naira available to settle all debts and reposition the paper. Somebody did what he liked with the money. Some say he built a Four-Star hotel in Ikorodu, Lagos! How he is able to sleep at night or smile when he meets the Publisher beats my imagination.

My point about Daily Independent management is that journalism has a way of wasting persons and careers …and yet journalists always berate others, leaders, politicians, academics, footballers, actors, soldiers, everyone, except themselves.

We usually condemn and rarely praise. Even Daily Independent joined the other media outlets in publishing all the stupid and repetitious counts of   charges the EFCC brought against the newspaper’s Publisher both in Kaduna and Asaba court. But the paper failed to publish the full Asaba judgment that favoured the Publisher – even if for record purposes.

The complete Asaba judgment of the challenge to the Publisher’s 2003 election is not in the public domain for no paper, not Independent even, published it. Yet that proved conclusively that the ex-convict allegation the man faced was cooked up by detractors.

A newspaper whose Publisher has placed three printing presses at its disposal, but cannot break even, and makes its workers live in penury, after nearly two decades of more than adequate funding, has a real problem.

That is why Mr. Tanimowo who joined the organisation in 2004, and has been an uncommon achiever, had no car, and had to die in a taxi; he had been to the office that morning and was going to attend to his duties. Now, he is late Mr. Tanimowo.

And those who mismanage offices do not care that they are toying with people’s destinies. That is why I draw attention to this fact; we have to check ourselves.


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