By Donu Kogbara
KAY Burley is one of my favourite foreign broadcasters. She works for Sky, a British TV channel. She often interviews senior civil servants or politicians. She doesn’t like nonsense and never meekly or sychophantically tolerates untruths, evasions and obfuscations.
Government officials across the globe are famed for trying to be too clever by half. When they make mistakes or perform unimpressively, they insult our intelligence by ducking, diving, lying through their teeth and carrying on like slippery eels…instead of doing the right thing…as in be honest and humble and come clean. As in admit to human errors of judgement, then apologise and either resign or promise to do better in future.
But self-deprecating straightforwardness is not in the average government official’s DNA. And I love the way that good journalists like Kay Burley do their jobs properly by fearlessly skewering deceitful officials who try to get themselves off various hooks.
One is more likely to encounter this type of professionalism abroad because the average Nigerian journalist (this columnist included) relates to Very Important Personages too chummily or deferentially.
A classic example of excessive deference was the Arise TV interview with President Muhammadu Buhari a few months ago, during which my Arise colleagues handled the Commander-in-Chief with the softest of kid gloves, asked him no interesting “disrespectful” questions and didn’t take him to task when he delivered fuzzy non-answers.
The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is in big trouble at the moment because he and his cohorts have made some monumental mistakes in recent weeks, one being the massive bungling of Britain’s response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August.
Then there’s the fact that while Boris et al were sanctimoniously and sternly urging everyone else to suffer at home in monastic lockdown mode last Christmas because of COVID-19, Boris et al were completely ignoring their own draconian masking, social distancing/isolation rules and secretly having fun at crowded Yuletide parties in 2020.
Kay Burley herself was once, several months ago, caught breaking the COVID-19 rules on her birthday. Frankly, almost everyone I know in the UK has broken one COVID-19 rule or the other. And Kay did quickly say sorry and was suspended by Sky TV for a while and forgiven.
And she’s now back on our screens, holding powerful people to account. And she’s not the only one. British journalists are uncompromising on a regular basis and big heads roll from time to time because British journalists refuse to pamper British VIPs. A key member of Boris Johnson’s kitchen cabinet – and a friend of his wife Carrie, no less! – has just resigned because of “Partygate”.
And I wish that we Naija journalists could be as ferocious as British journalists are because a lot of Naija government officials are wicked or incompetent or just plain dubious; and the Naija public sector would be cleansed and would become a helluva lot more effective if these bad eggs were routinely quizzed and embarrassed.
Since words like “thief”, “corrupt”, “bribe”, “unimaginative” and “stupid” are English words, we can safely assume that folks who deserve these unflattering descriptions existed in the United Kingdom long before Africans even knew that White men existed. So it’s not that they are inherently more ethical or intelligent than Africans. It’s just that if they get caught with their hands in the till – or fail to display basic competence in the workplace – negative consequences like jail or dismissal will often ensue. Most foreign journalists are pretty fearless and regard it as a duty to expose and hound those who do not deserve high office.
Toxic government officials destroy countries and undermine society. And I pray for a day when Nigerian journalists will be as courageous and unwilling to tolerate toxicity as their overseas counterparts.
A reader’s perspective
GOOD afternoon, Madam, please I want to remain anonymous. In response to the article that was published on this page last week, I want to say that Nigeria is the only OPEC, Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, member that the International Monetary Fund, IMF, regulates in terms of how oil prices are dispensed to citizens.
This government informed us that it has over five modular refineries and there’s one in my state, Edo. There’s Dangote mega refinery at Epe, but our government wants to quickly force new oil prices on us to satisfy the IMF.
The Labour groups are not arguing what the price oil should sell at if refined locally should be different from imported petroleum product prices. If they argue along that line, government will change its stand because people will only buy our local refined oil. Please ma, talk to our labour leaders to argue from the point of strength rather than focussing on palliatives for workers.
This government is anti-people as it is working for the interests of other nations. If we refine our products here, we will avoid or minimise transport costs, customs duties and other unnecessary payments; moreover, our people will be employed and their skills sharpened, which will make them more marketable and mobile within the context of the international oil business scene.
Selling petrol for over 300 naira will put Nigeria into serious problems from which we might not recover.