Reuben Abati 

By Ernest Osogbue

With the traffic infraction saga involving Arise Morning Show co-host, Rufai Oseni being resolved, it is pertinent to look back and point out valuable lessons that need to be learned. As the incident unfolded, it emerged that his colleague Reuben Abati, was equally involved in a back-and-forth with the irrepressible Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

The whole episode must have been frustrating to the management of the Arise News Channel; under whose umbrella the flagship program the Arise Morning Show is produced. There is nothing more embarrassing to a media outfit, than for its presenters or reporters to become subjects of news reports for the wrong reasons. It is the major reason  journalists are admonished to cultivate a low profile, and conduct their affairs quietly, hoping only to attract positive news reports if at all. No media organization wants its internal affairs laid bare in public. Not because media houses do evil, but out of a sense of professional etiquette. Furthermore, it would be akin to scoring an own goal, as Tundun Abiola would say, and a serious breach, for a media house to actively engage in reporting a negative story about itself, how much more creating stories for others which it cannot report.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Arise Morning Show has become a must watch for most Nigerians. The in-depth analysis by Abati and his co-anchors; Tundun Abiola and Rufai Oseni, coupled with their masterful interviewing skill has made it so. To have two of them embroiled in avoidable media uproar must have rankled with management. I am happy however that no actions were taken against the journalists by management, as witnessed in the recent case of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo who was fired, following revelations that he was involved in a scheme to shield his brother Andrew Cuomo, the erstwhile governor of New York State from justice due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Oseni committed traffic offence and was confronted by traffic officers. I’m happy he has acknowledged as much, following his apology. A careful analysis of the entire saga reveals that those who live in glass houses should never throw stones; this is because the Arise Morning Show is seen as the people’s court, where government officials are interrogated and made to answer questions which ordinary Nigerians cannot ask them. It follows that the anchor of such a program is like the goldfish which has no hiding place.

Many years ago I was guest analyst on television when the Super Eagles B team, the CHAN Eagles, took on the Atlas Lions of Morocco. By the end of the first half, the Moroccans were 3-0 up against the Eagles. I was so frustrated at the Eagles play and forgot my role, I became emotional and stated that the Eagles had lost the plot and had no hope of a comeback. Unfortunately for me, the Eagles scored three goals in the second half and took the game to extra time before triumphing via penalties.

For months I was heckled to no end by football enthusiasts for not knowing my job, messages were sent to me directly and through friends abusing me. Lucky for me Social Media was not in place at the time, if not, I wouldn’t have seen the end of the matter. Since that time, I have learnt to keep emotions out of my analysis.

I believe in the same sense that Rufai Oseni now realizes that there is a target on his back, and that a man who wants others to be upright, must himself be upright. As a social critic, the searchlight is always on you, and your detractors are always on the prowl waiting for you to stumble so they can feast on your carcass. The glee with which rival television and radio stations, rushed to publish the news bears testament to this fact. Oseni knows by now that he must always be on his best behavior in public.

The other side of the story involves Abati using the opportunity of a side swipe by Nyesom Wike the governor of Rivers State to remind Nigerians of his journalistic credentials, and posit that Wike does not have the premise to teach him journalism.

I believe Abati needs no introduction in matters of journalism in Nigeria, those who were old enough to read newspapers back in the 1980’s know very well what The Guardian Newspapers alongside The Vanguard and Concord Newspapers meant to journalism in Nigeria. In later years especially in the 1990’s and 2000’s, Abati made his mark as a columnist with The Guardian, and endeared himself to Nigerians with his erudite essays.

It was therefore surprising that Abati took time to respond to Governor Wike. I followed the PDP presidential, and vice presidential nomination processes on the Arise Morning Show, and I believe Abati was objective in most of his analyses especially as pertaining to Nyesom Wike. One cannot rule out however, that Wike may have found Abati’s objectivity somewhat irritating, and therefore nursed a grudge. In that sense the governor used a recent media opportunity to take a swipe at Abati over an interview with Atiku Abubakar which Abati conducted.

I must state here that no journalist anywhere in the world can ask all the questions in people’s minds in tandem with their perceptions. When going for an interview, the journalist has a mandate and the pertinent issues he wishes to tackle, if his respondent answers to those issues, then his job is done. It is not the journalist’s place to know the issues on everyone else’s mind and begin to probe his respondent for answers to them. It was therefore unfair of Governor Wike to challenge Abati over the Atiku interview.

In the same vein however, I did not expect Abati to respond to Wike’s comments. As the revered late American president Abraham Lincoln once said; if you stopped to throw stones at every dog which barks at you, you’ll never get to your destination. In that sense, I expected Abati to take the Wike criticism as what comes with the territory, and did not require a response.

All in all however, I am happy to see both Abati and Oseni  on the job, and keeping Nigerians abreast of goings on in our country. I’m sure that Rufai Oseni realizes now that there are enemies waiting for him to stumble. This should in no way stop him and especially Reuben Abati, from doing the great job they are doing; keeping our leaders on their toes, and keeping Nigerians informed.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.