Idemudia Oviosun (PhD)
On December 27 last year, an All Progressive Congress (APC) youth leader, Comrade Osakpanwa Eriyo was arrested amidst brief kerfuffle in Edo State. There was no tension in the state, neither was there cause for trepidation. He was later arraigned before a magistrate court, and the case adjourned to a later date. One journalist, Simon Ebegbulem, who writes for The Vanguard, sniffed himself into the affair.
For such a reporter as Ebegbulem who is no neophyte to the trade, the end product of his investigations leave a lot to be desired. He erected mountains where molehills stood and depicted an alarming level of discord within the APC ranks in Edo state. On this note his mountebankery must be discovered to the same public he tried to wheedle with magnifications and applesauce.
First, it would seem this reporter set out to delude the public by the express agency of unverified narratives. So confident is he in his journalistic prowess that he either expects the reader to trust his ken as omniscient, and that he, being a grand journalist, is well past the stage of needing to assure the readers of the authenticity of his story, or he was simply in an impassioned haste, and it quite slipped him.
Whatever the reason, Ebegbulem’s less-than-fine attempt to regale the intellectual public with the oral tradition of storytelling fit for babes and tykes is not welcomed this time, and will not be welcomed should he deem it prudent to bumble out what he may want to consider a reprisal. As far as the fourth estate is concerned, one bull is surplus to requirements in a china shop.
The topic being dealt with relates to party politics. Ebegbulem gives the impression that he does not fully grasp the extent to which fanatics and extremists can go to acquire and secure power. The media has many roles in the society, but mongering fibs is not in the job description. Wars are known to have stemmed from unforgettable acts of misinformation. If an erstwhile credible journalist finds the need to reveal ‘inside’ stories, then such a journalist would justify his years at the job by telling the truth, not a fable straight out of Aesop’s repertoire.
Ebegbulem intermittently betrayed his severe penchant for hyperbole throughout his unmemorable ‘exposé’. In the following lines, he introduced a contrast which openly assaulted the intellect of those who he expects to believe him.
He wrote that: “The battle for the soul of the party is between the state youth leader of the APC, Comrade Eriyo and Chief Osaro Idah who is backed by the entire leaders of the party in the council including Governor Obaseki. Osakpanwa has his list of party executives in the council while Chief Idah has his.”
What sorcerous composition is this that after allocating the entire leaders of the party to Chief Idah, he would turn on his heel and still divide them evenly between Comrade Eriyo and Chief Idah? Is the word ‘entire’ now minified to imply a portion of something instead of the complete extent of that thing? The linguistic alchemy in play there and in other parts of the article, which will herewith be identified, is chronic exaggeration.
This also explains the sheerly baffling statistics Ebegbulem reeled out when he described Comrade Eriyo as having empowered some 30,000 youths across the state. That Ebegbulem is a journalist, and not a census guru, is readily admitted.
So, in that regard, he must therefore explain how he was led up a gum tree by either a third party or himself or both himself and a third party, and how once atop this tree, he found a battalion consisting 30,000 or more youths with valid identifications who have been empowered and are sworn swords to Comrade Eriyo. Ebegbulem is saying that he believes and would have us believe too that Comrade Eriyo has 30,000 oaths of fealty to his name; enough, that is, to constitute a tidy army.
Again, Ebegbulem, in his story, presents the gates of the Government House as open as the legs of a woman of easy virtue. He reported that Osakpanwa’s loyalists stormed the Government House during a meeting which the governor held with the party leaders. In one line, he says they were unable to enter the meeting. In another line, he says the rampaging youths carted away cows and rams. The gates must have been wide open, and the security must have been in a deep slumber while this cattle rustling was going on right in the Government House.
Consequently, a diligent journalist would have gone to the police station to get a report of the stolen cows. How many cows were stolen? How many rams were nipped? By what transport were they conveyed? Have any arrests been made seeing as the cattle were pilfered from the Government House? In fact, how did a reporter of his type sink so low as to be schooled on journalism afresh?
Let us pass up his introduction of Hon Patrick Obahiagbon into his tale of two factions and witness how Ebegbulem reports in his ‘inside’ story that after the arrest of Comrade Eriyo on the 27th of December, over a third of this allegiant army stormed the State Police Command. Their aim, alleged Ebegbulem, was to demand the release of he to whom they owed their empowerment.
Needless to say, as Ebegbulem reports, they failed – all 20,000 and more of them as the seasoned investigator would have believe. People need to be brought to the revelation of how he sorted out his demographics. His statistics are intimidating and difficult to believe. His predilection for hyperbole has already been exposed, wherewith he also has a knack for deliberately wheedling the public with his trusty method; trumperies containing overblown nose counts?
Ebegbulem continues that Comrade Eriyo, despondent and completely broken, seized an equally broken bottle and, hurling terrible curses at Governor Obaseki with a loud voice, cut himself so badly that the blood flowed freely from him hoping to be done to death by this.
Again, even in suicide, Ebegbulem reports that Comrade Eriyo failed due to the presence of mind of the police men, then they were led to court where Comrade Eriyo again protested the handcuffs binding him. He reports that Comrade Eriyo hollered that: “Why are you charging me for attempted murder, did I kill anybody, I am not a criminal, the governor is only trying to oppress me, I have not done anything.”
While Ebegbulem had that one side of the story from the mouth of an impassioned man, he neglected any other viewpoint to the story, yet he called that angle the ‘inside’ story.
Having heard such an allegation by a man in court, a professional fellow of the fourth estate would have tried to obtain a statement from either the governor or someone authorised to speak in his stead. This would present a report devoid of sentiment, prejudice, and bias. It would present a report quite unlike Ebegbulem’s escapist fiction.
Unsparingly, Ebegbulem introduced former Governor Oshiomole as an ingredient in the story he concocted. He declared that the former governor had been tirelessly busy mediating and trying to put the imagined brouhaha to bed. Such terrific dressing for a shoddily told tale! He noted that the former governor was able to manage this sort of crisis and implied that Governor Obaseki is not being diplomatic enough especially as his election is still being contested at the election tribunal.
Ebegbulem must be asked, what gives? If he went to prison and got an interview out of Comrade Eriyo, then he should have come out clean and written in that fashion. He would have still been as esteemed as he once was. But with this impolitic story, overwhelmed with hastiness and questionable motives he has proved he is neither fat, nor sleek-headed as Shakespeare would say. The story has a lean and hungry angle and breaks all the rules in the book of journalism.
Dr. Idemudia Oviosun, APC Chieftain (Edo South Senatorial District) writes from Oredo Local government area and can be reached on [email protected]