Journalism of Courage

Some lessons from America By Sufuyan Ojeifo

I am a bushman. And, I make no pretensions about it. I do not mean that I am a supporter of former President of America, George Bush, Junior. Not at all! What I mean is that I am not cosmopolitan, but rather insular, pigeonholed in a little corner of Nigeria. Save for journalism, I believe I would have been in a small village close to Owo in Ondo state, where I was born and bred, teaching the English language in some secondary school.

Providence ordered my steps to journalism. A personal decision to opt for the study of Mass Communication instead of English language, to me, represents the turning point. This helped me to focus my eyes on the ball of journalism. After two unsuccessful attempts at university admission through the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in 1984 and 1985 to study law, I was confronted with making a choice between studying English at the Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, and studying Mass Communication at the Auchi Polytechnic.

I scored 245 in the 1985 JAMB examination. It was a good score, but when subjected to the specifics of quota system and local government of origin, it was not good enough to qualify me for admission to study Law. The cut-off point for my local government area, the old Okpbeho Local Government, now Esan Central Local Government, was pegged at 252. I lost the opportunity of being admitted for the Law programme due to the formalism of quota system. I was advised to apply for a change of course to English language, which I declined.

If I was somewhat lucky to get my fallback position in journalism, what of other brilliant and smart Nigerian students whose steps in life had been cruelly altered by the formalism of quota system; and who had ended up in professions for which they never had passion? This variant of nepotism has also manifested in the form of federal character principle, which is a yardstick for employment into federal civil service in Nigeria. The corruptive predisposition has become so entrenched that political and public offices are now determined by the vagaries of zoning so much so that its observance has destroyed our sense of oneness.

The north-south divide has stuck out like a sore thumb. Rather than prudently address the self-inflicted dichotomy through conscious efforts at political accommodation, we have allowed our nation to slip down the path of diversity through constructions of, at first, regional identities and now zonal identities. And right within the confines of these identities is a rash of unviable states created by the old guards of successive military governments to satisfy certain entrenched and extended interests.

Overall, merit has been sacrificed on the altar of nepotism. And because of selfishness and greed on the part of the elite and political leadership, the right things are sidestepped. They see exemplars in developed countries, but will not replicate them here.

It is clear that that the notion of sacrosanct national interests in Nigeria is a mirage. What has been amply demonstrated is the only and ugly side of enlightened self-interest that finds anchorage in the mindless plundering of our national treasury and the economic re-partitioning of our nation by a clique. It is sheer elite conspiracy against the rest of us that successive governments have not put in place a workable system to punish corrupt public officials in ways that will serve as deterrence.

We watch helplessly as the bulk of our national wealth has found and continues to find its way into the private estates of a privileged few while millions of Nigerians wallow in abject poverty. Nigeria has become a paradox of a supposed rich nation of poor people. I am justifiably angry with Nigeria and the bazaar-canteen model of administration that leaderships foist on us in a deliberate bid to appropriate our commonwealth as their personal wealth. And, like a cult, they protect themselves despite their egregious culpability.

The truth, is, a nation that allows the foisting of a culture of corruption and all manner of maladministration on her people cannot enjoy the patriotism of the vast majority of her subjugated citizenry. Governance and policy formulations have been elitist rather people-oriented. And, yet the government demands the cooperation of the governed. This is not possible in a situation where government’s fidelity to the social contract is almost zero.

Nigeria practises the presidential system of government like America. It also subscribes to federalism even if it is not conscientiously practised like America. Yet there are many positive things to learn from America’s bureaucracy, constitution-making, justice administration, political system, anti-corruption posture and the executive-legislature checks and balances of powers in relation to the overall interest of America and her people. The fine details of these are quite evident in the greatness of America.

But consider the recent vote by the American Senate on the “skinny repeal” option of the Obamacare (Affordable Care Act). The so-called “skinny repeal” bill, which the GOP titled the Healthcare Freedom Act, would have rolled back several Obamacare provisions, including the key individual and employer mandates.

The bill would have led to an estimated sixteen million Americans uninsured by 2026, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). According to the CBO, “Premiums in the non-group market would increase by roughly 20 percent relative to current law in all years between 2018 and 2026.” But three Republicans – John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins – voted against it, thereby sinking the “skinny repeal” measure in a 49-51 vote.

The senate, controlled by the Republicans, rejected the proposed “skinny repeal” in the absence of a real replacement. McCain said that skinny repeal would not offer a real replacement that would increase competition and lower healthcare costs. According to him, “We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to the committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable healthcare for the American people.”
Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer said Democrats were not celebrating but were relieved for Americans. What does this development explicate? It simply explains that the three Republican senators who broke ranks with their party voted with their eyes on the American interest, not on their party’s partisan position. Obamacare is not about Obama; it is about affordable healthcare for Americans. Is President Donald Trump’s planned replacement, if it eventually crystallises, capable of adding more values to the healthcare provisions for the benefit of Americans?

The trio of McCain, Murkowski and Collins, did not cave in to the brinkmanship of the presidency of Republican President Trump. Not even the talks Vice President Mike Pence reportedly had with McCain before the vote could dissuade him. This kind of nationalism by McCain and the other two Republican senators cannot happen in Nigeria.

Sadly, in Nigeria, legislators of the ruling party will, with good grace, abandon their people in order to be politically correct so that they can secure re-nomination or return tickets. They will be ready to lick the ass of the president and even use his fart as deodorant to prove their loyalty for political survival. Such wicked elite conspiracy! Exploited Nigerians must henceforth, and, anyhow, seek to redefine and insist on devotion to the terms of the social contract between them and those who govern them.

Mr Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via


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