Obasanjo does a “Linda Ikeji”

As a journalist, I know quite well what can pass for headline news. I know how to caption stories to capture people’s imagination. I know of the theory of whipping people into emotional sentiments. And I know how to make the best from especially bad news. Often, to sell newspapers, editors extract nonsense from sense, and splash the nonsense on the front page. Knowing people’s insatiable lust for what is really not their business, you can be sure of huge sales if you entice them with someone’s private affair. It doesnt have to be entirely true. But you can mix up heresays, and join them with half truths, and patch up the rest. If you are strictly for the business of news, it is most likely you wont sell much except for dedicated elites that have no time for trash.
In the last few years, our political experiment has widened our appetite for heresay. it is not entirely our fault. Because so many bizzare occurences and dramatic scenes have played out before our eyes in seats of levels of government, we often arent surprised when we see unbelievable stories making the rounds in the news. With the advent of online news, all decorum was thrown to the wind. Since online news has no control, all sorts of innuendoes and super-stories are splashed at our consciousness daily. Often, we have been lied to so much, that we have decided to believe nothing anymore. In this category you will find the rabid Sahara reporters, whose style of investigative journalism is as ingenious as is criminal.
Then, probably due to the daily stress we go through being Nigerians; gossip blogs sprung up like weed everywhere. It seems to have a sedating effect, and you would have thought Nigerians wont survive without visiting such sites. And the gossip blogs dont do much. They just poke their nose into someone else’s life, and like inquisitive pigs do, dig out all they can find, good or bad. But research has effectively shown them that Nigerians are more interested in bad news. So, they intensify their efforts at searching for bad news. And when they find a really good bad one, they excitedly splash it onto their damned pages. And, wherever you find sugar, ants are never far away. The gossip attracts views and comments, and the otherwise stressed citizen is happily relieved. In Nigeria today, Linda Ikeji is queen of this business. Statistics show that she attracts millions of views daily, dusting news or even scholar sites out of site. A quick glance at Linda Ikeji’s site will tell you a little of what you should know, and a whole lot of what you shouldnt really bother about. But gossip, like all iniquities, is sweet.
If Linda Ikeji sells gossip for a living, its okay. But when older, experienced men start doing same; then we are living in a doomed world. Before it becomes accepted as the norm, someone should tell the likes of Chief Obasanjo and Mallam el-Rufai, that there is a world of difference between an autobiography, or a memoir; and, a gossip book. The accidental public servant, which makes for very interesting reading, and “My watch”, Obasanjo’s recently released book(s), both falls into categories of gossip books. Instead of basically informing us, they dwelt more on major character assasinations, and extreme gossip. For a person like el-Rufai, we shouldnt be surprised. But for Obasanjo, he hit a new low. He put private conversations in print, and published some of the things his wisdom should have told him need to be kept secret. Maybe for wanting people to know, he makes it no-holds-barred and down to earth, but when a person projects everyone else as a criminal while maintaining a saintly image of himself, then he can only be a liar.
Memoirs like Chinua Achebe’s “There was a country”, as controversial as it was, never really deviated from the honourable path of giving us inside details of what transpired during the civil war, especially from the Igbo man’s point of view. We can assume Obasanjo’s memoirs are about informing us about what transpired under his administration. But he conveniently leaves out his own dirty deals, the satanic impeachment of governors, the embezzlement of power project funds, the unfortunate third term which he claims was never his idea, and quickly dismissed the letter his daughter wrote to him. Whereas he had time to tear his perceived enemies to shreds, Atiku Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan inclusive. About Jonathan, Obasanjo had the most unkind words.
The book will sell. And Nigerians will read the juicy details of how everyone except Obasanjo destroyed Nigeria. Beer-parlour gossip. We should be careful of equating professional memoirs with mere gossip.
This is not Obasanjo’s first biography. At least he wrote, “My command”, where he claims the glory for ending the civil war; and “Not my will”, where he absolves himself of any blame after the tragic events that followed the elections he supervised in 1979. But at least, both were professional accounts of what happened, even if there were several accounts of half-truths therein. But now, from the little I have gleaned from his latest book, he would be rivalling Linda Ikeji for the next few months as Nigeria’s major service provider of deep gossip.
And that is unexpected of a person of the stature of a former president and head of state.

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