Wednesday, October 12, 2011

21 Years of Intellectual Activism and Media Advocacy

I do the best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing it to the end. If the end brings me out all wrong, what is said against me will not amount to anything.
– Abraham Lincoln.

When Dr. OBC Nwolise of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan charged students in the Advanced Level Extra Mural Class at Emmanuel College, Agbowo, Ibadan in 1988 to use media advocacy to demand for better society, many heard but only few heeded his advice. I am one of the few who chose to take up the challenge.

However, I couldn’t bring myself to communicate to the public through the media until 1990 because I had low self esteem having failed to get credit pass in ‘O’ Level English and Mathematics to enable me move to tertiary institution. This went on from 1985 – 1990. Secondly, being the era of military rule when freedom of speech was severely curtailed with several media houses proscribed by the ruling junta, it was suicidal expressing anti-government opinion then. After overcoming my initial fear and failure, I decided to put pen to paper and write to media houses to express my feelings on wide range of developmental issues. Sketch newspaper in Ibadan was the first to oblige me the use of its platform to express my views on topical national issues.

The little acorn sown in 1990 has grown into a mighty oak. Today, October 12, 2011 marks my 21 years of media advocacy and intellectual activism. Exactly twenty-one years ago, my first commentary was published in Daily Sketch under the title ‘Complete Iwopin Paper Mill.’ Since then, I never looked back. I have risked hunger, arrest, harassment, contempt, and my job to stand resolute in my advocacy for a better Nigeria. The immortal words of Frantz Fanon continue to prod me. Fanon, many decades ago, opined that “The future will have no pity for those men who possess exceptional privilege of being able to speak the words of truth to their oppressors but have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference and sometimes of cold complicity.”

As at October 6, 2011, available records show that I have been published 334 times in 24 national newspapers and 12 magazines cum newsletters. The newspapers that have printed my views include the following: The Punch, The Guardian, Thisday, Daily Sun, The Nation, Nigerian Tribune, Vanguard, Daily Trust, National Mirror, Daily Independent, Daily Champion, Nigerian Compass, Next, Leadership, People’s Daily, The Pointer, The Chronicle (Ghana), Daily Triumph, Third Eye, National Concord, Daily Sketch, AM News, Post Express and Weekend Classique. The magazines and newsletters include: The Independite, Image, Exquisite, The Statesman, Corper Courier, Electoral Reform News, Women Advocate, Voters News, The Ethics magazine among others.

I have been on radio and television programmes 52 times. These include Focus Nigeria, Kakaaki , Insight, Open Assembly and Democratic Licence on Africa Independent Television (AIT), The Iris on NTA International as well as Dateline Abuja on Channels TV. I have also been guest discussant on Radio Link, Africa Thisweek and Platform on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Political Platform on Raypower 100.5 FM, Burgami on Vision 92.1 FM, Change Hour on Hot 98.3 FM, Voice of Nigeria and OGBC2 FM Mailbag.

In July 2009, I became a blogger through the influence of a friend, Sola Adetunji and in commemoration of Nigeria’s golden jubilee and 20 years of my media advocacy, I became an author with a book titled “Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010” . The tome which was a compilation of some select published commentaries was launched on November 25, 2010. My greatest achievement as a writer is the friendship gained with people of like minds. First among them being Sheriff Folarin, PhD, lecturer at Covenant University and a columnist with National Mirror. I and Sheriff had met at the office of Mr. Nosa Osaigbovo, then Features Editor with Daily Sketch now a columnist with Nigerian Tribune. Since that fateful day in 1993, we have remained friends.

I have engaged broad range of issues cutting across governance, economy, legislature, judiciary, education, health, politics, elections, media, global affairs, security, electoral reform, labour, sports, religion and society. Sadly, many of the issues I engaged decades ago are still plaguing Nigeria. We have made little progress towards national development. When shall we have a Nigeria with basic infrastructures and good living standard for the citizenry?

In this moment of retrospection, let me know how you perceive my commentaries. Compatriots, do I speak your mind when you read my articles or hear my analysis on radio and TV? Am I communicating and connecting with you? My guiding principle is to share my knowledge to multiply it and add to knowledge to expand it. Your frank feedback will be most appreciated. Thanks readers for being the pillar of my strength.

In closing, let me share my favourite poem with you. It was written by the great Zik of Africa, Nigeria’s first president:

Give me my Due

Give me what is my rightful due,
While I still live and breathe and love
For little I have of you
When I am called from up above.

No flowers gay upon my bier
Will I require when I am gone
If when I lived there was no cheer
To boost me when my work was done.

So keep your violets sedate
I’ll have the Roses whilst is bloom
But should you choose to vacillate
Shed not your tears to ease my doom.

Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Lincoln University 18 October 1929.