In all my years of active journalism, this is one highly impressive work that I have had the privilege of editing from the scratch. I have edited a countless number of books in my professional capacity. At the time I was called upon to edit yet another book on Olusegun Obasanjo, my initial reaction was of course “Oh no, not this again”.
It did not take long though, to give in to the temptation of engaging in a personal hobby. The hobby of taking pains to understand the passionate viewpoint of a fellow human who shows to the world that he has a message to impart on the rugged ears of history!
It was at this juncture that it dawned on me that the subject of Olusegun Obasanjo is one that will continue to live with Nigeria and Nigerians now and perhaps, many more years into the future.
As the title of this book implies, the failure of journalism was given more prominence than the
failure of political leadership. Customary approaches in the appraisal of Obasanjo’s years on the leadership throne of Nigeria are either putting blames squarely on Obasanjo himself for one failure or the other or in a few cases, eulogizing him in an attempt to understand the philosophy he represents and the benefits Nigeria reaped from him.
One of such meaningful presentations was made quite recently, by a retired British Professor of African History at Cambridge University Prof. John Ilife. In his book “Obasanjo, Nigeria and The World”, the author appreciated the groundwork laid by Olusegun Obasanjo in pushing this African country through a new path of modernity. He particularly emphasized that Olusegun Obasanjo was not a celebrated fan of jurisprudence, legality and judicial explorations. Prof. Ilife underscored that Obasanjo’s paramount concern was to push Nigeria forward politically. This is no doubt, a thesis that will incite an antithesis.
Frisky Larr however, took a unique approach by putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of an excessively militant and non-compromising media for all the outward perceptions that the world has today, of the years of Olusegun Obasanjo. In his attempt to measure the damages done by the media to the overall development of Nigeria, Frisky Larr kicks off some reawakening of consciousness for a form of journalistic ethic that should guide the profession through all future endeavors. He does not only chastise the poor professional quality of journalism in the country, he also identifies some leading figures spearheading the game in its failures and achievements.
While straying deeply into history and addressing very many details that we may believe we already know, Frisky Larr surprises and sometimes shocks his readers in his typical manner of skillfully linking up events to expose enormous similarities to very current experiences on the political scene. This inevitably leads to impressive revelations smoothened into a fluent narrative in divulging the manipulative damages of the North-South dichotomy and the mafia angle.
It is a political analysis seeking to provide a straight view of political events in Nigeria under the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. It is basically focused on the fierce altercation between this presidency and a large section of the Nigerian media with the latter planting a seeming eternally damning seed of condemnation on all that the presidency stood for through its eight years of service to the nation. The work is predicated on the central premise that the news media in Nigeria committed a grievous error of professional omission towards the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo not necessarily in its conclusion on the government but basically, in the way and manner the attack was conducted. Part of the witch-hunt persists till the present day.
The purpose of Frisky’s treatise seems to be setting the records straight and positioning a minimum of one viewpoint in historical archives to permit perception from a somewhat “third-party’s position” for our future generation. Final judgment can then be left to history with a final peace of conscience.
The work comprises eleven chapters. It begins with a historical trip through the crucial event of 1976 that saw the unsolicited elevation of then Brigadier-General Olusegun Obasanjo to political prominence. The journey through history sought to document the sources and sequence of some of the huge problems that grew and accumulated in Nigeria over the years. It was therefore instructive to provide a not-too-detailed but compelling picture of successive military governments and the problems they left behind before the second-coming of the civilian President Obasanjo in 1999. This of course, includes the rough road of deceitfully imposed dissidence and subversion that Olusegun Obasanjo had to tread in ascension to the ultimate throne.
With a clear picture of the enormity of problems presented, the work sought to identify Obasanjo’s personal approach with conflicting psychological and political experiences.
One full chapter was devoted each way, to cataloging his achievements and failures.
Thereafter, the attitude of the press was highlighted with a view to understanding influences on the media as well as the operative elements steering the course of media perception.
Clear failings were identified from a purely subjective viewpoint. The final chapter then addressed suggestions – also from a purely subjective point of view – on moving the media forward and dislodging it from the grips of unhelpful interest groups.
Ten Annexes providing references for some comments made as well as other relevant articles previously released by the author on different platforms round up the complete work.
Even though the deep adventure into history (in Frisky Larr’s typical writing style of leading his readers through a less exciting build-up to a final “climax”) may pose a challenge to an impatient reader, Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism is a must-read.
Book Review By Tony Abolo
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