2016 has been the proverbial breeze that has been blowing open a lot of nyashes in this dear country of ours. Yes, from exposing the real purpose behind our president’s Change agenda, which is that the change he promised us was actually supposed to begin with us, to stripping some of our celebrities of their deification, showing us that they are so human, they can actually get into public spats over family issues, awards and Edible Catering.
But there was the biggest revelation of 2016, and that is the buffoonery that is our journalism. Let me put out a caveat by saying I don’t watch a lot of serious Nigerian TV, so I’m sure there are lots of Nigerian journalists who do good work when they have to face off a subject to bring pertinent issues to light. But the few times I’ve had to watch taped interviews have had me shaking my head with incredulity at the journalists helming the interviews.
First was the disaster felt and seen around the world (I kid you not. My brother is in Australia, and even he felt the tremors of the cataclysm that originated from Lagos, Nigeria). I’m talking about the infamous Tiwa Savage interview, where Azuka Ogujuiba showed us that there are more important aspects to life stapled on Tiwa Savage’s living room ceiling, than actually doing the job of exuding compassion for an emotionally-broken woman. That interview was a mess!
And the fact that Ms. Ogujuiba felt that Nigerians wanted to know who she was ever again, let alone read the drivel she had to say in defense of how bad she was, showed that she seriously needed to pay a visit to her secondary school Guidance and Counselor for a re-evaluation of new career prospects.
She was bad! Vomit BAD!
And so was the flighty bimbo with the many accents who sat before music star, Omawumi, to ask her how she can be a mother when she smokes and drinks. Forget Omawumi’s welfare – did this reporter mean us, the viewers, well? Eh? It was bad enough that I had to work at deciphering her vowels and consonants, and piece them back together to sentences I could understand, I had to also suffer through the indignation of her impertinent questions? And she had the temerity to address her viewers – after Omawumi brought the interview to a swift and laudable end – saying something about how no matter what, the truth must be addressed. And I was looking at my phone screen like: Lady, address the truth of your accent first please!
And then, just when I was starting to think that was all 2016 had in store for us concerning Nigeria’s media, the interview that took place between TW Magazine’s Adesuwa Onyenokwe and (apparently he is an) internet sensation and male Barbie, Bobrisky, happened.
That interview exploded into my attention after LGBT activist, Bisi Alimi took to his instagram page to berate Bobrisky for going before the camera to ignorantly speak of his support for the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law. You know, that law that has led to the loss of lives, homes and personal effects of several Nigerians following its signage. This Bobrisky who God gave common sense and a social media standing had opened his rouged lips to say he supports the draconian ruling that sanctioned the persecution of his fellow citizenry. Bisi Alimi’s outrage was all over the internet, with reported quotes of what Bobrisky said.
Normally, I would never burn my data on anything on the internet that I foresee will aggravate me. But I wanted full disclosure, to form my opinion from the actual interview and not reports from the blogosphere. So I checked out the interview on Youtube and ended up being irritated for an entirely different set of reasons. Because I’d seen the topic trend already, I wasn’t very vexed by Bobrisky’s ignorant comments.
What piqued me however was the entire tone of the interview. Here again was another interviewer who really should have known better. I read an article yesterday that called the interview ‘fantastically bad’. The writer of this article went on to say: ‘Not only does [Adesuwa] lack the most basic understanding of what is ethical and what is not, her many years as an interviewer have failed to teach her that sweat patches and cameras are a match made only in the darkest pits of hell.’
Ah yes, those sweat patches spread oh-so-visibly from her armpits. They were the most distracting thing on television since Azuka Ogujuiba’s rolling eyes and bad hair. But that’s by the way.
Now, Bobrisky is a personality who courts fame with the shock factor of his appearance, a regimen that is tried and true with Denrele Edun. He is bleached to a pigmentation that rivals the colour of Coldstone Ice Cream, a startling difference from the dark skin he used to have a few years ago. He is fashionable, effeminate, rich, dresses in women’s clothing and wears on-fleek makeup. His entire packaging drives the speculation that he is either gay, transgender, or at the very least, a cross dresser – all of these very grave sins in Nigeria’s homophobic court of public opinion.
But as long as the level of interest in his life remains speculatory, Bobrisky is marginally untouchable by the fatal scourge of this country’s homophobia.
And yet, a reporter who is well aware of this hostile gay clime of this country and how any overt association with homosexuality makes one a potential victim of unfair imprisonment or probable lynching – this reporter who understands these risks asked her interviewee to tell her and everybody watching if he was gay. The first time she asked the question, he denied it with some finesse. But his denial clearly wasn’t enough, because she kept thrusting the question at him so frequently that at a point, the interview became something of an outing inquisition.
Like seriously, what is so fascinating about his sexuality that had her unable to move on from the subject after he first shut the inquiry down?
And her sins didn’t end there. There was so much inappropriate behaviour from her, with her frequently making body contact like slapping Bobrisky’s thighs and groping his chest when she asked the question of his femininity and just had to check if he had breasts.
Seriously – WTF!
The entire interview was just a mess, and Bobrisky, feeling rightly responsible, went into janitorial mode, where he gave another interview to clean up the mess he’d just been a part of.
Only this one ended up not only being a bigger mess, but an even greater discredit to Nigerian journalism. The interviewers stayed out of the camera’s focus the entire time, leaving Bobrisky to face the full brunt of the viewers’ glare. That, to me, was disrespectful. You don’t get to want someone to open up to you and then not hold his hand throughout the process! You just don’t! Who does that?
Oh, that’s right. Pulse TV journalism! (Weren’t they also the ones who helmed Azuka Ogujuiba’s mess?)
And then, towards the end of an interview that was basically just as exasperating as the one that preceded it, the interviewer took a break from the questioning to read some of the feedback they were getting on the Facebook page. Predictably, most of the feedback was impolite and vile. And the interviewer read them all! Like throwing sludge in his interviewee’s face! Occasionally chuckling even, as though he and those Facebook correspondents were in on one big joke they all believed Bobrisky to be.
And Bobrisky sat there, flustered and sometimes giggling self consciously, taking no offense at this blatant disrespect, clearly not knowing that from the Book of Omawumi, chapter 5, verse 1, it is written: When they do not mean you well, shut everything down and walk away like a boss bitch!
The Nigerian media is taking on a brand of villainy that is ultimately self-serving, blurring the lines of ethics in the process. I don’t know professional journalism and its various aspects, but I know humanity. And I’d like to believe that it is possible to get the news out, dispense the message, and do so with the right dose of integrity and humanity.
I am @Walter_Ude on twitter