IshaSesay: A Butterfly Pretending To Be A Bird
By Uche Ezechukwu
Since the famous Canadian communication expert, Marshall McLuhan enunciated his famous 'the medium is the message' doctrine in 1977, mass communicators have come to agree that in mass message delivery, the measure of consideration a message gets is largely dependent on the medium through which it is delivered. In other words and because of its global prominence, people are more likely to swear on the authenticity or veracity of a piece of information because it was broadcast by the Cable News Network, CNN, from the United States of America. Today, more people would swear with the CNN than they would with the Bible or the Koran.
It hardly matters if a buffoon were voicing information and comments with a microphone of the CNN; whatever he or she says instantly commands a global toga of both believability and authority. That was the predicament of Nigerian government and leaders all through last week when a young lady with the name of IshaSesay brought the image of Nigerian government to smithereens backed by the mighty authority which she represents.
Ms.Sesay had been granted a visa to Nigeria to cover events in Nigeria around the kidnapped schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno and to most probably highlight all those things that do not work in Nigeria – which to people with such backgrounds as IshaSesay – is everything. After all, no good news is news.
IshaSesay, who is born of Sierra Leonean parents but who holds British citizenship, must have been picked by her employers as a journalist with the right background to understand the current issues in Nigeria especially as they involve Boko Haram which claims Islamic roots and justification. Isha is a Muslim and had her early life in West Africa and is expected to understand the underlying local issues, even those surrounding the capability of the Nigerian military which literally saved her country and people from the stranglehold of fanatics and political extremists, who, while not professing any religious fervour, were nevertheless, more ruthless than Boko Haram. Today, in IshaSesay's country, many people are going around with both limbs hacked off by the likes of FodehSankoh.
Leading the ECOMOG forces, it was Nigeria that had intervened in Sierra Leone to save the day for those alive today. It is on record that in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Nigeria became the first nation in modern times to successfully enforce peace and return the country to normalcy – a feat that neither Britain nor the US have been able to achieve. Unlike the situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone where Nigeria's military government re-installed democratic governance, similar attempts by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan left those countries in greater chaos and in tatters. That is the country that IshaSesay comes from and when she arrived Nigeria, instead of viewing the country that saved her people with respect and awe, she chose instead to talk down on Nigerian government, leaders and institutions.
But in a typical manner of the 'massa', the black foreman of fellow Black slaves, who exhibits an unusual level of cruelty in order to prove his loyalty to his white masters, Sesay made sure she found every opportunity to paint every Nigerian leader or institution in putrid colours. To her, every Nigerian leader or institution is weak, inefficient and corrupt. To make matters worse, she poured untold aspersions on the capacity of the Nigerian military – the same institution that had in a very recent past, ensured that her parents have a country. Instead of observing the most basic tenet of balance and objectivity through the doctrine of 'audialterempartem' (listen to the other side), Sesay would not even allow the Information Minister or any other authoritative source of government get a word across. When she brings them to her microphone, it is to 'prove' how bad they are. For, to a typical poorly informed and incompetent Western journalist, whose most competent sources are opposition members and all those who have axes to grind with the government of the day, every government official is to be poached. Most informed Nigerians were upset with the level of incompetence and lack of professionalism with which IshaSesay reported Nigeria last week but because of her medium, many were restrained in attacking her.
To compound matters and as a proof that the CNN correspondent did not as much as do the most basic research on Nigeria before coming here to pose as an expert on West African affairs, her reportage left a lot of gaps which exposed her as a neophyte. Her religious bias was very evident even when it is obvious that she is currently a Muslim only in name. Her interview subjects were only those who oppose the government and its policies, which makes one wonder what she learnt from her days at BBC, which we were taught in school, is the model and reference point of responsible and objective journalism.
Apart from being peeved and surprised that a reportorial staffer of an institution that boasts to be the best television outfit on the globe, many Nigerian media experts were happy that the government was getting what it amply deserved last week. The way government officials kowtow and suck up to these foreign media correspondents while shunning and humiliating the domestic media often displays how much of inferiority complex the people in our government and leadership have. When I watched our Information minister, LabaranMaku being given a brush-off by IshaSesay, I reached out for a bottle of Big Stout in celebration, knowing how long it takes for even a Nigerian editor to get access to the likes of LabaranMaku and even lowlier officials. To them, being interviewed by a semi-ignorant foreign correspondent qualifies for an entry in their bio-data. So, to many of us, the image denudation that was handed out to Nigeria and its leaders by CNN and Al-Jazeera was largely earned and deserved, even when the contents of those messages rankled like the mere trash they were.
The insults that Nigeria received last week are a clear indication of the nadir of consideration which Nigeria is currently receiving in the eyes of the world, no thanks to a misguided opposition and a government that neither has little confidence in itself nor understands what is expected of it. One clearly recalls what transpired sometime in 1994 when a correspondent of the same CNN had Nigeria and had started rubbishing the Abacha administration through a one-sided reportage with interviews of the opponents of the government. As far as the CNN was concerned, there was no government in Nigeria. Before you could shut the window, Abacha's chief security officer, Major Hamza al-Mustapha grabbed the correspondent, bundled him into the next aircraft and deported him.
If we had an equally decisive government in Nigeria today, the same treatment should have been meted to IshaSesay, the butterfly that is pretending to be a bird. But then, Nigeria has progressively been losing its self-esteem. At the time the CNN reporter was expelled in 1994 the Nigerian military was stunning the world with its campaign in Liberia and Sierra Leone. CNN did not make war but calmly and carefully sought rapprochement.
But today, Nigeria is helpless and prostrate before the Boko Haram, begging the US to save us from ourselves. A government in such a pitiable condition does not flex muscles; it has no muscle to flex.