Elombah.com – How not to Practice Citizen Journalism
The world may not be willing to admit it but one of the greatest phenomena of the 21st Century might be the advent of the social media – the mushrooming of cyber-communities across geographies and the usual boundaries of culture, religion, class and ideologies. With the social media, humanity has finally come face to face with the awesome power of the individual, the canonization, as it were, of selfhood and the possibility of a determined citizen to impose his ideas on a larger group with something as harmless as cellphone.
We all saw this awesome power of the social media in the making of the Arab Spring. Closer home, it came made a grand entry during the “Occupy Nigeria” days. In smaller circles, we have seen smart Nigerians blog their way to fame and fortune, cashing in on the information gap created by the dispossession of unemployed youths and students who have no easy access to the traditional media. Linda Ikeji, Bella Naija, Sahara Reporters, The Citizen and Simon Kolawole's The Cable are examples of bloggers and online publishers who have wended their ways into the heart of Nigerians for their creativity, spontaneity and in some cases, attempts at fairness and balance.
As is usually true of life, there are often weeds among the flowers. Elombah.com, the virulent, poorly cooked blog operated out of London by Nnewi born Daniel Elomba is one cancerous weed in the flowerbed of the Nigerian social-media. If the call for legislation of the social media in Nigeria is ever heeded, it will find validation in the misguided and often misleading yellow-journalism of the kind that Elombah.com practices. Years of failed legal practice and failed attempts to make a success of his life as a fraudster in England have left its proprietor bitter with himself and his more successful peers, turning him into a blight on the conscience of the compassionate world.
Indeed, since he chanced on online publishing, Daniel Elombah has kept the profile of a bull in a china shop. Having absolutely no training in journalism, everything is grist to his horrific rumour mill known as Elombah.com. He has evidently no understanding of the imperatives of “balancing a story” or giving the other party a “fair hearing.” Writing under assorted pen-names, Daniel Elombah has turned himself to judge and jury over the victims of his hideous quackery. He has no patience to crosscheck and validate his stories; he has no understanding of the difference between facts and conjectures or simple gut-feeling. He may never have heard the journalistic maxim that “facts are sacred and comments are free.” He is a journalistic equivalent of the failed poet in Odia Ofeimun's classic poem; The Poet Lied, whom the bard described as “the quack of vision,” who moves around the society like a lose canon, taking foggy snapshots of his own dementia. His impulses are driven by his bitterness with his own personal failure and his determination to get rich or die trying. In his psychological state, Elombah is obdurate to all dictates of decency and fine breeding.
The moral high horse of the journalist as the repository of the people's trust to give an objective and balanced account in their stories at all times is not for him. The high-minded subtleties of developmental journalism are way beyond his reach. Daniel Elombah is too dense to apprehend nuance. Not for him too, the painstaking efforts that precede investigative reporting. Elombah would rather report a rumour or a speculation first and investigate later. Not for him as well, the coy, satirical, humourous, academic or even artistic and lyrically feisty style that has earned his contemporaries a name in cyber-sphere. Elombah has no refined taste. He is bitter, combative, uncouth and half-literate in his style, torturing his readers with poor copies that are nothing but tasteless apologia to good writing and anchoring his journalism entirely on sensational falsehood and witch-hunt.
Among other blogs, Elombah.com stands out as a typical example of what a blog is not - a threadbare patchwork that is devoid of aesthetics and elegance, depicting its owner's aridity of mind. Those who know Daniel Elombah say that his blog is reflection of his person; sly, shadowy, greedy and inelegant. They claim that while other bloggers devote time to improving their craft and expanding their vision of society, Elombah devotes time looking for people who have personal scores to settle with each other to pay for his services and some unsuspecting politicians and society women to arm-twist into parting with hefty sums of money in exchange for his silence.
His approach is usually to rake up some mud on his unsuspecting victims and splash it on his blog and wait for any signs of desperation or anxiety from his prey before he pounces, demanding large sums of money in return for his silence. If his prey shows any signs of defiance, Elombah would naturally up the ante, dredging up more dirty stories and manufacturing some to “nail” him. More often than not, if the victim proves to be really unperturbed, ELombah would get so reckless that he can publish three or four negative stories on one hapless victim in one day and in the process, give himself away as a thoughtless blackmailer, desperate to gain the attention of his victim.
In the last one year, many Nigerians have come under Daniel Elombah's crude journalism. The new governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, has recently come under his attacks. Before him, the Petroleum Minister, Deizani Madueke and Nuhu Ribadu have taken direct hits from his poisoned arrow. Elombah is known to back off once a piece of meat is thrown his way. His belief that the only way to become instantly relevant or rich is through muckraking and enthronement of falsehood sees him overreaching himself sometimes and casting himself in the mould of a tragic case of one who is afflicted with the dilemma of belonging. He lives in England but hungers for Nigeria, he trained as a lawyer but practices as a quack journalist, he hankers for instant wealth but has no patience for meticulous planning.
In the end, we see in Daniel Elombah and his Elombah.com, the tragedy of belonging; the dilemma of the bat who inhabits the interstices between a winged creature and a four footed beast. This may well be the reason why many people will not waste their time reading Daniel Elombah. His Elombah.com is a good example of excreta of the social media and a bad example of how to practice citizen journalism. Only one warning will suffice for visitors to his blog – Readers beware!
Okey Madubuife writes from Ojoto.