Controversy on Steroids

Posted: October 27, 2009 in Blog party, True talk
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(Image sourced from lostateminor.com

“Help! There is in fact a crisis!”

Chude Jideonwo

Eight years ago, my path as a journalist started in the now defunct Tempo magazine – and, every week, I would have the privilege of being in the presence of men like Kunle Ajibade and Babafemi Ojudu. These were people who had their lives, families and businesses threatened and destroyed because they insisted on doing their jobs and telling the truth fearlessly where they saw it.

As time would go on, and I would ultimately settle for the exciting beat of lifestyle journalism, my foundation in Tempo would continue to give me perspective.

When I would write critiques and reports that are unfavourable to actors, musicians and celebrities and they and their cronies would respond with venom, at first I would get offended. But then I would remember that some have lost their lives and their livelihoods in this same field – and I would remind myself that, even though my writing has an impact in its sector of influence, all of this fluff really isn’t that important in the larger, grander, scheme of things.

So it was that, when a certain Ohimai Amaize sent a rejoinder to my critique of singer/producer ID Cabasa’s album and accused me, amongst other things, of lacking integrity as well as doing the hatchet job of a rival record label, I was deeply insulted that anyone – without proof, without facts, and without logic – would attack what little integrity I have earned.

But then I remembered: the young man’s raving is really nothing compared to what happened to the journalists in TELL, TheNEWS, or at Newswatch.

So, in the final analysis, the only emotion I could muster was pity.

Enemies everywhere

Yes, we have gotten used to governors and senators trying to deflect legitimate criticism with ‘they are working for my enemies’ and ‘he is a detractor’. But seeing a member of my generation, who is supposed to know a little about the workings of a free society and a vibrant media, boldly display such narrow-mindedness in dismissing criticism as ‘the work of enemies’ and throwing the word libel about so frivolously, it gave me such sadness. Pray tell, where then is the future?

It is unfortunate that we now live in a country where the personal is the political. We have lived through a politics and media which key players have consistently thrown candour and accuracy to the winds in the search of the economic bottom line. We have become used to a society where everything is done for some narrow selfish end. And it has messed with some of our minds.

Three weeks ago, the X2 editor called me to his desk and requested that I review an album. I looked through the pack of CDs he offered me, and said Í would take ID Cabasa because “he’s a great producer; his album can’t be bad” (a direct quote).

For more than two weeks, due to work load, I was unable to find the time to do the review. But, after exactly four reminders from the editor, I pulled myself up. I picked that album up with the best of intentions – with faith in ID Cabasa’s capabilities. To cut to the chase, it turned out to be a supremely disappointing listen. But some people wouldn’t understand this process would they? No, for them, it is simple: if a review is negative, its writer must have pre-meditated hatred.

So I ask: when, some weeks ago, I wrote a review of ‘Obsession’ (starring American singer Beyonce Knowles), saying some scenes were “without redeeming quality”, was it because her rivals had bribed me with a lap dance? And when I called ‘State of Play’ a “fantastic” movie, did Russell Crowe promise to buy me an i-phone?

‘Paddy Paddy’

Unfortunately, the gormless are blithely unable to appreciate how a person who has written glowingly of Dare Art-Alade over the years (so much that a radio presenter called him a ‘Dare groupie’) could one day turn a critical eye on him even whilst remaining a fan and a friend. They cannot comprehend that a writer who has bought at least five of Timaya’s albums is still able to highlight the singer’s flaws of character and professionalism. They cannot understand how a person who was part of a process that crowned ID Cabasa Producer of the Year 2008 can candidly critique his album as “under-prepared”. Such complexity is, well, too complex for them to grasp.

Like one of my senior colleagues told me, this is what makes creativity stink in this country. Writers don’t want to be edited and artistes don’t want to be critiqued honestly so they can do better. Everyone wants ‘paddy paddy’ reviews. They want themselves and those they love to be untouchable so they can keep churning out substandard material – yet we complain that our writers aren’t snapped up by major publishers and our musicians don’t get signed by international labels.

But don’t blame them. Please don’t. It is not their fault! This is what warped and corrupt leaders have done to some of our youth. They have robbed them of any sense of perspective! Any sense of critical reasoning!

It is the reason why some think that, because my life’s work involves celebrating and supporting young people, I should also celebrate mediocrity. It is the reason why the young man would boldly say a journalist should have first considered ID Cabasa’s album sales and brand equity before writing a review!

Babatunde Jose must be turning in his grave.

In one area though, Mr. Amaize was, thankfully, spot-on. NEXT has “come to represent a new brand of excellent journalism”. And the good news is that many of us are committed to continuing in that spirit of honest, earnest and incisive journalism that knows neither fear nor favour.

Some will do it at the risk of their lives and safety – and others, like me, only at the risk of hot air from certain elements who know no better. Very thankfully, the latter is a comparatively small price to pay for getting the job done.

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Comments
  1. Tosin says:

    liked this. glad i read it.

  2. Wow…so true. The article is so great I feel like becoming a journalist with 234next.

  3. Robert Wofai Jimmy says:

    Chude….. i have followed your works keenly in the last three years and have come to appreciate and respect your style and tenacity as a writer. I recall how you were criticised by many for doing that ode to Gani in Takaii – remember? Well people have and will continue to misconstrue the drive behind a writer’s work. The point is that you cannot please all with your work.

    However, knowing the all too important position, which you, as a journalist occupy in the scheme of things, you cannot but be consciously careful of the destructive nature of your work, especially when it has the tendency to destroy a person’s career.

    Now let’s face it. Whilst you hold the scepter of journalistic truth for our society, it would be wrong if you are not checked, otherwise, abuse is imminent. Therefore, who watches the watch dog? … Read More

    I think Ohimai is right. I have seen your writeup and have read Ohimai’s rejoinder. He’s more objective and convincing than you are. You and I are both lawyers and can better appreciate the tenets of constructive and objective judgments, which is what justice and fairness is all about. Now, do you think Ohimai is been personal? I think not. I’ll like you to go back and read your work in the light of these misunderstandings and try to make sense of the criticisms on you. If you are wrong and cant or wont admit it, then i fear what the future holds for our generation – we criticize our current leaders and exhibit a strong tendency to be like them.

    I dont expect you to have responded the way you did to Ohimai. It shows an intolerance to criticisms. He deserves an apology. I think you can both settle this brohaha over a piece of innocent review as you thought it was. Your reply to his criticism should have been an impersonal explanation of the reason behind your opinion or better still, silence.

    Now i expect Ohimai and you to settle this matter between yourselves (I would not mind been the mediator, laughs). Let’s together analyse the work and know where we have both erred and make amends.

    While i think Ohimai is right and you wrong, it does not change the respect i have for you. You’re still a model.

    I still believe in you.!