“Ẹ̀ jẹ́ k’agbadura…” the old man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties beckoned on to us as we began a journey meant to last for two hours. The lingo was to crave our indulgence as he committed the trip in to God’s hands. In his wordings, he prayed against unseen forces and spiritual elements. He did not forget to pray against the seen forces too – the kidnappers, bandits and men of the police FORCE. The prayer is to find favour in their sight.
I forgot to mention that the route is the famous Ibadan-Ife expressway. Yes, the one prominent as the den of kidnappers. Needless to say, the trip should not exceed 1 hour 30 minutes but the road in dire need of rehabilitation and the delay by the extorting police cops account for the extra 30 minutes. You now know why the supplications by my fellow commuter is important.
For the Tom, Dick and Harry who ply that road every day, the aforementioned have paled into insignificance because, its like the biblical cum witty saying- the poor will not cease in the land. Bad roads and bribery-taking officers are crucial in every trip on Nigerian roads. My focus is on the Police who would like to stop aircrafts to collect 50-naira bribe if there were checkpoints in the air. Over the years, majority of the commercial drivers and the passengers have accepted the horrible fate and had literally looked away. It explains why anomalies have turned norms.
The headline carries a name. He is the investigative journalist who presented a live account of the rot in the Nigerian Police and the corruption allowed to thrive in the Nigerian Correctional Facility in Ikoyi. Fisayo Soyombo spent weeks in the police cell and Ikoyi Prisons to bring the first hand experiences of bribery, pimping, Drug abuse in this facility through undercover means. Media reports have it that Mr Soyombo has gone into hiding as a result of being tracked by the people whose ox was gored.
They want his life because he made just a mistake. But that should not be their response to the three-part investigative story that ought to form the basis of government’s investigation and likely, prosecution of some Police and Prisons officers culpable.
It is an assumption that the authorities are blind to previous reports on extra-judicial killings, bribery, recycling of criminals featured in various news platforms. But this cannot be overlooked with the empirical evidences Soyombo has presented. A reasonable government serious about the functionality of its institutions should act on the report instead of an attempt to waylay and facilitate the arrest of a journo. He has done 80 percent of the job already!
There have been cases where undercover journalists of Soyombo’s decent in foreign countries have been instrumental to investigations done in partnership with the government agencies and authorities. Such bravery is needed in the CIA or FBI. But not in Nigeria.
All these are happening because of an error he committed. Not the espionage that is the song on the lips of the oppressors. The only offence he committed is not ‘looking away’ like you and I have done. He refused to be complacent even when his chances of finishing the story alive was slim. Or is it not in this country where critics of the government go missing? Not to mention visiting the lion’s den. He risked being the sacrificial lamb for the sanitization of the system- his only undoing.
As a young journalist with interest in investigation, I have criticized some stances on ethical standards and welfare of journalists. Most times I see a bleak future where an investigative journalist dies after a single story. I see lives being sacrificed for the production of good journalism. If I claim to be encouraged by recent happenings, then my words betray my thoughts.
Nigeria ranks 120 out of 180 countries on the Press freedom index. That is a decline from the 119th position in 2018. All things being equal in protraction, Nigeria will clinch the 180th medal if the hostile situation remains the same. The arrest of Premium Times’ Samuel Ogundipe and a host of others is still fresh in my memories.
Julian Assange, the publisher and activist who founded WikiLeaks, has this to say while placing emphasis on the crucial role of the truth in governance and decision-making;“You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.”
Assange, who is being tried by the US government for allegedly leaking government secrets, was talking about the truth that comes from media plurality, freedom of the press and investigative journalism, which is Soyombo’s crime.
I am afraid the hiding of Fisayo Soyombo signals that Investigative journalism is going into hiding in Nigeria.
Alfred Olufemi is a journalist currently studying in Obafemi Awolowo University. He tweets at iam_alfred1