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Dele Momodu, Dino Melaye and Journalism Ethics

Opinion

Dele Momodu, Dino Melaye and Journalism Ethics

By Steve Osuji

FOR THE SOUL OF JOURNALISM PROFESSION: This piece was to be titled: ‘Dele Momodu has done it again,’ but that might diminish the crucial issue at hand.

Our noble profession is at stake here and the matter must not be taken lightly.

In his back page column (PENDULUM) in THISDAY newspaper today,12/09/20, Momodu wrote about Dino Melaye and critics of his lascivious lifestyle.

But the vantage space: the back page of a national newspaper turned out to be what we often describe as column abuse. The piece turns out to be an exercise in self-sterilization and disinfection; shadow-boxing against imaginary enemies and in all these, setting the stage for another journalistic harakiri.

Momodu needed so much to cavort with Dino in the public space and he had deployed two thirds of the space in circumlocutous self-purgatory before he bagged his quarry.

On his 60th birthday a couple of months ago, yours sincerely had taken the auspicious moment to lay it on his back that though he had done well for himself, journalism may have borne the brunt of his ‘success.’

In fact I made it known in plain words that what he practised was showbiz as distinct from journalism. That fine art of keeping an eye on the society requires thoroughbred and not just any dog, but this is in a manner of speaking.

That didn’t sit well of course. It was not intended to.

He made reference to my advisory thus: “Now imagine, how a self-professed journalism policeman wrote during my 60th birthday celebration that “Dele Momodu is not a journalist!” The man must have assumed that that was the best congratulatory message he could send to me on my special day. Such is the irresistible effect of hate and envy. I deliberately did not give him the attention he was seeking by not responding and I will not dignify him with a mention of his name.”

Wow, hate… envy… attention! These are Momodu’s response to an article that speaks to the crucial questions of journalism ethics and best practice.

But then, he went about responding to some of the issues I had called him out over.

One, the infamous Abacha family whitewash and celebration in his photo book, Ovation. Two, the ignoble, spin interview with Diezani Allison-Madueke.

And now this… the showcase of the vain lifestyle of a man who suffers an acute case of Arrested Development Syndrome (ADS).

In putting up a defense as to why he practise showbiz journalism, it turns out that he has been sitting on erroneous premises all these while.

Hear: “Journalism happens to be the most flexible profession on planet earth. That is the reason anyone can be a media practitioner.”

No sir, journalism is not a highway maiden who is game for all comers. There are still rules of engagement.

Momodu thinks that attacks on him which he says had gone on for 20 years were borne out of envy and vindictiveness for his success and for doing journalism his own way and style.

ABACHA, DIEZANI AND NOW, DINO: He explains away the infamous, blockbuster celebration of the Abacha family about two years after his inglorious demise.

The Abacha junta had allegedly made to vanquish Momodu in the heady, endgame days of military rule and he had escaped by the whiskers, out of Nigeria, through the bush paths. Now to celebrate the family of the same dictator who almost assassinated you two years later is an act that carries a huge, dark question mark.

Of course the tragic trajectories of the Abacha clan hounds Nigeria till date. Let’s say Momodu is not aware of this fact (having never heard of Abacha loot) or he doesn’t give a damn!

Hear his justification: “I found the Abachas newsworthy, I wanted to unveil where and how they lived, and I returned with a monstrous scoop.”

Sounds like the gushing of a rookie reporter! How else would a treasury-raiding family live than in criminal opulence. And that’s what Momodu celebrated in his celebrity photoalbum, Ovation! And he proudly calls it journalism!

It’s the same story about Diezani, the powerful petroleum minister under President Goodluck Jonathan. There are prima facie evidence that Diezani abused here office in a most savage and primitive manner perhaps not known in the land. She practically fled abroad and now has citizenship of some banana republic somewhere. All of these to escape probe and punishment for her numerous financial heists while in office.

But Momodu had interviewed Diezani abroad, selling to the world, the picture of a dying, cancer-ravaged woman being hounded by a wicked government. This was the spin spun on that most dishonest, unprofessional report.

He proudly calls it journalism.

And now, he was recently taken us through a guided tour of ex-senator Dino Melaye’s Shangri La located in the arid sahel of a stinkingly poverty country.

You might as well have a firsthand taste of the tour as curated for you by the great journalist, Dele Momodu: “From his vintage and contemporary cars, artworks, dogs, supebikes, chandeliers, goldplated dinner plates and cutlery, elevator, bars, bedrooms, floating swimming pool, assorted drinks which he doesn’t drink, clothes, shoes, and the most controversial, over 200 pieces of exotic wrist watches.”

Wow! Yours truly would pay to see the designer dog in Dino’sTaj Mahal!

And here’s Momodu final clanger: “I traversed the building inside and out while I was transmitting live on Instagram. I will rate this unprecedented work of journalistic excellence one of my best stories ever even if my critics develop epileptic spasms in the process.”

No, this critic is neither epileptic nor spasmodic but he will not let you get away with this manner of journalistic genocide you seek to inflict on the rest of us. My mother had so much disdain for any of his children who tried to glory in wrongdoing. You revel in this!?

Momodu tells us that it matters not to him how Dino Malaye, known only for being a federal legislator in the last 15 years or so, made money for this infantile show of decadent opulence.

THE MOMODU PRACTICE CODE: Well, if Momodu didn’t care about public interest, if he didn’t care about social welfare, if he gives no hoot about public accountability, then he can’t be described as a journalist in the true sense of practice.

If he has no sense of public opprobrium, if the tragic calamity of the Abacha era, the massive financial malfeasance of Diezani and the Dino bonfires of vanity are all fair game to Momodu, then I repeat again, that Momodu is a mere hustler and showbiz impresario who can write readable articles. HE IS NOT A JOURNALIST.

We will not tire to repeat ad nauseam, that journalism, no matter the genre, has some unassailable codes of practice that anyone who claims to be one must know, internalize and adhere to.

Some of these are that our reports must bear no ethical dilemmas like conflict of interest. Reports must be seen to be truthful, objective, honest, reliable and serve public interest, among others.

Sorry to say that your encounters with Abacha, Diezani and now Dino, don’t pass muster.

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