We Stand By Our Conscience
It is essential that every medium of mass communication print or electronic steps out with a focus. Even newspaper or magazines that tag themselves or are tagged as general interest publications do have a focus. Like a rudderless ship, any publisher that rushes into publishing business without identifying and defining his (or her) focus gets lost and ostensibly rushes out of market without leaving any trace. Along this line, we launched Conscience International into business in March 1997 – almost 19 years ago serving notice that we were going to practice development-orientated journalism. Why did we? With stiff neck, we believe in the project Nigeria. We believe in a big, strong and united Federal Republic of Nigeria. It has become a cliché that we have no other country to call our own, except Nigeria. If we believe in Nigeria, we must support the government in any way that we can. From our perspective, the government must be reported adequately from a positive light. We do have the right to do so.
As we said on our maiden edition, “our desire to report government and its agencies exhaustively is borne out of our desire to get Nigerians better informed about the culture of performance and accountability, the truths, half-truths and untruths as told by mischief makers and agent provocateur. We shall also observe the future of government action and act before it occurs.”
We also did say in that edition: “One of our objectives will be to support whatever makes for the healthy progress and development of Nigeria, Africa and the world. We will practice development journalism with the aim of developing in all Nigerians of all creed, a strong sense of patriotism towards building a united country, respect by the international community.”
Determine never to see the government or those at helm of affairs as enemies as many people do and desire to bring them down, we pioneered specialized in-depth focus on governments both at the federal and state levels, highlighting their efforts at raising the standard of living and making life better for the citizenry.
We have done business with succeeding administrations at the centre, right from the Abacha Administrations which was in the saddle when we came on board, through the General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. There is probably no state government in this Fourth Republic that we have not featured in our special reports. And these are as a commercial proposition. The records are there.
In doing this, we have not looked at government or heads of government as being perfect. Far from that. Rather, we have criticized when occasions demanded, the only difference being that we have been constructive in criticizing not only government but also individuals and institutions.
As stated earlier, we are old school about accountability. Public officers must be transparent about integrity and we hold fast about this. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. And this was what made us to look Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka in the face. Although we do not have anything personal against the person of the creative genius, yet we could not afford to look the other way when there was overwhelming evidence that this hands were soiled during his stewardship at the Federal Road Safety Commission where he was pioneer chairman.
I love and respect Wole Soyinka. That the Nobel Laureate is an eminent scholar and literary genius nobody can take away from him. One cannot but salute his consistency as an audible voice and visible face in the affairs of Nigeria for over 60 years. His place as an elder statesman cannot be wished away.
However, as a world-renowned critic that he is, the contradictions in his personality become readily news worthy. So, after painstakingly studying the documents, which included certified true copies of court papers, we reached out to Professor Soyinka, giving him the opportunity to defend himself but he declined. Similarly, his attorney declined granting us an interview. Interestingly, up till now, he has not been able to wash himself off the weighty allegations. He failed both in court and at the Oputa panel.
In line with the character of the professor of comparative literature that he must have the last say on any issue, he has resorted to using his primary constituency – writing – to attack my personality and Conscience International with lies which stink to high heavens. My response to this in contained in my “Letter to Wole Soyinka,” which has been reported by national newspaper and whish is published herein under the headline, “Book of Lies.”