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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Columnist: Michael Omoregbee, Contributor

Daily Trust, FFK and Break of trust

The story is told of how Tortoise had, in one of his escapades, stolen yam from the barn of the wealthiest village farmer. When the theft was discovered and Tortoise apprehended, the irate farmer paraded Tortoise round the village with a crowd of floggers and singers.

Tortoise must by this be punished for all his crimes against humanity. After a whole day’s roadshow, shaming Tortoise, farmer tied him to the stakes early in the morning. He put a whip near him so anyone going to work must help deliver as many whips as pleased his heart! So they did all day long and, consequently, Tortoise played host to countless episodes of painful whips.

But the tides turned by evening when the villagers were returning from the day’s business. Seeing Tortoise still tied to the stakes, nobody felt the urge to flog any more. Many did not expect to meet Tortoise still paying for the offence he committed at the close of a second day running. And, soon, the comments began to change.

Now, villagers wondered exactly how many yams Tortoise stole to merit the volume of debasement he had received! Some began to wonder if the farmer himself had never stolen before. Didn’t he steal some of the yam seeds he began his now fruitful farming career with? Others wanted to know if it was farmer’s wife Tortoise stole or farmer’s daughter that was raped and not “ordinary” yams stolen.

Some even undertook to express the quantity of yams Tortoise stole as a fraction of farmer’s whole barn. The numerator was pitifully small against the denominator, someone noted. Yet others wondered if the theft really took place. I mean, does farmer have the full video? No audio please, the full video. Some concluded that even the accusation of stealing may have itself been bankrolled! Wasn’t the accusing farmhand seen with lots of tubers in his basket the day after he broke the story of Tortoise’s alleged theft? The complaints got louder.

And so our ever wise elders would say, “The going is for the Tortoise, the return is for the farmer.” Those wise heads don’t waste words. The spring of pity often wells up in favour of the offender. Man has always found his own fallibility as a strong ground to extend pardon to others; anything contrary usually backfires. I doubt that farmer lived happily ever after even when him that had been wronged at the start.

This scenario is about to play out in the case against Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, former aviation minister under the Obasanjo civilian regime. Fani-Kayode, popularly called FFK, had shocked the world with his outburst against a Daily Trust reporter, Mr. Eyo Charles, during a press conference in Calabar, last week.

I have never met FFK personally, nor can I be considered anywhere near being called his fan. On the contrary, I have often found him too overbearing in his conduct. But, having read three caustic releases by Daily Trust on the Calabar incident mentioned earlier, it would seem every writer of worth in their organisation has been given marching orders to whip FFK to his heart’s satisfaction. And, whip they have.

Most of the responses from Daily Trust have been gruesome pieces of brute invectives and name-calling. None I have read impressed me in any journalistic subtlety expected of the genre they’ve been asked to engage in this all-out against FFK. Simply put, they aren’t saying anything new nor have they done so in style that bears quoting because of inherent literary quality and brilliance.

You may argue that an angry man has no time to excite the intellect with quotable diction and linguistic sophistry. Yet, that’s what writing for a newspaper and the public should be about. “Not just what, but how said,” we were taught in the English and Literature Department of the prestigious University of Benin. Gripped by ire erupting like geyser, we still should bear our language to titillate the mind and yet sting with the sharp pain of unpoisoned satire.

And to think that FFK has even apologised twice, with the second instance generally acclaimed to have sounded truly contrite, it is easy to tell that further pounding is misguided.

We understand the need for espirit de corps reactions from colleagues and bosses. Yet, while Daily Trust chooses to collect her kilograms of flesh from their present corporate enemy, they should spare a thought for their image too. Sometimes, how you handle others tells more about who you are than who they are!

The collective outcry against the treatment meted out by FFK to Mr. Eyo Charles, coming in forms of unsolicited and unpaid write ups, privately voiced videos and soundbites from well-meaning Nigerians ought to assuage the anger of Daily Trust and through a loud silence salute the public and fellow members of the press for having done the needful valiantly on their behalf. To do otherwise may be foolhardy.

Let the return not be for the farmer.

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