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Opinions of Monday, 29 March 2021

Columnist: The Nation

Worry over Warri

The Nation on Sunday report of March 28, headlined “Warri Kingdom crisis: The Nation reporter gets death threats,” should really worry The Nation family nationwide.

Why would a reporter, doing legitimate reportage, and not accused of presenting fiction as fact, be in harm’s way?

That’s understandable: for life is irreplaceable once lost; and anything concerning a threat to life must never be taken lightly.

Yet, the real worry should be over Warri. 

What faceless “youth”, of a forward-looking city or community would threaten the press, the way Shola O’Neill is reportedly being threatened, covering their numbers and swearing Armageddon, simply because these “youths” don’t like the content of the reporter’s story?

Okay, when royal personages pass, there is always the conflict of modernity versus tradition. Modernity wants to break news, in the best tradition of an open and democratic society.

But tradition insists on its own protocols: the king doesn’t die; he only transits to higher realms. Covering his passage, as that of any of the hoi polloi, could be frowned upon as sacrilege. That is understood — which is why reports must be filed with due sensitivity to the host people’s tradition and custom, especially here, as it concerns core culture and royal practices.

But hey, that line is not always respected, by often overzealous reporters.  Why, when Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the late Ooni of Ife passed, a senior journalist and columnist even went to town with an “Abobaku” (Yoruba for die-with-the-King) fib — a long-abandoned custom — claiming such a rite of passage accompanied the late Ooni’s passage. It did not. So, these modernity-tradition tension and conflicts abound.

Still, the reporter would file what (s)he thinks is newsworthy; and the reading public wouldn’t like every bit of it. Indeed, the immediate culture public could frown at it all. But everyone would talk about it, and with adequate feedback and mutual respect, folks would get over it and life goes on.

Kudos to the elders of the Itsekiri royal court that dutifully called Shola, in polite and civil protest, over segments of the story they didn’t like.  That’s the correct approach: with adequate feedback and mutual respect, everyone gets better informed; and crisis is averted the next time around.

But the faceless youth threatening life? Perish the thought! That’s no way to go. A society that threatens to take life, just because it can’t face conflicts, which are everyday affairs, is buried in the past.

Warri, the famous oil-rich city, and the Iteskiri, with their pomp and ceremony, should be way past all that. There should be no such barbaric worry over Warri.

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