Journalism in the service of society

Let’s destroy all the columnists!

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

THE acute hatred in my heart now-now, as we do say in Nigeria, is about the characters called columnists.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired over the antics of the jobbers of Nigerian journalism who call themselves columnists.

Everywhere you turn, whether in a newspaper or magazine, online or offline, blogs or whatsoever, you are assaulted by the perpetual attention-seekers called the columnists.

As you can see from the title of this piece, I want all columnists wiped off the surface of this earth.

Don’t just think that I am only homicidal about the matter – I am equally suicidal because I also happen to be a columnist!

In truth, I am even guiltier than all the others because one past publisher of mine once got me to write an unprecedented daily column in his newspaper.

What can be more troubling to the soul than inflicting my bad verbs and nouns on captive readers every day without fail!

One can now understand why the Roman mob in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar descended on poor Cinna the Poet, screaming: “Tear him for his bad verses…”

It is because of the deification of past columnists in Nigeria that every dummy today, especially this unruly scribbler, takes pride in being hailed as a columnist.  

Yes, Nigerian journalism reveled in its rich history of legendary columnists.

For a rookie starting out as a columnist in a newspaper, it is indeed daunting to deign to bear the burden of extending the frontiers paved by legends such as Alade Odunewu, more popularly known as Allah-De; Peter Enahoro, aka Peter Pan; Sam Amuka-Pemu, known to teeming readers as Sad Sam; Abiodun “Ebenezer Williams” Aloba, Bisi “Aiyekooto” Onabanjo etc.

The wannabe must confront the inescapable catch that giants only existed in the past; that the present day is made for dwarfs trying to perch ever so precariously on the shoulders of giants.

In the golden age of yore, the Sunday Times, for instance, with Gbolabo Ogunsanwo as editor and star columnist had a circulation of 500,000 copies.

No Nigerian newspaper today can boast of even a minute fraction of that circulation figure or readership on the best of days, yet the columnist of today can neither stop writing, nor thinking that he is very important.

Nigeria’s many champions of the so-called Informed Commentary are still all the rage, latching on to the legacy of their forebears.

Back then, Nigeria’s first President Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who also was a foremost journalist and columnist, gave the inimitable Allah-De the title of “doyen of satirical journalism”.

Nigeria can no longer crow about a president that can read a newspaper let alone make a comment on the columnist.

Today’s travesty of writing too many words while making little sense led Dr. Stanley Macebuh while founding The Guardian to insist that all columns must not be more than 800 words; to wit, any writer who could not exhaust his argument via the 800-word format is confused!

One of the distinguished columnists, Sonala  Olumhense, had on occasion complained of journalists who could not put two sentences together being given an entire page to fill as their columns!

Some of the snooty columnists spuriously claim to have enough star pull to be given the entire back page of the newspaper.

Man must not die from reading verbiage – forgive me for nearly writing garbage!

It would appear that there are more columnists than reporters operating in the various Nigerian newspapers such that the papers may indeed be renamed “viewspapers” instead of newspapers!

As far as these “viewspapers” go, the columnists suffer from the bandwagon effect of what in popular parlance is tagged “monkey see, monkey do”.

For instance, during the time of hapless President Goodluck Jonathan, every columnist perforce decorated his column with the word “Clueless”.

“Clueless” Jonathan was kicked aside by the columnists in an orgy of celebration for the entrance of the “Clue-full” General Muhammadu Buhari.

The columnists have since been sent waffling in their columns now that the “Clue-full” change they championed has rocketed a bag of rice from N8,000 to N25,000, a litre of fuel from N87 to N200, and the American Dollar from N170 to N450.

There was this columnist who celebrated the “Clue-full” one when he promised to ensure the exchange of One Naira for One Dollar.

This columnist has since become a columnist in the Presidency, and he has just stridently written that the “Clue-full” one never ever made the promise!

In God’s name, what does one make of this shameless apology of a columnist even if he calls himself a pastor or a deacon of one of the new-fangled churches?

As a parting shot, I can hear Bob Marley singing just above my head: “Total destruction is the only solution!”

If Nigeria must ever move forward at all, let’s destroy all the columnists!

  • Uzoatu, poet, journalist writes from Lagos.
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