Journalists hardly write about themselves; they write about others. They may be famous as reporters, but most of them are always relegated to the financial backwaters. Except for few who ventured out to the corridors of power to help themselves, those who remain in the newsrooms barely get enough to survive the times. Yes, very few of them have conquered poverty, but a larger number of them are still victims of the crippling injustice they seek to change. As media reporters, making it in life, as Nigerians are wont to say, is pretty difficult. The business of telling truth is a bitter tale and those who seek to engage in the business are advised not to wear their clean pants as people who benefit from falsehood and corruption of the system never leave any stone unturned to get muddy.
In my over two decades of media practice, I have come across reporters and writers of diverse backgrounds and orientations. While the new generation of media men and women may be responding to the exigency of economic survival more than contributing to the journalism profession, I have learned on the job that the path to financial success for the media man is strewn with unwholesome practices. Forget this idealistic talk of ethics as platform for success!
The resort to breaking the rules in order to access success is not an exclusive preserve of journalism in Nigeria. Every field of human endeavour practised in this country has suffered similar fate. For success to come the way of someone, certain rules outside the books must be broken. That is why we are still in the woods over why our privatised firms have refused to deliver on their mandates since they took over agencies we once described as inefficient. We are still at a loss why various reforms in the civil service has not transformed into an efficient machinery to deliver on effective service delivery in the public sector. It seems the more ideas we think up on reforming the society, some of the criminals running the system are always far ahead. Even when we resolved that we were tired with the PDP’s years of locus and caterpillars, we ended up with a government that is fighting corruption only on paper and preserving bigger criminals who have found safety in the corridors of power.
Beyond the mouthing of the anti-graft war, we are mired in a struggle for the soul of the country. The role of the media in ensuring the emergence of a society committed to justice and equity is indispensable. When the advocacy aspect of the media is removed from its practice, society is doomed. When reporters who should be the watchdogs are starved of their basic earnings and made to praise the criminals who are engaged in destroying society, then, Armageddon is closer than we ever thought.
I have come across media personalities engaged in reporting society with the aim of improving on the lots of society. One reporter that made his mark quietly on the job was Mr Stephen Bem Osu who, until his death, was the Taraba State correspondent of the Abuja-based Blueprint Newspapers. Like many who came to the media profession to demand a better society, he was always finding himself in troubled waters over his reports. When media minders of government complain that reporters are not doing their jobs but pandering to the script of the opposition; then be assured that they are indeed doing their jobs.
And this come at a great price. Steve, as I always called him, was a man of his own conscience who never allowed filthy lucre to diminish his vision for a better society. He was ever willing to be in the trenches against the enemies of society. Like many before him who saw journalism as passion and profession, he came to a point where he thought of giving up. Reminiscing on several discussions we had over the phone over a long period of time, I reminded him of the need to stay the course and never give up on a passion. Just some few months ago, he had called to inform me that he had completed a course and was looking forward to putting his new knowledge in advancing his career. I was so filled with joy and told him how proud I was over his new academic milestone.
We spoke a fortnight ago over an unfinished work and I promised to get back to him. After a week of not hearing from him, last week I tried reaching him through his phone but he never responded. I waited for a return call from him but it never came. On Wednesday, I was determined to speak with him, and reached to the phone. The voice on the phone was that of a female.
I requested: ‘Can I speak to Steven please?’
‘No, Steven is not alive.’
‘He is now in the mortuary.’
The inevitable has happened. Steven had passed on to join those who had gone before. Bloody Death has done her worst. Unknown to death, his demise is a sweet transition to the other side of life. In death, Steve has been delivered of his heartaches and wretchedness of the Nigerian life that has made principled men and women unable to rise to their manifested destinies. Amidst the negative partisanship that defines contemporary national discourse and media reports, Steve toed the line of sanity and objectivity.
Yes, there can be no absolute objectivity, but he allowed all the voices in the stories to be heard. Only those who never wanted the stories to be told opposed his grit as a reporter. Because he insulated himself from money, he valued truth and friendship. For the late reporter, there was always a reason to love people whom you have disagreed with. He was that quintessential journalist that always saw the breaking of a new day as yet another opportunity to break new grounds in news reporting.
Steve is not dead. His inspiring footprints and good deeds will always be in the hearts of those alive. His reports remind us of what he lived and died for. I just cannot find appropriate words to describe the kindness that was in him. In Steve’s death, I die a little. If Heaven is for kind hearted people with love for humanity, then, I am consoled that Steve has finally found rest, away from the maddening crowd that has made life in Nigeria so difficult to walk the path of truth. Steve, may God rest your soul and raise people to look after the family you left behind. Rest in Peace Steve and good night!
I wish to appeal to both Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State where Steve hailed from and Darius Ishaku of Taraba State where he spent most of his working career as a reporter to assist in making sure his family does not suffer. The leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), including the Taraba State chapter of the NUJ where Steve held forth the flame of untainted media practice, should join in the campaign to assist Steve’s family stand on its feet. I am sure the management of Blueprint Newspapers will also not be left out in rewarding a dedicated staff who gave his best in its service.