Sunday 11 February 2007

CNN Exclusive: The creaks (sic) of Niger Delta

Fleshing a barebones news story

Sometimes correspondents do get a bit above their game in the quest for a story, that they plot and playback for our viewing rather than just report the news as is.

When Channel 4 in the UK used to broadcast Drop the Dead Donkey, many viewers would have thought no respectable journalist would file a war-zone report with a reality scene that would turn out to be the local community centre’s unkempt football pitch – if only our skepticism had caught up with our disbelief of make-belief, we might be smarter about the stuff we get fed to us as news, today.

Sometimes, the news might only be in the first 10 words of 15 minute broadcast and the only facts you will have are time and place, the event is dumped in the hands of armchair analysts with expertise in everything under that sun, so what we is get is opinions and suggestions presented as fact and event; by the time the penny drops, the event has been overtaken by other audience grabbing entertainment.

I have the feeling that some news editors now believe we are not interested in the news anymore, they believe we just want to be titillated with tidbits and have our voyeuristic tendencies exploited to the point of needing radical therapy.

It is definitely a given that one cannot just rely on just one news source, in hemispheric terms, one needs all perspectives and just because Western media can put people on the ground with sophisticated equipment to record an unfolding drama does not mean we have the truth.

Prismatic views of the Niger Delta

This is in the light of a report on CNN filed by Jeff Koinange an African-based correspondent under Big Guns, Big Oil Collide in Nigeria, there is no doubt we need multiple perspectives of issue to do with the Niger Delta, its people, its environment and the effects oil exploration on that diverse community.

There are many propagandists with vested interests in the matter, that getting to the truth is very much like sinking another hole prospecting for oil with greater uncertainty for success.

The people obviously are the most affected and nothing depicts that situation better than my February 2007 print edition of the National Geographic Magazine with the title Curse of the Black Gold - Please visit the online Photo Gallery.

A typical Niger Delta Settlement - © National Geographic Online

The oil companies as they rake in profits have to massage the public view of their corporate responsibility by all sorts of green initiatives and platitudes but the pictures persist and the news does not budge.

The Nigerian Government is an apology of governance, social justice and leadership, much can have been done to address the plight of the people of the Niger Delta but whilst we gain debt relief the largest oil-producing nation in Africa is ashamedly remiss and culpable in the rape of our resources and the livelihoods and well-being of the people.

The militants who because of the injustices of first, the impunity of the second and dereliction of duty and responsibility of the third have become a global phenomena, with attacks on oil infrastructure, the kidnapping of personnel and other destabilizing activities that can raise the price of oil, have the international markets in jitters, make insurance premiums for life and property approach that of contractors in Iraq, and basically give the government and companies a bad name and bad press whilst not achieving much.

The CNN Exclusive

So, we are all generally aware of what supposedly goes on in the Niger Delta, however, to bring this reality to the viewers of CNN, it would be difficult to happen upon the secretive activities of the militants if a deadline is to be met to deliver that news piece as part of pre-planned topics of interest for February.

It would appear Jeff Koinange with the generally accepted knowledge we have, wrote a screenplay and sought his dramatis personae first from main militant group called with the acronym MEND and when they could not make his scheduling, he engaged a number of brigands to enact typical MEND activities and relayed that to us as an exclusive.

Publish and be challenged

What is interesting is the strident ferocity of MEND’s rebuttal of that exclusive, the people featured do not belong to the MEND organisation and have no affiliation to them beyond which MEND has threatened to reveal all email correspondence between themselves and Jeff Koinange – now that would be an exclusive, which might be resolved with hush money.

The Nigerian Government, taking a cue from that rebuttal has called the report subversive and demanded an apology. Errr! Wait a minute before apologies start to fly.

The annoyingly photogenic Minister of Information and Communications (read propaganda) in the person of Mr. Frank Nweke Jr. remonstrated with a statement, an excerpt of which appears below.

The report which, also featured some Filipino workers purportedly being held by members of MEND, has been run several times in the past 24 hours by the CNN, to wrongfully denigrate Nigeria and her peoples, send the wrong signals to the international community about the state of affairs in the country, create unnecessary panic, foster the feeling of insecurity, advance an out-dated thesis of neglect of the Niger Delta and portray Nigeria as a country in perpetual crises”.

Yes, up to the point where it appears the good name of great Nigeria is being besmirched, the minister is generally right, however, this - advance an out-dated thesis of neglect of the Niger Delta – I do wish it was out-dated and a thesis of somebody’s imagination, the inability for the government to address this in fairness leads to portraying - Nigeria as a country in perpetual crises – are we talking of the Niger Delta, the Presidential tiff with his vice-President, the efficacy of the EFCC, the political, health, social, security, economic or infrastructure situation of Nigeria here? Almost like Admiral Lord Nelson's oft misquoted "I see no ships" , Mr. Nweke Jr. sees no crises, so there are none.

News today

Sadly Mr. Koinange allegedly took a seriously newsworthy situation, dramatized it and presented it as reality; and I say, without prejudice, that, can be viewed as seriously unhelpful to the cause of the people and blatantly dishonest.

Mr. Nweke, not forgetting the Junior postscript, probably and really does have a grievance which should be aired, we should not have dramas that allow crimes to take place like the abduction of the Filipinos in that exclusive and then relay that as contemporaneous, but he is disingenuous to assert that those pictures in the National Geographic are an outdated thesis of neglect Рthat is a breathtakingly brazen barefaced terminological inexactitude and being seriously economical with the actualité.

The CNN Report - Thanks to Lady1


The Niger Delta

Nigeria and Oil

A Whole range of views on the Niger Delta Crises

Oil Companies Complicit in Nigerian Abuses - Human Rights Watch 1999

Nigeria: Corruption and Misuse Rob Nigerians of Rights - Human Rights Watch 2007

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