Saturday 21 January 2012

Nigeria: #OccupyNigeria New York townhall disruption

On Sahara Reporters
Now, I am not the greatest fan of Sahara Reporters but I realise that in a country like Nigeria the need for a guerilla news agency beyond the reach of government or powerful influences is critical and important.
I have always contended that they need to be more professional with a better editorial policy, an independent funding arrangement and some control of the quality of commentary that accompanies their stories.
As I learnt to my chagrin and annoyance, some two years ago having praised Sahara Reporters on my blog, their editorial team ripped off my article wholesale and posted it verbatim without acknowledgement or attribution and gave the impression I was a guest blogger when I was not at all.
The interesting knowledge gained from that experience was when I eventually got to see the 33 or so comments posted with relation to my write-up only one appeared to comprehend fully what I was talking about, the rest of the comments were redolent of ignorance and a strange pall of illiteracy that put keyboards at the fingertips of cretins.
Some lessons
Recently, the front-man of Sahara Reporters attended a town-hall meeting in New York where the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs was the guest of honour. He successfully disrupted the meeting which was recorded and posted on YouTube and he made some very crucial points that representatives of Nigeria going abroad will pay heed to appreciate and note.
We are well informed of activities in Nigeria and the global cachet of Nigerians is able to project and protest anywhere in the world.
The idea that Nigerian dignitaries can utilise African time when going to events abroad where we do keep to time and are punctual will no more be condoned. In this case the Minister was shamefully 90 minutes late.
We are not in thrall of people in power, if you are in public service, the element of service to your countrymen has to be paramount, the idea that you will be revered as some potentate with an air of mystique is so last century.
Patriarchy is dead, if you are expectant of respect by reason of the office you hold, you will have to earn it by merit, with competence and the honest engagement that accords respect to the people you desire respect from.
Causing serious embarrassment
The Occupy Nigeria movement has a global outreach and it is evident that despite the fact that the President in his concessional speech revisiting the fuel subsidy issues by promising to cut unnecessary travel, this minister was almost aimlessly gallivanting around the United States with the penchant for arriving late at all events she was invited to.
Though there were Nigerians in Diaspora ready to fawn in supine sycophancy in the presence of Nigerian politicians the goal of Mr Sowore was to call out this minister and in the process address the burning issues going on in Nigeria whilst embarrassing the minister seriously for her classless and reprehensible behaviour, not to talk of the inability of the government to really cut back on the profligacy that had become part of the gripes of the Occupy Nigeria movement.
Mr Sowore made his point by disrupting the meeting and he probably could have been a bit less volatile and abusive in his delivery so as to make even more reasonable points. The meeting eventually commenced after that representation of Occupy Nigerian were escorted out of the venue by the New York Police Department but not before an 11 minute recording had been made which will have the minister having to do some explaining and clarification with regards to what that video clip purports to suggest.
Reviewing the video clip
Without doubt every news organ has an agenda and it behoves them to pursue it with fervour, but it also important that the organ maintains a principle of credibility and integrity for purposes of posterity.
I cannot say if Mr Sowore’s edition of that video had sinister intentions to embarrassing all Nigerian representatives to the point that their positions become untenable. That might be scalps for Sahara Reporters but it does their cause no good at all.
At issue with that video is the idea that the minister and representatives of the Nigerian Embassy in New York sat through the recitation of the Nigerian National Anthem and a cursory viewing of that video appears to suggest that they disrespected the National Anthem and the ensuing consequences will be grave. Many of the comments I have read had both excoriated and condemned those officials but I not convinced that they did sit through that fervent expression of patriotism.
Within the first 1:07 minutes of that recording, there is enough evidence to indicate that the editing of this film clip has either deliberately or inadvertently besmirched the loyalty of these officials.
I have taken timings in playing back that video at normal speed and detailed my observations to support my view.
00:00 The lead in to this video clip introduces the subject of this recording.
00:04 The national anthem was already being sung as the narrator began to set the stage for the event.
00:14 The man at the podium was talking to the audience from what one can see of his demeanour; he could not have been doing this whilst the national anthem was being sung, indicating the audio recording of the anthem was dubbed over the video.
00:30 The lady that approaches the podium after the man also appears to be talking to the audience.
00:35 The lady glances toward the high table as if to acknowledge the people sat there.
00:38 The lady in the black jacket walked over to confer with the lady speaking at the podium.
00:42 The camera pans to the back of the lady in red who appears to be holding a microphone and maybe asking questions – at no other time are we shown the audience singing the National Anthem after the glimpse at the beginning of the clip.
00:59 The clapping at the end of the audio playback of the national anthem appears to be in acknowledgement of the man getting up on the right as he makes for the podium. The minister and the other man are clapping too, it cannot have been for the end of the national anthem.
01:05 As the man approaches the podium we hear the voice of Mr Sowore who seems to have commandeered the microphone and you can see the attention of those sat at the high table directed towards him.
My submission
I will suggest that no matter how late meetings start for Nigerian gatherings there will most probably be a call to prayer and the singing of the national anthem.
In both cases, I will expect that the master of ceremonies will expressly as all in attendance to rise for prayer and then rise for the singing of the national anthem.
It is unlikely that the singing of the national anthem will be a spontaneous activity and hence if the people are asked to rise to sing the national anthem it is almost impossible to contemplate the situation where those at the high-table with expressly ignore that request and sit through the national anthem.
By circumstance, tradition or even rarity, one has to submit that the video was an edited version of the event which inadvertently portrays a side of the story that does not represent the whole truth and by so suggesting the official disrespected the national anthem – there is no indication from that clip that those officials did not rise for the national anthem and until one expressly shows that they did not respect the anthem it will be unjust to suggest impunity.
I will be ready to review any other recordings of this event either to corroborate or dispute my views but this video by commission or omission on the matter of respecting the national anthem is unfair, unjust and heaps opprobrium on the officials to foster an ulterior and dastardly motive which is at best unconscionable if not dishonest.

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