As a deliberate personal policy, I do not discuss my encounters along professional lines, with all manner of persons, in the several write-ups that I edit or author for my modest audience on social media; but like they say, there are exceptions to every rule and you will soon see. Carefully too, as a professional requirement, I have consistently striven to, in the last nine years and counting, publish articles on www.calitown.com, with a balanced and truthful disposition, something that has helped stand us and our work out.
It is also clearly not lost on me that the news reporter, in spite of what he goes through to keep his audience informed, can never be anybody’s best man…for long. A reporter who doesn’t understand this, sooner or later finds himself experiencing work difficulties, because what he now does is influenced by a domiciled desire to appease imaginary gods. Let me speak further.
This past Tuesday, June 16, 2020, exactly one hour after we posted on www.calitown.com, the news item, “NCDC Shocks CR Education Commissioner, Stops Planned Opening Of Schools”,https://www.calitown.com/ncdc-shocks-cr-education-commissioner-stops-planned-re-opening-of-schools/ I got a phone call from this strange number, 08035080517. Politely, “Hello good afternoon” was what I said when I picked the call. The caller brushed aside my response and began: “You are Iwara Iwara? Somebody just drew my attention to what you posted on Facebook. You are a fool…very stupid of you to post this kind of lie. Who told you NCDC came to WAPI, you are such a big fool to post this…I addressed the students and told them to go home and you go and post nonsense, you must be very stupid…Who is your reporter, you better tell me who he is.” Experienced at receiving this kind of calls, I kept quiet and let Godwin Amanke, the Cross River State Commissioner for Quality Education, pour all the invectives he could remember, on me. As hurriedly as the call came, it ended abruptly and I was not ruffled.
In his serpentine fury, he left himself an awful lot to do. First, how can he explain that the heavily publicized phasal reopening of three schools in the state (compulsively) lasted for less than two hours? Secondly, was his visit to the West African Peoples Institute, WAPI, entirely tailored to be one where he will simply address students/staff and then ask them to go home, like he claimed? I know for sure that what he went to WAPI to do was to supervise his imagined resumption of learning activity for the klieg lights. Why were only 110 face masks distributed to Senior Secondary School students in WAPI, a number sensibly considered not enough? Why weren’t staff of WAPI given face masks too? Again, the picture of WAPI students attached to the story was taken while he was addressing the students, in case he has not seen the picture. Only NCDC officials have the kind of clout and weight (at this critical pandemic period) to stop a “SHOW” orchestrated by a showman who long took the name of another showman, Timaya, as a nickname.
Another critical thing that must be pointed out is the simple fact that news reporting has evolved to the point where Citizens’ Journalism compliments Traditional Journalism. What several people saw, CANNOT therefore become a lie because the orchestra master wants the truth concealed! He must learn this.
Indeed, in one false moment of importance, he quickly lost two senses; Responsibility and Humility, choosing instead to call me names for a lie we refused to tell. If we had reported that this man-made-god arrived the school solely to address the students and then send them home, he would have sent us an emoji, a thumbs up for ‘responsible’ reporting. But he just does not understand that our universal responsibility as journalists is to the public (not to individual Amanke) and that the public would have considered us an out of sorts outfit. Were he humble, he would not forget so soon that his political road is still under rehabilitation; didn’t Liyel Imoke scrape tar off it, sometime ago?
As Commissioner for Quality Education, he showed bland quality in calling me a “Fool” and insisting too that I was “Stupid”. He simply, like we have seen with some of today’s leaders in our state, exhibited that equally bland attitude of lawn ownership, the one that constantly constricts their brains and prevents them from understanding that Cross River State belongs to all of us. If I had abandoned journalism for politics, like he has abandoned scholarship for politics, he would not have had difficulty understanding that cats and catfishes cannot spar without a scar.
As Commissioner for Quality Education, he ideally should be educated enough to understand that instead of call me and pour out invectives, a paid media aide should have written to express whatever, about whatever was posted. But he doesn’t understand that we are simply independent, do not go cap in hand begging and we understand clearly the peculiar demands of the work we do. We therefore cannot be cowed by his lame outburst, it is a fantasy fix. Promising to meet me at the studios of HIT FM, Calabar and probably attempt to assault me would have been a real street lesson for him because I was indeed not educated to be intimated, in or out of fickle moments of political opportunity; and so, LOUDLY, I refuse to be intimidated by my contemporary (who left the Science School, Obubra in 1988) whether he be in government, whether he be the government or he be for government.
The potential turning point for us all will be to do whatever we can sincerely do, from our little work spaces, to ensure that we protect ourselves and several other people from this pandemic, staring us all in the face. Were Godwin Amanke a Betta Edu, who consistently has to battle with a media constantly scrutinizing her COVID-19 related work, hitmen would have littered the state, taking out the IWARAs and shutting down the work we do so that the CRS masquerade can dance with no steps scrutiny. As clearly stated in the Whatsapp message I sent him early Wednesday morning, “Thank you for all the invectives you poured on me, some day, you will take back all your words. My name is IWARA IWARA.”
Iwara U. Iwara publishes www.calitown.com. He also is host of “The Public View” the exceptional news and current affairs programme on Calabar’s premier urban radio station, HIT 95.9 FM.
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