The quote “The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book” is something many of us have heard in rhetoric from our educators and politicians. Such rhetoric centres on a need to pick up a book and read beyond its mere title.
The questions recently fielded by the Governor of Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, in a newspaper interview bore credence to the above. It is undoubtedly the best and most incisive interview any leader can grant on the current political situation in the country. Both the interviewer and the interviewee explored in-depth the situation and the possibility of a directional change in the near future.
However, the interview, which was published in the Daily Trust of Sunday 19 January 2020 has attracted wide uproar, not so much due to the richness of its content, but as a result of the sensational headline under which it was published, which read: *APC MAY COLLAPSE AFTER BUHARI – GOV FAYEMI.*
Anybody can be forgiven for finding the sensational headline controversial, but not after reading the whole content where points were well-marshaled.
Governor Fayemi did not mince words in the interview. He was in his usual element: deep, perceptive, insightful, incisive and factual, yet assuring that hope was not lost for Nigeria as a nation, as long as it continued to get a purposeful leadership.
Generally, Fayemi spoke about the Nigerian democracy since 1999 and the gaps still noticeable, the need for reforms, not only in the democracy, but also in the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The governor also spoke about the local government administration, security challenges in the South-West, the launch of _Operation Amotekun_ and other important national issues.
The newspaper rightly quoted Gov. Fayemi as saying that President Buhari remained the unifying force of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as a party today, warning that if care was not taken to institutionalise processes and procedures to make the party more inclusive, it might be heading for the rocks in the years ahead.
These are the Governor’s exact words: “If we are not careful; if we do not institutionalise processes and procedures in the party and make it more inclusive than it is, we will not have a party when President Muhammadu Buhari leaves government. This is because he is the unifying force of our party…It is when the party is organic that it can outlive the present support we are enjoying because we have a president who has his own personal popularity, which has helped our party up to this point. And I would imagine that one of the strong legacies our president and party leaders would want to leave behind is that it continues to grow in leaps and bounds, even when he (the President) is no longer in office.”
Fayemi was not the first APC leader to drum this caution on the Post-Buhari fortune of the party. Some three months ago, the immediate past governor of Imo State and senator representing Imo West, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, had equally expressed fear that the ruling APC might lose its current grip of power in 2023 if nothing was urgently done to reposition its leadership. Okorocha insisted that if nothing was done to address the leadership style of the party, it may not survive after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
Also last November, President Buhari himself warned against the collapse of APC after his tenure and enjoined chieftains of the party to endeavour to strengthen the party by adhering to the dictates of the party constitution.
In the report published in the Guardian of 23 November 2019 with the headline *Buhari rules out third term agenda, warns against collapse of APC*, the President was quoted as saying: “The aim is that history will not be fair to us if outrightly the APC collapses at the end of this term. History will be fair to us if APC remains strong and not only holds the centre, but also makes gains.”
Barring the headline of the Fayemi interview, there was nothing amiss about it. It was deep, incisive, thoughtful and educative. However, it is clear that many critics of the interview did not get past the controversial headline. And, just as titles have been an important part of any book, essay or thesis, headlines are just as important of a tool for both journalists and editors in the world of media. Headlines are designed to create interest in the story, and they are an advertisement and an announcement.
It is important to point out the role of the media, being the fourth estate of the realm, as a broker of information, a deliverer of information and as one of the primary sources of information for the citizenry. It is also important to point out that regardless of what a newspaper publishes, in a world of serial events, some events are sensational and some are not.
In a lean and competitive market that the recent surge in the new media has forced the newspaper industry, the need to keep readers enticed will tempt writers to sensationalize, exaggerate or dramatise headlines and stories. While every headline is not necessarily sensationalised for effect, the practice of sensational reporting will match the demand for it in turn. The need to maintain a competitive edge outweighs lofty ideals of journalistic ethics.
The idea that the public prefers dramatic emotional stories rather than hard facts and information cannot be derogated. There is a common adage that people like dirty laundry. If it is dramatic, sudden or out of the ordinary, then it will entice them. And, for as long as the demand for sensational stories remains high, newspapers will continue to use dramatic effect to get readers interested in an article.
* Sam Elijah, a public affairs analyt writes from Ado Ekiti