After years of hiatus – during which I devoted my time to creative writing and historical investigations, I return to regular journalism. I am back to the turf where my professional umbilical is interred. Sometimes the things we do at heart wear new colours and the refreshing fervour keeps the mind glued to them. How does one transit from creative writing, particularly poetry to writing news reports? How do you thread through and sieve the truth from the tomes of disinformation that swills out there? But as the fathers and defenders of the journalism profession would say, “once a newsman, always a newsman.”
So, this week, on the debut of this piece, I am in Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State. Nasarawa prides itself as the Home of Solid Minerals. Beside nature’s endowment, the State is contiguous to Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory and to four other states, including Plateau, Kogi, Benue and Kaduna. Nasarawa is one of the subnational in Nigeria three-tier government structure of Federal, States and Local government Areas. There are thirteen Local government areas constitutionally recognized and a couple of Development Council Areas that the State government demarcated to ease administration. General Sani Abacha created the State in 1997. Abdullahi Sule, an engineer, who is seeking reelection in the next polls has been the governor here since 2019.
Nasarawa State measures twenty-seven thousand, one hundred and seventeen square kilometers (21,117 km2) one of the biggest in the country. The topography is as intriguing as the wealth hidden underneath its earth crust. The Eggon Hills sit pretty on the Abuja-Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia Expressway. There are numerous tourist attractions, including caves, crags and escarpments, damns and numerous natural resorts. A cumulative of these endowments make Nasarawa the place to be. It gives the impression of the place as an emerging economic hub. Again, with wealth can sometimes come an albatross.
That’s is why some observers regard Nasarawa State as a frontier and a buffer zone. A frontier in the sense of the reawakening and rush to mining of natural resources as championed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. And lately, the reported discovery of oil in commercial quantity has upped her profile and status as an economic hub. She maybe a buffer because of the existing and perhaps, if care isn’t taken, what might come given that Nasarawa is surrounded by some toxic States where bloodletting has been an unceasing norm. The farmer herder crises in the Middle Belt where Nasarawa belongs, the rampaging effects of climate change and the scramble for resources – put Nasarawa in a peculiar situation. But thus far, aside incidences of kidnapping, killings attributed to herders and other crimes, conflict is minimal. But that might change, if we know what has happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and even in Zamfara and the Niger-Delta of our country, where the exploration of natural resources has been at the heart of enduring conflicts in those places.
This geopolitical space is where I head in search of my missing journalism rip. I have worked at PM NEWS, TheNEWS and Television Continental, all based in Lagos. I was always thrilled by the idea of being a correspondent. The fact that you have to be on the field, find your own story ideas, conduct research, meet newsmakers and craft your stories with minimal assistance fascinated me to no end. I used to enjoy speaking on the official phone lines to pickup stories and offer suggestions to my colleagues in parts of Nigeria and beyond(as was the case in TVC, some of whom I don’t know till date. So, even after I left journalism, I knew I couldn’t exactly call myself a journalist because I hadn’t been a correspondent, working away from the direct daily supervision of editors. Finally, and through TheNWEWSand PM NEWS, I am picking up the gauntlet in Nasarawa State.
Already, there are indications that Nasarawa is hospitable. This is a feature writer’s haven. There are outlets for oral history and politics here is a boiling pot, it can make anyone, it can mar anyone. So, a reporter’s ticket is to give accounts of history as it unfolds. This is why I am here. Since arriving, colleagues in Lafia, the State capital have been helping me to takeoff. I have received advice from some, onetook me in temporarily, even when he hadn’t known me from Adam. Isaac Ukpoju, Chairman of the vibrant Correspondents Chapel welcomed me with open hands and gave me a brief of the media landscape. He reminds me of the accounts I have read from journalists and their membership of the Foreign Press Associations, wherever they find themselves, world over.
At the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Nasarawa State Council offices in Lafia, Muhammed Alkali, a genial man who chairs the guild, provided me a vital guide as to how to make my tour of duty eventful. His words, “You have to look out, Nasarawa State is peaceful but you have to speak to a colleague you trust before going to anywhere. Don’t be antagonistic, just do your job,” sums for me what every reporter needs to consider in undertaking their responsibilities in these security-induced chaotic times. The guided tour of the facilities at the NUJ office on Makurdi Road and the commendable infrastructural initiatives put in place by Alkali and his team, are worthy of mention. Yes, journalists in Nigeria rarely write about themselves. From my point of view, reporters who are newsworthy will earn a space, for good or bad reasons.
As we near the general elections, Nigerians and indeed international friends of Nigeria should work towards peaceful polls. One way to dot that is to shun fake news and purveyors of disinformation. There are many channels that deliver authentic stories. There are many mobile journalists too. No one should be tempted to relied on the false news, headline screamers that wear ulterior motives
If authenticity matters and if that is what you crave, dear reader, count on TheNEWS and P M NEWS (www.thenewsnigeria.com and www.pmnewsnigeria.com) wherever you are. And every word from the outpost in Nasarawa will be nothing but fact in matrimony with truth.