The Chairman of Vanguard Newspaper Editorial Board, Ochereome Nnanna, in replying to a post on social media, declared the Yorubas “sophisticated morons”. While this caused outrage, Vanguard’s attempt at an intervention had in it more concerns for the media profession in Nigeria than Mr. Nnanna’s slur.
Nnanna was responding to a post by a fellow journalist, Sunday Areh, which read
“I used to think the south-west was very sophisticated. I was wrong. They are the most gullible. They fall for every poisoned carrot dangled before them.”
To this, Nnanna answered, “more like sophisticated morons”.
The discussion was all about the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the conferment of the highest honour in the land on MKO Abiola. A move some call political, but which is largely appreciated by most including the Yorubas, nonetheless.
Vanguard’s statement on the issue begins by identifying Nnanna as the head of its Editorial Board, describing his comment as “off-hand” and then calling the fact that his comment disparaged a tribe “allegedly”. What the statement describes as allegedly is not if he wrote it, but if the comment itself, being “sophisticated morons” was disparaging.
As to if he wrote it, Vanguard again cast doubt as it describes the comment as “ostensibly” made. Alluding to the possibility that its Cheif may not have said so.
This is even when it later appears to agree that Nnanna did say what he said. It was a statement upon which any other statements may be made in the future, defeating the whole idea of an intervention for some.
A private conversation, in Public
Quickly, another claim is made. This time it is that the comment was “made entirely as part of a private conversation.”. It goes on to say “Vanguard dissociates itself totally from such unwarranted but careless, private outburst.”
On its website, the caption of the Press Release was also “Ochereome’s comments on Yoruba private – Vanguard”.
There are two ways this position has been understood. The first is that a lot of people consider this to mean Nnanna’s statement was a private conversation with friends which was screenshot and published on the Internet. The second way to understand this, and perhaps the most correct from the wording, is that Nnanna made the comment as a private person, not as Head of Vanguard’s Board.
But just like a good number of Vanguard’s piece, both excuses are painfully inadequate.
As by no classification is the comment section of a public Facebook profile said to be private.
Furthermore, Mr. Areh, on whose timeline the spiteful comment was made, does not have a private facebook profile but a public one which is accessible to everyone. Still, not even conversations on a private profile are said to be private, as it is available to friends of the owner of the profile (which could get up to 5,000) as well as those who follow him. There are no settings on Facebook that could have made Mr. Nnanna’s comment available to just himself and his friend, except no one else could see the original post.
On the other hand, if Vanguard meant a private conversation in the sense of Nnanna not speaking in his official capacity, then journalism standards states otherwise as the statement later acknowledged.
In May, ABC canceled its massive hit sitcom ‘Roseanne’ on the same day its lead actor Roseanne Barr made a funny private tweet that was considered racist.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement released immediately.
Hayley Geftman-Gold, a top CBS executive, posted on Facebook that she did not have sympathy for the victims gunned down at the country music festival in Las Vegas because “country music fans are often Republican gun-toters.”. She was dismissed, even though this does not directly have to do with her work.
There are also levels to which a staff raises in an organization which makes the public utterances of such staff one that is tied to the organization especially in extreme cases like racism and tribalism. Even worse when it was not an hot mic situation, but a published comment.
Interrogating the Situation
Vanguard also says it is “interrogating” the “circumstance that led to that comment” and added something even more strange “with a decisive response to the author”
This may have screammed “we will do nothing” especially as Nnanna is still very loud,
“I do not see why I should resign because I did not have Vanguard’s mandate to do what I did,” Mr Nnanna told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Sunday night. “It was my personal opinion. Why should I resign? For what?”
While Vanguard struggles with the interrogation of the circumstances around Nnanna’s comment, others have discovered consistency in this matter with processes as simple as a web search. One which would have led Vanguard to the fact that its Chief had called a Yoruba man a moron just a few weeks before the incident it sought to spray paint.
On Rep member Femi Gbajabiamila buying his wife a car, Nnanna took to Facebook to say
“Out of this N1.3 billion allocated to his constituency he bought a car worth N100m for his wife on her 50th birthday! Tomorrow he will open his dirty mouth to talk about “PDP looters”. Left to Tinubu this immoral moron would have been the incumbent Speaker of House of Representatives!”
Aside the manners, Gbajabiamila had explained that he saved over the years to buy his wife the car and never intended to make the gift public because he knows people are suffering but that it was the excitement of family members and very close friends which made it public knowledge. Still, he had apologised for coming off as insensitive. No evidence was seen or suggested to show that he took money from Government funds for this.
The Head of Vanguard’s Editorial Board did not only speculate in public that the Representative is a thief, he specifies where he stole the money from, calls him dirty mouth and an immoral moron – a title he later gave to the whole of Gbajabiamila’s tribe.
It is unknown, and the statement did not say, how long Vanguard wishes to interrogate this situation. What is clear is that Mr. Nnanna does not feel like his job is on the line and has opened his wall for further comments defending his actions, even as he offered a mimic of an apology where he says he has forgiven everyone and should also be forgiven.
Vanguard of Nnanna
On its description as a company, Vanguard boasts about having “respected columnists like…Ocherome Nnanna…”. But Nnanna, in a 2014 article published by Vanguard, wrong that the slogan of Sokoto State is “Born to Rule” even as he makes a case for his North-South conspiracy theories.
“I understand that Sokoto State actually has “Born To Rule” as its state slogan, just as we have “Centre of Excellence” as the motto of Lagos State.” He wrote
Mr. Nnanna’s social media activity as reviewed by ETN24 is full of pedestrian slur. From pictures mocking the President’s health to rumours about Biafra to offensive jokes. In one such case, he puts up a picture of a Doctor behind a woman’s naked backside saying “with all these terms of service, Doctors still go on strike”.
Not surprising as Vanguard is notorious for sexualized content including “who has the biggest butt in Nollywood” and drugs for the size of a man’s penis as well as never-ending lunacy about “performance”. It appears to publish whatever it feels like without the professional ethics and standards the Press Release talks about.
Vanguard’s approach to journalism has been one that mocks the profession. In May, it manipulated what Femi Adesina said about President Buhari’s health to present the picture that the President was terminally ill.
In February, Vanguard manufactured a quote which it said was from the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, claiming the government will be spending 1 billion on Alex Ekwueme’s burial. The Minister later denied the story but Vanguard never explained why it published not just a fake information, but a fake quote.
In January, a pregnant woman was killed by armed robbers in Ekiti. While even the government, known for its anti-Buhari stance and complaint about herdsmen, called this incident a robbery case, Vanguard and others insisted it was most likely done by herdsmen. On other occasions it had lied on Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, saying they claimed responsibility for violent attacks on farmers.
In December 2017, a Vanguard report tried desperately to change the cause of death of a Muslim woman so as to portray her as oppressed and mock the family’s system and religious position.