If not for anything else, the current senate will be remembered for ages to come as a body without any sense of shame or propriety. With this lot, Nigeria has really scraped the bottom of the barrel. At a time when it should be working round the clock to redeem its battered image and to shore up its badly damaged credibility, the senate is coming up with the equivalent of a final solution for its critics in the guise of Social Media Bill which will put the fear of the Lord in its tormentors.
It has been quite a hilarious sight this past week watching the members of the august assembly whip themselves into such frenzy. Snooper was particularly entertained by Senator Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti state who was so hopping mad with the cyber urchins that she became almost apoplectic with rage. One can imagine the irate Ekiti woman chasing around the urchins with a pestle for yam pounding. If only one had not known the former Ms Biodun Ariyo of old NTA Ibadan fame as an irrepressible journalist herself. How times change.
But it is said that when you are in a hole, you must stop digging. The senate is furiously digging, shaming those who believe that perhaps by some miraculous reprieve the members may yet be able to salvage some honour and dignity from the epic mess. The scale of venom and fury its attempt to muzzle its critics through this quixotic bill has attracted should be enough to convince the senators of their dismal standing with their compatriots. Even a freshly minted exemplar of press freedom like old General Muhammadu Buhari has wisely and discreetly distanced himself from the grosser absurdities of the proposed bill.
This proposed bill fails significantly on the two major templates of integrity that must drive public spirited reforms in a patriotic political class. First the timing is suspect, coming at a time when the senate is under public siege for what is widely perceived as its brazen ethical lapses in the conduct of its own business. Second, the sponsoring body is itself a serial suspect in the moral suborning of a nation. It is a trite supposition in law that you cannot be a judge in your own case.
Given what Messrs Julian Assang» and others have done to expose the ritzy rituals of state subterfuges in the last decade, it is a case of compounding felony with obtuseness that the Nigerian senate should put itself on the path of a global earthquake against state manipulation of information. It is said that if knowledge is power, then secret knowledge is secret power.
The Nigerian senate should have kept its ammunition dry for another day. In the global explosion of blogging and citizens’ patrol of their state patrollers, what regulates the trade is not authoritarian and draconian legislation but a simple test of credibility and integrity. In the last decade alone, how many blogging websites set up for the purposes of blackmail and corrupt ensnarement have disappeared with their owners permanently disgraced?
But the Sahara Reporters, the senate bête noire, has continued to grow from strength to strength, whatever the occasional exuberance and youthful enthusiasm. Its owner, the hell-raising and punitively proactive Omoyele Sowore, is no spring chicken when it comes to these matters. An outstanding Students Union leader at the University of Lagos at the turn of the nineties, Sowore has a historic and heroic record of defending to the last drop of his blood the notion of public interest as he perceives it.
Sowore’s scary exploits as a student union leader include wresting to the ground with service pistol flung afar a former naval chieftain and future no 2 in Nigeria over a university dispute concerning examinations disruption. The late admiral was a moonlighting law student. If the young man is not going to be fazed by the real thing, it is a hard to see how mere senate sabre-rattling can drive him out of business.
Snooper can testify to the fact that Sahara Reporters started in a small backroom office with Sowore’s medium-sized SUV serving as communication centre. At that point in time, the jalopy reminded one of a burgled and thoroughly vandalized electronics shop. From such humble beginnings, the intrepid fellow has put himself and his nation on the global map of citizens’ journalism.
How time flies! It is almost a decade ago that Sahara Reporters was officially launched at the Empire State Building in New York. Snooper was there all the way from San Antonio and distributed a prepared text. This morning, we republish that address as a timely reminder to those who believe they can scorch an idea whose time has come. Here is wishing Sokoti many more years of productive service to his fatherland and humanity at large.Courtesy: The Nation.