Speaking Truth to Power: ÔÇśNigeriaworld and the Silence of the Lambs'
-Olu Ojedokun, Ph.D-
According to the background of the film which I gathered from Wikepedia, ÔÇśThe Silence of the Lambs' is a 1991 Academy Award-winning psychological thriller/horror film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. It is based on the novel by Thomas Harris, his second to feature Dr. Hannibal Lecter, brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. In the film, Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Lecter on catching serial killer Buffalo Bill. The film won the top five Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. It is the only horror movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
I know this could be interpreted as bordering on strangeness or even the bizarre to theme any article under a heading seemingly so innocent by itself but which actually refers to a horror film of the extremely macabre variety. I can assure you that I have not lost my marbles but am attempting to make a discreet yet valid point to the many discerning observers that exist out there in the world.
With the advent of the internet the press is no longer limited or bound to the pages of newsprints and electronic media of the radio and television variety. The internet has given rise to many numerous spaces by which publishers or even anyone can create spaces to speak and articulate various positions. Our silences are now constantly broken by the many mediums by which views of various complexions are aired. With the creation of these spaces comes many benefits to savvy owners, such are the enormous revenues they generate from adverts that many have predicted the demise of the print media in the distant future.
These sites also offer to many of us in the ÔÇśDiaspora' the opportunity to utilise the limited writing we possess to communicate our views, speaking truth to power from across oceans from the comfort of our cafes and boulevards. By and large it has made very vivid the statement that all politics is local. For we now have the ability to lob grenades and bombs from any party of the world to Nigeria and other places without being mindful of the collateral damage it might cause.
Many sites' publishers have now become moguls and at their discretion they decide what to publish and those to delete and discard to waste bins. You may query this right but reasonable people might suggest if you suffer such a rejection and refusal to be heard, then take it on the chin like an adult and find other alternatives or go further and set up your own site or blog. This brings me to my own curious personal story and the inexplicable response of Nigeriaworld to my numerous emails, attempting to speak truth to power.
Nigeriaworld has been of useful benefit to many others and myself, I have in a space of less than a year had over 22 articles published under the heading: ÔÇśSpeaking Truth to Power'. This has afforded me an opportunity to reach thousands of people and also some space to see whether my pretensions to some ability, which consists of stringing along a couple of sentences, bringing coherence to an argument has any validity.
However, over the past few weeks, the august site has been unable to publish any of my articles, entreaties for a simple explanation as to the reason, have met a stone wall of silence. Even the mellowing of my criticisms of Nigerian government officials and my attempts at using alternative emails to subvert the snub has led me to no where. The three articles that went unpublished are:
- ÔÇśMy Dream of the ÔÇśAfrican Majority' Churches' Potential as Agents of Reconciliation and Transformation in Britain';
- ÔÇśConfirmed! The Nigerian Government Is Mesmerised by the Complexities of Power!'; and
- ÔÇśThe Narrative has not Changed, Mesmerisation and Complexities Remain.'
This has left me a bit perplexed and my perplexity led me to ask a fellow colleague and writer for advice, and his response was (Panafism was my political name):
"Panafism, I thought it strange that your articles did not appear on Nigeriaworld, when they appeared on the 'ChatAfrik' website. I honestly thought you had decided not to publish them on Nigeriaworld. I can't think of a reason why they would censor your work given the consistent quality and topicality of your articles.
I'd send them through again and see what happens. I know they seemed to be having some difficulty in publishing the right articles under the right headings so maybe that explains the position."
In response I remained true and took his advice but still I was faced with a wall of silence, no explanation, absolutely nothing to explain why I now appear to have been excluded from the ÔÇśhallowed' space of Nigeriaworld.
My perplexity now bothering on bewilderment led me to send another email to my colleague stating:
"ÔÇŽ..Nigeriaworld, it seems have censored my last two articles. I sent them twice including an email querying why I had been censored."
My colleague the reasonable man counseled further patience stating:
"Panafism, I'd keep on trying if I were you, try and find out what their reason(s) are. It may just be a misunderstanding for all you know. Victoria Acerta."
I write today in the midst of the misunderstanding and a few scenarios pass through my mind. Is it possible that in speaking truth to the powers that be in Nigeria I have provoked them to exert some influence and silence any opposing views from being expressed in Nigeriaworld? Is the incompetence in my writing so obvious that it merits editorial discarding, or is it simply a question of teething administrative issues that Nigeriaworld simply needs resolve. It should I suggest not be beyond the realms of obligations to expect the esteemed publisher of the Nigeriaworld to offer the reasons why I have now been exclude from speaking truth to power on his site.
I end by stating, that Nigeriaworld can be courageous and publish the unpalatables, the marginalised, and the odd balls even when it goes against the grains of their beliefs or they can participate in creating decades of silence, leaving it to the next generation to engage with speaking truth to power. Nigeriaworld, you may wish to demonstrate that by publishing this piece, but should I hold my breath and remain silent?
I draw from the words of Zalaquett's introduction toÔéČ the English edition of the Chilean Commission's Report where he summed it up:1
"Although the truth cannot really in itself dispense justice, it does put an end to many a continued injustice - it does not bring the dead back to life but it brings them out from silence; for the families of the "disappeared" the truth about their fate would mean at last the end to an agonising, endless search."
The writer is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and currently works as a Field Director for Friends International.