I felt an unusual discomfort on my initial attempt to read the piece reportedly authored by Madam Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, widow of the late icon of Yoruba politics, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in response to an op-ed piece (which by then I was yet to see) written by The Nationjournalist Sam Omatseye. I then thought aloud to myself as I read on, that the respected, aged matriarch of the Awolowo family shouldn't descend to the level of personally engaging a little-known journalist who, she must have perceived, have wronged her or her family in his weekly columns. But I kept on reading nevertheless, curious to see what it was all about. And the more I read, the chillier the tone of her response sounded. By the time I was three-quarters through with the piece, I began to wonder if indeed Mr. Omatseye had bitten more than he could chew, and if he deserved whatever was coming his way.
Any previous doubts about such, or any reservations that I may have entertained about Mama Awolowo's response to Mr. Omatseye was dispelled after I read the actual piece by the latter. Sam Omatseye's op-ed piece about Mama Awolowo and her family was perhaps the most reckless, thoughtless piece I have read from a self-acclaimed pro-Awo journalist in recent memory. Sam Omatseye did not only insult the survivors and descendants of Awolowo, along with those who revere the man and all he stood for in his lifetime, but his recklessness desecrated a memory that legions of sons and daughters of Oduduwa and beyond hold sacred. Only time -- or how well Omatseye handles this terrible error -- will tell if he will survive the fallout of all which, which may include a societal 'blacklisting' of his person.
Everyone is entitled to his opinions and the right to express same. But even while one exercises such rights, one cannot afford to be lax about or indifferent to certain nonnegotiable responsibilities. These responsibilities include and are not limited to a sacred adherence to facts. There is also a need for a level of civility in tone and language as expected of any responsible opinionator who wishes to be taken seriously by his reading audience, as a columnist in the employment of any established news publication. When a journalist who has barely established himself (as a respected authority on morals or intellect or any other sort of positively deep reputation) takes on persons or legacies that are as big as we have here, just as Omatseye has done, the price is often a deadly one - a price that might have been a long time coming, too!
A breakdown of Mr. Omatseye's not-so-inspired editorial is hardly necessary as a summary of the same piece. He starts of praising the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his legacy, commenting on how his legacy remains alive long after he has departed. Nothing wrong with that. The point at which he began to bite more than he could chew was when he purported to enlighten his audience to his observations about emerging trends in the Southwestern political landscape, and the absence of direct participation by the late Awo's family in the seeming political renaissance. For Omatseye, such absence could not have been due to the possibility that the Awolowo family or its closest representatives were not invited to participate in celebrating the renaissance of Awo's political ideals with the defeat of the People's Democratic Party in the Southwest, or that it was a deliberate decision by the matriarch and the Awolowo family to shun partisan politics and embrace the informal position of 'Queen Mother' of 'the big tent' that the Awolowo name and family have come to be for many politicians over the years, no.
Instead, Omatseye found every nasty negativity to explain his observations, possibly without bothering to interview Madam Awolowo or to sit-down with any member of the Awolowo family to get their perspectives on the political issues he opined upon. In a manner uncharacteristic of a well-sired grown man cultured in the Yoruba ethics of respect and decency, he wondered - yes, wondered!- if Baba Awolowo's now-late son Olusegun (who, painfully for the family no doubt, died in an accident before the demise of the man himself), would have made a worthy successor of Baba Awo. He didn't stop at the late Olusegun Awolowo; he mentioned another son Oluwole who is reportedly currently recuperating from accident injuries that he sustained not too long ago, and another daughter who had a brief stint as a politician before she settled to a private life outside of politics. All this he did with hardly a thought for the feelings of the grieving nonagenarian, Mama H.I.D., who lost a daughter barely a couple months ago - never mind the late son whose chances as a successful politician Omatseye pooh-pooed.
The worst and the most reckless lines of Omatseye's op-ed, however, was reserved for the matriarch herself. No, he didn't attack her person but he showed what I can only describe as an absolute wicked disregard for important things as caution, respect and, most importantly, facts, when he not only suggested that the late Obafemi Awolowo would, if he could, rise from his grave to divorce the one and only "jewel of inestimable value" to whom he was known to be married for his entire lifetime, but also alleged that the 95-year old Madam Awolowo has been moving with the wrong crowd - in other words, that she has dumped her husband's preferred legacy for an inferior one. Such coming from an adult like Omatseye, who should know better, makes the op-edquite difficult to rehash.
The sickeningly frightening imagery that comes into focus after reading Sam Omatseye for sometime now is that of a deliriously excited toddler with a loaded revolver, who misunderstood the attention paid him by petrified onlookers as shared excitation, and therefore runs around wielding the gun recklessly in the air even as everyone cowered with fear until he fired the gun without even realizing it, gravely injuring himself in the process.
Omatseye is another of those journalists driven in their op-eds NOT by convictions or passions derived from ideals and beliefs, but as a men, women or journalists driven more by dangerous egos about their 'superior intelligence', along with a constant desire to use same to impress or serenade any audience they find. The end-result is almost always the same: sooner or later, people like Mr. Omatseye not only shoot themselves in the foot, but they tend to wound or endanger everyone around them - including those whom they believe they were routing for. It's just so unfortunate.
A brilliant mind is a good thing, but we often need the wisdom of our fore-fathers to go along with our mental acumen for modern knownledge. One needn't look too deeply to see where Omatseye's Achilles's Heel resides. Insecurity, though often an asset for people who know how to use it to propel themselves to greater heights, often destroy others. In the latter, it feeds a certain need to want to perpetually impress, blocking them from recognizing the difference between moderation and excess and feeding a perpetual need to showcase one's prowess, shakepearean quotes and all. In the end it all explodes in their face and they wonder where, when or how they went wrong. People closest to such people are in the best position to caution them through their recklessness. And where such persons do not rise to issuing such caution to the reckless ones, the Yoruba proverb applies:
Omo ti ko ba gb'eko ni'le, a gb'eko l'ode. (He who ignores the caution from within, is bound to learn his lesson from without).