Desert herald: A newspaper at war with journalism

By Saka Raji Audu

Journalism is sick and in big trouble in Nigeria. The ailment that afflicts this noble profession is curable and so, its lingering calamity can be averted only and if its physicians are ready to save the profession from the hand of the killer disease called desert herald. Generally speaking, no one prays to find oneself in desert because of its terrible and horrendous atmospheric conditions. Desert signifies a dry environment where veritable plants cannot germinate for human consumption, no matter how irrigated or watered. Such an environment is nothing but a disaster because of its terrible and unbearable humidity.

It is therefore not by any sheer coincidence that a newspaper tagged desert herald was established by a novice and unprofessional personality in the person of Tukur Mamu. Herald simply means to announce the arrival of some thing. Conversely, desert herald means announcing dryness and infertility of news.

This takes us to the current edition of the Desert, in which it promised of coming out in his immediate past edition of how the Kano State Government was at war with the Pensioners. After going through that early announcement on this issue, I predicted and of course correctly that nothing newsworthy on the issue could be published by the promoter of the desert herald. On Tuesday, the 15th of September 2009 when the edition eventually came out, it was as dry as a desert. Worst still, it has no investigative sources except a claim of anonymity as its sources of information. How can a journalist worth his sort claim objectivity of journalism without an atom of personal investigation. This is why desert herald is not a news-paper but an express display of junk journalism.

However, I do not blame Tukur Mamu and his junk but the NUJ, Guild of Editors and Nigerian Press Council for harbouring the guy and his so called newspaper in the profession he knows nothing about. This may cast doubt as to whether there is remuneration accruing to them from desert herald that they pretend not to be seeing the havoc it is creating to the noble profession of journalism, even when the NUJ confessed to the world that it was also one of the victims of Desert herald blackmails when the paper faked a congratulatory advert on its behalf, whereas, it's not a privy to such an undeserved congratulation.

apart from the paper's contents that are mere creation of falsehood for the purpose of mischief, the English Language with which such falsehood is relayed is highly replete in both grammar and construction, thereby misinforming its unsuspecting readers and exposing them to bad use of English Language because the so called publisher/editor ÔÇôin-Chief requires some doses of training in written communication. It is not surprising therefore that Tukur Mamu produced about 64 pages of voluminous nonsense in his September 15 edition without an advert needed for sustenance of any responsible newspaper or magazine publication.

The fact that the reading public and stakeholders in community advertising have since realised the journalistic flaws of Tukur Mamu's moribund paper as a theatrical demagogue, it is hardly patronized by any serious advertiser either in private or public sector because desert herald is simply a paper never to be trusted in content and language. This is one other reason why the paper is hardly posted online immediately its week edition is produced until after a week assurance that the unsuspecting readers have been duped of its cover price and starved of correct information. Even after posting such moribund edition on its website, it hardly gives room for a feedback because the publisher would not be able to withstand the hurricane of bombardment he would receive as feedback.

It should be placed on record that all the publications made by Desert Herald about the governments and people of Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara, Taraba and Jigawa states are figments of the publisher's imagination just to be notorious and not popular. It is also disheartening to observe that publisher of this notorious paper is a northerner from the north-east of Yobe state and a traditional title holder of Iyan Fika for that matter. Ordinarily, Tukur Mamu is supposed to serve as a role model to his northern Almajirai, which he exploits, on good ethics and values as expected of a responsible traditional leader (Sauratta). But Mamu descends so cheap to become an epitome of falsehood and deceit through his junk medium that is full of despicable lies about the region he hails from.

Unfortunately, the northern leaders in the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and Protection Rights of True Journalists in Africa are standing at akimbo, watching the destruction of their region by a buffoon and a greedy liar who cannot defend or substantiate every claim he makes about individual or group of individuals. The northerners in these unions should understand that bad people triumph in a society where the good people refuse to act. So, their refusal to checkmate the unprofessional activities of Tukur Mamu is clear evidence that the leaders of these professional unions have failed woefully in their responsibility and should be held liable to it.

In his write up titled " Desert Herald: the Boko haram of Nigerian Newspaper?" published on page 36 of the Daily Trust edition of 17th September 2009, one Aminu Iyawa of No. 21, Hamman Nyallowa Street, Yola lamented the ridiculous state of affairs Tukur Mamu is subjecting journalism to especially in northern Nigeria. Iyawa really expressed serious concern about the yellow and gutter journalism Desert herald is practicing in its Kaduna enclave. He warned if care is not taken, Desert Herald could be another boko haram in the making and therefore, something drastic should be done to call the boko haram of the Nigerian Newspaper to order.

The Yobe State government had also made public complaint about the desert herald's lopsided junk journalism. Incidentally, its publisher is from Yobe State in Fika and whatever the state says about her son cannot be swept under the carpet because the people of Yobe have better knowledge of him. Similar complaints have also been made by individual and group of individuals against Mamu's fraudulent journalistic practices. In spite of this complaints and public outcry against the damaging effect of Desert Herald's type of journalism, the recalcitrant publisher has failed to amend for the interest of the journalism profession.

The Publisher of the desert had told us in one of his nuisance publications that there was nothing the media regulatory body (NUJ & Co) can do to him in respect of his junk publications that have dragged the noble profession to the mud. This is because in his abysmal thought, it is not compulsory to be member of the professional body before one practices the profession. Perhaps, Tukur Mamu lives under the illusion that as far as Nigeria is a democratic country, any body can misbehave under the fa├žade of exhibiting one's right. This bemuse idea however can never be sustained under law because we all know pretty well that one man's right begins from where the other man's own ends. This is why libel and sedition, when established, are punishable under the Nigerian Constitution. The case of President Yar'adua Vs the Leadership newspapers should be a case in point.

If the desert herald victims of its libelous publication were to take the paper up at the court of law, all would have been over with the paper and its publisher, Tukur Mamu would have been forgotten in one of our maximum prisons in Nigeria. But Mamu seems to be lucky because most of his victims of blackmails are northern Muslims who perhaps believe that it is not the day a trap catches rat that the rat gets rotten. This means that they know that Tukur Mamu would certainly not get away with his series of blackmails he has orchestrated against the innocent persons through his junk medium and that he would surely be punished now or latter by the master and king of the universe. Essentially, they are telling Mamu to continue with his fabrications against anybody he wishes to hate. It is just a question of time as nemesis would certainly catch up with him as a reward of his misdemeanors.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to call on the Protection Right of Journalists in Africa that rallied round and worked hard for the timely release of Tukur Mamu during his arrest and detention by the Nigerian Police for his involvement in possession of fake documents he uses against his perceived and imaginary foes. In as much as the right of true journalist in Africa must be protected in discharge of their onerous duties, it would simply amount to high level of injustice if a blackmailer as Tukur Mamu that is destroying journalism profession in Nigeria appears being shielded by the Protection Right of Journalists in Africa. It appears too that the NUJ, NGE and Nigerian Press Council are not strong enough to curtail the ugly activities of Mamu and his moribund newspaper, not even when one of the unions was also a victim of Mamu's blackmails and yellow journalism. The silence of these professional unions over the destruction of journalism in Nigeria is a significant point of mutual conspiracy and high level of official negligence. It is in view of this shock development that one would like to call on the Protection Right of Journalists in Africa not to also follow the same footprint of this executive failure of responsibility.

As for the young chaps the desert herald publisher commissioned as bedroom reporters who hardly move to the site before going to bed, posterity might also not forgive them for accepting to be used against their conscience to formulate non-existent stories against innocent people for peanuts, which Mamu pays as salary. Has it ever occurred to these mercenary reporters to ask their boss, at least for a joke, where is he getting fund to finance their junk in view of the fact that they are not receiving any genuine patronage from advertisers due to the falsehood their paper is notorious about? We all know that correct information is sacrosanct and cannot be offered for charity. It is also of public knowledge that no private newspaper can survive on cover price without heavy adverts. Not even the powerful, stabilized and responsible private northern media like the Daily trust and the Leadership newspapers that are well established and positioned in every nook and cranny of the country.

Genuine sources of fund should not be invested on a paper that lacks public patronage in terms of advert except for political vendetta and harassment just as the Desert herald has chosen to do. It is therefore not out of place if one calls on the EFCC and ICPC to unravel the source of income the desert publisher is using to fabricate lies against people of integrity in the northern part of the country. There seems to be public apprehension as to how a paper without advert can afford to publish lies and innuendoes on every page of his paper, knowing full well that there will be low patronage of such kind of paper.

Above all, it is in the interest of the Desert herald publisher to think of the future consequences of his present action by refraining from junk publication. He should endeavour to inject sanity into his paper through proper investigation of issues before rushing to the press. As I rightly observed in my previous article, it is more honourable and religious for Tukur Mamu to diversify from publishing to something else since he lacks the rudiment and moral tools to face the challenge of publishing than forcing himself into journalism business that he knows nothing about, thereby making caricature of the noble profession.

This admonition is not on compulsory side. Mamu can however decide to continue exhibiting lopsided journalism but he should be rest assured that the pen of the noble people will never dry in defending the noble profession of journalism in Nigeria.

Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano


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