opinion

Oseni and the Journalism: A professional review

By Dele Elempe

The expectation on Rufai Oseni, Arise News TV Channel’s anchor by members of the rational public, not the usual friends, is too high for him, as a matter of fact. Rufai is not a journalist as a matter of fact. He studied Animal Anatomy and Physiology from the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, and also studied at the Lagos Business School. He is a very bright mind, no doubt. He has been a guess lecturer in prestigious institutes like Cambridge and Sussex Universities. He has led trainings for senior executives. He is a mentor and presided over several technology conferences.

However, there is a question mark on his formal education in the field of journalism apart from his experience in several media houses.

First, journalism has its core codes and ethics all around the world no matter the differences in cultural traditions.

The most common shared elements are the principles of Truthfulness, Accuracy, Fact-based Communications, Independence, Objectivity, Impartiality, Fairness, Respect for Others, Public Accountability among others. Except there is a clandestine agenda or a populist propaganda Oseni is pursuing, he seems not to be conscious of all these afformentioned ethical values of the journalism profession which is adjudged to be the fourth estate of the realm that serves as the watchdog and an intergral part of democracy. In his duty as an anchor, Oseni finds it difficult to be objective, to be impartial, to be fair and to respect others. He is particularly pessimistic and gives an idea of one pursuing an agenda. This obvious trait has been condemned by several scholars within the journalistic profession and outside it – basically members the our rational community.

Just recently, Oseni had a very difficult time with one of the guests, Jesutega Onokpasa, on Arise TV which has sent ripples of questions about Oseni’s consistent unprofessional conduct as an anchor. This was the second time he had such a clash with the same guest. The first was when a guest, a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, cast serious aspersions on the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Oseni entertained that illegality but was quick to reprimand Jesutega, who himself is a lawyer, for calling the other guest to order. That is not how to be impartial, that is not how to be objective, that is not how to be fair and that is not how to practice journalism. As a journalist(anchor) apart from knowing the nuances of the profession, one ought to also know the legal limits of guests on your shows. One of such character that Oseni entertains in his illegalities is Dele Farotimi. He makes very emotional and illegal statements on programmes with careless abandon and thinks them as the eternal truth. He finds a kindred spirit in pessimism with Oseni. However, this will be left for another day.

There are ways Television, TV, interviews are conducted, which are thought in elementary studies in journalism. Interviews can be filled with emotions depending on the subject. So hammering interviewees with ‘gotcha-style’ questioning or asking tough questions too much can make the guest to feel uncomfortable. You must have it in mind that you are conducting an interview which will benefit your station, not an interrogation of a suspect. What Oseni does is to interrogate his guest especially those on the other side(which shows his partiality) as if they are before the Inquisition.

Another very sour point in Oseni when he interviews is his inability to actively listen. As an interviewer, you seek information, clarification, story, news…you are bound to listen more than talk even if you disagree.

The truth is, the ability, which Oseni does not possess in ample measure, to interview effectively and make your guest feel at ease is a very important part of journalism. This is so because with effective interviews, valuable information can be gathered. So you must build trust so that the information you seek can be given. An interviewee is likely going to express himself freely if he feels comfortable and the conversation is flowing. Oseni distrupts interviews and makes his guests to feel they are at war with him because of their political affiliations. Yes, ask tough questions, hard-hitting questions, but do so with so much candour that will elicit answers from the guest. If they do not yield desired results, rephrase your questions or move on to others. This is a valued skill as a journalist.

On the 30th of October, while interviewing Onokpasa, Rufai said and I quote:

“Patriotism means supporting your country at all times, but also the government when they deserve it. Mr Onokpasa I put it to you that you came to misrepresent the facts as it regards subsidy removal. President Tinubu announced subisdy on inauguration, and that was effectively pulling out subsidy. So you saying he didnt remove subsidy, quoting the PIA law that has been there for a while is a misrepresentation of facts.”

The above is very poor and appalling coming from an interviewer and a supposed journalist. It is not only confrontational, it is not conversational and appealing.

He went on to interject the said Mr Onokpasa who was about to respond by saying “let me finish please.” This is a subtle order on your guest you did not pay to appear on the programme. Onokpasa would go on to accuse Oseni of raising his voice on him. Was it a mortal combat the audience were expecting to see or they were glued to your programme to gather information from the other side? Oseni must spell out what he wants actually.

Onokpasa, a lawyer, accused Oseni of practising sensationalism, which I quite agree with. He said he was rude to him, which an interviewer must avoid. “I am your guest. You will respect me.” At some point, Onokpasa threatened to walk out of the studio, and Oseni obliged him to do so if he so wished, something no journalist who knows the dos and donts of the profession will ever do. How do you tell your unpaid guest to leave your studio if he wants? How can you tell a guest that if he is not comfortable, he is free to walk out while laughing? Where is your sense of apology if he felt uncomfortable with your conduct?

I am aware a lot of persons outside the profession might not be able to understand my points as I speak from a professional perspective, however the blantant partisanship and abandonment of professional objectivity and conduct must be discussed within the hallowed chambers of objectivity. And that is what Dr Ruben Abati seems to be doing to forestall the total breakdown of Arise TV.

One observation that must be noted is that Oseni, as an anchor, insert himself into narrative during interview sessions not as an anchor he is, but as a celebrity and as the ‘voice of the people.’ But we recall his ‘Nigerian Attitude’ when he was apprehended in Lagos drivinf against the traffic laws.

Another of his uncomely attitude is his apetite for preaching morals and good governance – making so much statements and attempting to put words in the heads and mouths of guests. “I put it to you that…” This he does very often instead of sticking to asking the necessary questions. Larry King once said if it takes more than three sentences to ask a question, it is a bad question. It seems Oseni is oblivious of this.

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