By Adebayo Abubakar
There is usually a juncture in the journey of every nation, when and where the need for socioeconomic, cum political renaissance becomes a matter of necessity, for there to be a positive progress, or even for survival. A change of course; a change of direction. Kwara State was at that critical juncture, about 10 years ago. During this period, there seemed to be general consensus among practitioners that, journalism would be limited to, regurgitating, one-sided narrative of press releases from politicians, political office holders, and newsmakers, with the deepest of pockets who tables the highest bid. This culminates in the era of “Alternative Facts”, in which we now live, as espoused by Kellyane Conway, an American “Counsellor to the President”, while defending the then, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, when the latter decided to play on figures that were blatant falsehood. It was regarding the attendance, during the inauguration of Donald Trump, as the 45th President of the United States of America. The phenomenon of “alternative facts” did not start with Conway or Spicer. It has been around from time immemorial. Conway only helped rechristen it with such a poetically colourful nomenclature.
While the people of Kwara State searched for the truth through the “Facts”, in the midst of a haystack of “Alternative Facts”, serenaded with “brown envelop”; from nowhere emerged, Fresh Insight, in 2015, with a certain Abdulrasheed Akogun, the publisher, and his Lieutenants, prominent among whom is Ibrahim Sheriff, and other dedicated, energetic, Indomitable, and indefatigable reporters, with eyes for table-shaking stories, scattered around the nation. Many sceptics expected Fresh Insight to either play along in retailing “Alternative Facts”, (falsehood) or fizzle out with time. But how wrong were they, after a couple of year! Contrary to their expectations, the platform keeps waxing stronger. In the midst of the confusion as to what is the source of strength for these guys?, a lot of their traducers reached for the laziest, and most falsehood-laden conclusions that, there must be (or, that there indeed, was) a very rich opposition figure behind them, bankrolling their activities, targeted at embarrassing the ruling party. As if what they were saying had an element of truth, the most visible figures behind this outfit – Abdulrasheed (popularly known as Shoboi) and Sheriff (aka, Gold) do not look, the impacts of their journalistic industries, on those who have positioned themselves within the shooting range of truth. Rather than ingratiating themselves with those who have betrayed the trust reposed in them by the good people of Kwara State, by virtue of their being in public offices, Fresh Insight chooses to expose their atrocities against the people. What these (Fresh Insight) guys lack in physical stature and financial muscle, they make up, in double fold, for it in courage, conviction in belief, vision, integrity, fearlessness and the patriotic zeal to forge a Kwara that works for everybody, irrespective of social class, ethno-religious or political affinity. They do this, reporting fact-based truth, no matter whose ox gored.
Fresh Insight, adopts a rigorous and energy-shaping, but integrity-laden genre of journalism that many people seem to treat as if, does not exist in this part of the world – that is, talking about Investigative Journalism. They are one of the few media houses around, who’d taken advantage of the Freedom of information Act, FOIA, to the fullest, in their quest to report the truth. They have done quite a number of investigative reports that people in high places have found so embarrassing that, they have to resort to threats of physical violence, and that of litigation, which neither saw the light of the day, nor the stories retracted. From that alone, you can use your tongue to count your teeth. Any discerning mind would have known that, Fresh Insight, as a medium of information dissemination is not set up to massage the ego of politicians, but to protect the interests of the public (the often short-changed people of Kwara State). After all, it is the duty of a politician’s spouse to make him/her happy through ego-massaging, not that of journalists.
It is a nobrainer that in doing all these, they’d always come on collision course with people who dwell in the corridor of power. Those rent-seeking scoundrels sometimes resort to intimidation, threatening to deploy the State’s machinery of violence against them, but they often call the bluff, and at the end of the day, the truth is prevented from being a casualty. Traveling the route of playing, in spirit and letter, the role of a watchdog and serving as the bridge between the government and the governed, as provided for in the section 22 of the 1999 constitution, is not the easiest way of making it in journalism, at least, in Nigeria. That alley, of sailing against the tide of “Alternative Facts”, could be very lonely, dark and often desolate. Very few people have traveled that route and came out triumphant. You may confirm from those who have at one point in time or the other, had the State machinery of violence deployed against them, on account of what they stand for, and believe is in the interests of the general public. It is like the mystical Barmuda Triangle, in the North western part of the Atlantic ocean. Also known as the Devil’s Triangle, it is a loosely defined region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The metaphorical Bermuda Triangle, a point where nobody gets and ever returns, is where Fresh Insight dwells and keeps waxing stronger, day-in, day-out. Fresh Insight gambols, where angels fear to tread. They do this, armed with nothing but clear conscience and the unwritten pact to prevent the people of Kwara State from being further short-changed; vowing to report nothing but the truth. The thinning line between politicking and governance is where the fate of the masses is being determined, which makes it a very dangerous zone for any journalist that is not worth his onion, to dwell. You’re either made, playing along, or marred, dissenting. But doing the latter (dissenting) in the deadliness of that zone has had no effect on Fresh Insight TV, in its quest to play the divine role, the press is to play as the fourth estate of the realm in nation-building. This role is so divine that, the authors of the Nigerian 1999 constitution, have to cleverly smuggle it into the document (section 22).
I think it would be putting it very modestly, to say that Fresh Insight is one of the very few media outfits that formed the media arm of the “O to Geh” Revolution that ushered in the current government of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, at the time when the people of Kwara State felt, they’ve had enough of a certain political dynasty that had been in charge, for 16 uninterrupted years with noting to show for it, except “arrested development”. But in the course of this divine duty of playing the role of a watchdog over public patrimony, those who find the courage of Fresh Insight irritating, resort to name-calling, intimidation with physical threats, blackmail and all other tricks, straight from the books of late Sani Abacha, Adolf Hitler, Benitto Musolinni among other dictators in history, yet they remain undeterred.
I could remember, in the run up to the 2019 general election, the ruling party then, accused them of being sponsored by the then opposition party. But, as fate would have it, the opposition of yesteryears are the ruling party of today, and they are now levelling the same allegation against them. Pardon my loyalty to logic; how else does one want to be vindicated? One cannot believe otherwise, without jettisoning the intellectual beauty of logic. That in my own understanding, is an eloquent testimony to the fact of Fresh Insight’s consistency. Ruling parties have also resorted to similar tactics of zero-patronage, with a stern instruction to State government agencies not to deal with the media outfit by way of advert placement, or that, they do so and face the music. Agencies that had mistakenly started were instructed to withdraw, after strong warning.
Fresh Insight, hard unearthed a number of hard truths that rattled people in the current administration in the State, ranging from contracts racketeering, flagrant violation of the State’s procurement law, systematic pilfering of local government funds, to someone holding double employments (with the Federal and State Governments). This has culminated in the publishing of a book, “Pen Parrot”, a 193-page compendium of all its exposè about, all the news behind-the-news, trailing all government policies and execution of same, since the birthing of the newspaper in 2015. The book was launched on the occasion of the 6th Summit, on Saturday the 5th of March, 2022. I have not had the opportunity to read the book, but I know it is going to be a collection of the vintage Fresh Insight Journalism that would be worth the while, reading. So there is no point rushing it. You don’t rush a good wine, for if you do, you want enjoy it, as much as you would have. Of course, no journalist, interested getting hampers from politicians at the end of the year, would toe that line of being that critical of an incumbent political office holder. That is where Fresh Insight has successfully ensconced itself over time, to the chagrin of those who think every journalist has a price. That is the “Bermuda Triangle” of Journalism in this part of the globe, where the publisher of Fresh Insight decides to take refuge. The more steeped a public office holder is, in underhand dealings in the business of governance, the more irritating he/she is likely to find Akogun and his lieutenants.
As Fresh Insight clocks 7 years, and on the occasion of its 6th, Summit, the online media outfit is once again, driving a narrative on what needs to be done, to secure the electoral process, come 2023, as we look forward to having a free, fair and credible election, that will usher in a set of political leaders that will steer the affair of the State, and by extension, the nation, towards socioeconomic prosperity.
Please let us raise a toast to Fresh Insight, and the brains behind it, as it is alive, hale and hearty, dwelling in the Devil’s Triangle, popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle – choosing to be objectively critical of government actions or inactions; a point of no return, for many overwhelmed journalists.
Adebayo Abubakar writes from Ilorin.