• Sunday, July 21, 2024
businessday logo


A seminal outing


On this platform, this is a seminal outing. The pulse of time reveals that yours sincerely has been at this game since 1976. At that point in time, I was on national service in Jalingo, now capital of Taraba State. Then, the starting point was a mere letter to the editor of The Daily Times. This seemingly simple step led to a career in journalism. In the course of time, the seductive world of by-lines saw me in different contexts, like The Daily Times, The Guardian, and The AM News, a pro-democracy, quasi-guerrilla newspaper that was very active in the days of military dictatorship. Subsequently, I moved on to The Champion, The Compass and The Union.

On some occasions, however, it was a double-sided engagement. Double in the sense that, while one leg was in academia, the other was in journalism. It could well have been fate or better still, inclination. The point to note is that the academia seems so stuffy and aloof from the daily realities of life. It is particularly the case that scholarly pursuit in the humanities is a vocation that is best complemented with the hard-nosed reality of the newsroom. This is why there is something called the Public Intellectual. In these parts, the role of the P.I. is not often appreciated. At best, he is viewed as a busy-body. And on some occasions, the cynic will probably see him/her as just another attention-seeking social force.

But, of course, the situation goes beyond these mundane considerations. The university man must necessarily engage with street realities, if only because there are a lot of issues to be aired. So many questions are still waiting to be answered. Why, for instance, are we still the way we are? Indeed, some will contend that we are not the way we should be. Rather, and over time, the situation has worsened. And if one is sufficiently sensitive, one is bound to ask why. In the process and unconsciously perhaps, one will be forced to echo one famous writer who posed the question: Why are we so blest? Under the circumstances, it is perfectly possible to turn around the question and ask: Why are we so cursed?

This is a question that is bound to generate other questions. But the real point to note is that in asking this type of question, I am giving an insight into what this column is all about. The immediate foregoing may well explain why the blurb in this column bears the appellation: IN THE NATION.

‘In the Nation’ is terse. It points to our major pre-occupation in the coming weeks, months and even years. For I view this initial step in the context of a long-term relationship. It is a relationship in which I intend to engage with Nigeria and Nigerians. This is with a view to asking, courtesy of that Achebean pun, where and when did the rain start to beat us?

If the reader has come this far, it is easy to appreciate that what we propose to offer are not sweet melodies. Rather, they are songs or, better still, lamentations that would be laced with sobriety as regards the roads not taken. They are also songs which will seek to comfort the afflicted and at the same time afflict the comfortable. Such concerns may seem out of place in a journal that is dedicated to business. But business by its very nature does not exist in isolation. It exists in society, and if by any chance society gets suffocated, then, there are really no prizes for guessing what the fate of business itself will be.

The immediate foregoing may well explain the attitudes of privileged social forces like the Henry Fords, Rockefellers and Bill Gates of this world. Even then, the writer too, probably in narrow terms, is also privileged. In a post-colonial social formation like ours, it is indeed a privilege to occupy a space like this. It is a space which can be used to reify the status-quo or to question it.

Clearly, the latter preoccupation will be the main inclination of this writer. For if the truth must be told, we are still a long way from the society envisaged by our founding fathers and mothers – yes, mothers! And nothing illustrates this better than the nostalgia and laments of the older generation. Some will tell you that even the British Raj, who came to rob and plunder, ran things better.

Luckily, almost everywhere one turns, there is indeed a consensus that we are not yet where we should be. The syrupy contention of court-poets that things will get better will not wash. Yes, things will certainly get better. But then, a wholesome society does not automatically come into being. It has to be worked for. And those who will work for it are the leaders and, of course, the followers, which include, among others, this columnist. In other words, and at the risk of being contradicted, to write is to hope. After all, despair has never given rise to anything meaningful. So, see you next week.

Kayode Soremekun