David Hundeyin is Not a Real Journalist – Here’s Why
If you are reading this today, there is a good chance that you have read at least one of several commentaries on one or more of David Hundeyin’s investigative stories. The people commenting vary widely and include presidential spokespeople, journalists working for media houses that run PR campaigns for Colombian drug money launderers, self-styled “Boko Haram experts,” random Twitter accounts with Nigerian flag emojis on their bios, pro-government commentators who make a living by pretending to be unaligned, openly-identified Buhari Media Centre operatives, and many, many others. The language and tone varies, but the message is always the same: “David Hundeyin is a menace to Nigerian journalism.”
The “Nigerian journalist,” we are reminded daily, is supposed to be the antithesis of all that he stands for – a humble, meek and polite creature whose work ticks all the arbitrary boxes set by people whose primary interest is protection of the status quo. The Nigerian journalist should be seen and not heard. Their work should be mild and milquetoast to the point of being generally insignificant and ineffective. When occasionally they forget their place and dare to pose actual questions to power, someone like Femi Fani-Kayode should mercilessly remind them of their true station in life, after which they should visibly melt into a stammering, terrified husk of a human. In profession and in person, a Nigerian journalist should be nobody and nothing. The problem is that David disagrees.
A Nigerian journalist has no ego
The first major problem with David Hundeyin is that he thinks he is somebody whose voice and opinion matters. This is because he only grew up in Nigeria geographically. Ideologically and sociologically, he might as well have grown up in Warwickshire. He is that annoying type of millennial rich kid who is old enough to remember life under General Babangida and General Abacha, but whose life was not at all similar to that of his contemporaries who would later become Nigerian journalists after the return to democracy. While his contemporaries were struggling with the infamous Abacha stove, he often used to run into Miriam Babangida at ‘Vanity,’ the high-end Surulere boutique where his mom loved to buy shoes going for N35,000 a pair (roughly N900,000 in today’s money).
Not only did David grow up in close proximity to power, but he was also raised with the idea that whatever is true is true, regardless of whether it is popular or acceptable. He vividly remembers Mr. Ba, his Primary 2 class teacher at Corona School, openly telling the class – in 1997 – that General Sani Abacha was an evil, bloodthirsty dictator. In David’s subsequent world, truth therefore became an absolute – there is no sliding scale of truth in the puritanical, fundamentalist mockery of journalism that he practises. He believes that something either is or is not true. What is more, he believes that he has every right to say so, because of something called “public interest.”
Meanwhile every Nigerian Journalist worth their salt knows that truth – like everything else in Nigeria – is a commodity to be bought, sold, bartered and bargained over. Why else could former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode convene a meeting of news editors, where some of them loudly proclaimed their commitment to “work toward his reelection”? One of them even promised to “die for this cause” shortly after receiving his infamous brown envelope. That right there, is proper Nigerian Journalism. The right mix of genuflection to power, absolute disregard for objective truth or public interest, and a total absence of any kind of personal or professional pride. Hundeyin however, refuses to roll over and have his tummy tickled – even though he has been given generous offers to that effect.
In January 2020, after doing a story about a major Nigerian bank, which exposed its horror HR practises, he was offered a meeting with the bank’s CEO and a 7-figure retainership to kill the story. He did not just refuse – he went and tweeted about it. For good measure, he then took a vacation to Dubai and made sure to post about it on social media, just to make the point, “I don’t need your N5 million.” What manner of journalism is that?! Don’t worry, it gets worse. In April 2020, a Nigerian billionaire offered him an 8-figure sum to start his own journalism platform, with the unstated but obvious implication that he should never go after this billionaire or his friends again. The very next week, he did a story about the billionaire’s good friend, the Cement Baron Alhaji, effectively throwing this once-in-a-lifetime offer back in his face. Who does this guy think he is?! What manner of Nigerian Journalism is this?!
In July 2020, he took on a story about Indian expatriate workers being owed for years by a Nigerian telco. The telco called to offer N5 million to take the story down, and yet again this offer was dropkicked back to Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island. It gets even worse! After this guy’s insufferable ego and fundamentalist obsession with “truth” and “public interest” forced him to flee Nigeria, he couldn’t just shut up. Instead, he unveiled a serving cabinet minister as a terror apologist, terrified certain powerful people with an expose about the ritual murder of a jobseeker in Akwa Ibom, revealed the person printing Nigerian passports as an indicted cocaine trafficker, and exposed the president himself as a close personal associate of indicted terror sponsors. How is this Nigerian Journalism?!
How can a Nigerian Journalist project such confidence? How can he possess large quantities of professional pride? How can a Nigerian Journalist look power in the eye without feeling intimidated? Who ever heard of such a thing as a Nigerian Journalist with an ego! Who does he think he is? Some kind of 21st century Dele Giwa?!
A “Real Journalist” has no impact
His personal confidence and professional ego are already unforgivable enough, but what really marks this heretic out is the impact that his stories have. It is a well-known fact that Nigerian Journalism is the art of observing a snake go into a river and bite a fish, then reporting the snake’s side of the story more prominently than that of the fish. The snake after all, represents power, and Nigerian Journalism first and foremost respects and bows to power. Literally, nothing else matters. Hundeyin however, not only tells the fish’s side of the story, but actually dares to relegate that of the snake for being objectively less reliable and less important. It’s almost as if he feels that he is counterbalancing mainstream Nigerian Journalism or something!
The terrible thing about this is that by giving millions of Nigerian fish a voice, the stories actually result in changes that favour the fish, and he is achieving a measure of professional success and recognition. Take July 2019 for example, when he published his first-ever investigation – a story about institutional rot at Badagry General Hospital. Before he did this story, the hospital was recording over 40 percent maternal mortality for Cesarean Section births. After his story prompted the Lagos State Health Service Commission to make unplanned inspections, which led to drastic changes, this figure fell to under 20 percent. This figure is still too high, but lives were saved nonetheless – actual fishes escaped the snakebite because of Hundeyin’s work. The heretic!
In October 2019, he published a story on the Abuja Raids which for the first time, publicly uncovered Hajiya Safiya Umar – a crazed Islamist who was the head of the Abuja Environmental Protection Bureau – as the person behind the mass kidnappings and rapes of young women in Abuja by police and thugs. One of the victims styled as “Judith” in the story subsequently won a compensation claim against the FCT Ministry and the AEPB in the Federal High Court, Abuja. Hundeyin’s story was cited in the ruling delivered by Justice Binta Murtala Nyarko, which expressly outlawed the practise of legalised kidnapping in Abuja. First infant and maternal fish, now young female fish felt the benefit of Hundeyin’s non-journalism!
Oh but it gets worse – it always gets worse with Hundeyin! In January 2020, after his Dubai antics, the affected bank staff then received their entitlements. Likewise following the telco story in July. All 40 Indian expatriate staff got their full entitlements after he published the story and did a follow-up. In May 2020 when the House of Representatives tried to sneak through an NCDC Act that would permanently end constitutional rights as Nigerians know them, it was Hundeyin who wrote a deep-dive into the bill – an exposé that ended up getting the bill thrown out of the House. For this, he even won a journalism award – the 2020 People Journalism Prize for Africa. So that’s banking fish, foreign fish and constitutional fish also rescued from the mouth of the serpent because of this person with a hyper inflated sense of purpose. And the not-journalist even won an award for journalism! What on earth?
In April 2021, he decided to beam a spotlight on a federal cabinet minister who was apparently being positioned for a future presidential run. His stories permanently took the mask off Isa Pantami’s face and exposed him as a terror apologist and ideological associate. The very next month, his first-of-its-kind exposé into the death of Ini Umoren, a jobseeker in Akwa Ibom, took the veil off one of Nigeria’s dirtiest and most dreadful secrets – the factual existence of ritual murder and organ trafficking. In September 2021, his story about passport racketeering at the Nigeria Immigration Service resulted in a task force being dispatched to the Ikoyi Passport Command to clear its backlog. The commanding officer, Abdullahi Liman was subsequently summoned to Abuja to answer a query. His most recent story has, for the first time, given Nigerians a direct look at the names and identities of terror sponsors in Nigeria, as well as how well connected they are, up to and including Major-General Buhari.
Somewhere amidst all this, his story last year about 5 female immigration officers who were set to be punished with unfavourable posting because they took part in a playful social media challenge, resulted in the suspension of the decision. So that’s voting fish, passport-renewing fish, internally displaced fish and social media-using fish who have also felt the impact of Hundeyin’s work. I challenge anybody reading this to name a Nigerian Journalist who has achieved this level and consistency of impact over the same period. This is a body of work that a Nigerian Journalist should simply not have.
In the event that a Nigerian Journalist accidentally trips, falls, hits their head on a bathtub and accidentally creates something that has some impact, they are supposed to put it on their Twitter bio and dine off it for the rest of their lives while doing nothing else of note. They are not supposed to simply move on to the next story to create more impact. They should instead anoint themselves as Holy Knights and Sovereign Gatekeepers on Nigerian Journalism, whose primary duty is to offer their unsolicited opinions on what should and should not qualify as Good Nigerian Journalism.
Never mind “truth,” “public interest” and “facts.” Nigerian Journalism should be about meandering Twitter threads saying nothing. It should be about lengthy opinion columns filled with 65 percent Ad-Hominem content. It should be about Facebook posts with poor grammar and diction that critique the superior grammar and diction of not-journalists like David Hundeyin. After all, the current visible state of Nigeria does not matter even a jot to the esoteric creature known as the Nigerian Journalist.
David Hundeyin is what is wrong with Nigeria.