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INTERVIEW: Social media shouldn’t be stifled but regulated, says Jim Disu

INTERVIEW: Social media shouldn’t be stifled but regulated, says Jim Disu
February 24
12:33 2024

Jimi Disu is one of the most versatile and well-rounded journalists in Nigeria whose career spanned over three decades. JD, as he is fondly called, is an ace in the media space with vast experience in broadcast, print journalism, and public relations, having worked with notable news platforms like Vanguard Newspaper, The Punch, Classic FM, Channels TV, Compass, and 234Next. He currently works as a news and development analyst for Nigeria Info FM 99.3. In this interview with TheCable’s PELUMI BOLAWA, Disu speaks about his decades-long career in journalism, his perspective of the present administration, social media regulation, and what the future holds for the country. 

TheCable: Can you share some highlights from your long and distinguished career in journalism? How did journalism begin for you?

Jimi Disu: Journalism was born in me because right from when I was in primary school I knew I was going to be a journalist. There was no compromise on that. Even though my dad was a lawyer. And of course, most lawyers would want their sons to come into chambers. It was a big fight. But it was in me right from primary school. I went to a primary school where we had a school magazine. I contributed to it then. And then when I was in secondary school, form two, I was on the editorial board. We had a magazine called ‘Magnet’ then. So it has always been in me. I am a voracious reader.


Of course, having grown up in an era where there was a specific time for TV, no social media or anything to distract you. I cannot say somebody motivated me. I have done some work in between. I left journalism after a short stint in Punch because I got frightened that this journalism thing might not pay my way through life. Since I have always been against all these brown envelope things. I went back again to Vanguard to pay a debt to Sam Amuka and I went to work, did consultancy, PR with the big boys – Coca-Cola and all of that and when I thought I had retired, I was back again in the newspaper. I was the director of Compass and I was the director of 234Next. The best paper ever produced. If you are not devoted you cannot do journalism.

TheCable: You are indeed one of the few who have embraced all aspects of journalism, how are you able to combine print, broadcast, and PR journalism?

Jimi Disu: If you notice in my analysis, you will see me advising a government spokesperson. I must give credit to God and to the education that I had at primary level, the kind of things we did. One book I read in primary school is what I read for my degree. In primary school, you will do comprehension, read something you must provide the answers so we were trained. By the time I got to secondary school, I could do this job. Education at my time was top-notch.


The rest has to do with your value system. In PR, once your value system is right you are halfway there. What is your value system? People know you for the truth. Because PR, for example, does not mean you go about telling lies. It is managing the truth. The other thing that people think I am a maverick which I am not, is simple manners. How to talk to people. You find some government spokespersons now, insulting Obasanjo. Look at that. I will never do it. Because if you master the English language, there is more to what you do not say than what you say. If you ask me a question and I say no comment it is healthier than if I say something. It is an art.

What do you make of fake news and the credibility of the media in this age?

Jimi Disu: Well, it is because human beings do not have credibility anymore so the media is no exception. There has been a social revolution. You find out that those of us who thought we had Western knowledge and were properly educated, have been pushed aside. So the values have changed. If your values have changed, you will have a society that is tolerant of criminality. Fake news is criminal. If you are well-brought up, well-educated, and well-exposed, why would you want to be involved in fake news? To hurt the other person? So it is a function of society. The society itself is completely bad now. I mean with exceptions, but generally, our value system is gone.


Just take a look at the composition of human beings, the way we behave in society now. Why would any sane man, for example, because you want people to see that you have the money, you would go and buy a car, get two policemen to follow you left and right, get somebody to come down, stamp his feet and open the door? The kind of behaviour that we have is not rational at all. Especially amongst our elites. The elites are now more of people who have money. They do not have class. They do not have values. Most of them, their money is crooked. Those are the ones you celebrate. I have a feeling that it will not change, it will probably get worse.

TheCable: You have been a government critic, do you think the country is now on its path to the new Nigeria we all hope for?

Jimi Disu: People say he does not like Asiwaju. I do not have to like him or not, I do not interact with him, I don’t have any business with him, and I do not familiarise myself with him. But I do not think he has what it takes to lead this country and it is evident. This government does not show any capability rather this government looks like a bunch of people who have some interior motive as to what they have come to do in government.

I can say publicly that I was hoping that it would have been Yemi Osinbajo. Not because he is my friend. We went to primary school and university together. But because a country cannot have the likes of Osinbajo, Atedo Peterside, and Olisa Agbakoba, these people know what it takes. They might not get it all. Nobody knows it all. But Nigeria has 15 first elevens that you can stack up before you get to this level. So, break no bones about it, this government is not going to get us anywhere. If we are going to endure it for the next eight years, only God knows.


TheCable: What do you think is majorly responsible for Nigerians’ “japaing”?

Jim Disu


Jimi Disu: The future of the country does not look good. The japaing is inevitable. It is part of the human nature. Do you know some people japa from the UK itself to Australia? We have ours in leaps and bounds for two major reasons. One is the lure to go abroad. How can a man who has two houses sell them and go to the UK? Does he know what he is going to meet? I lived there partially. I was born there. I know what it takes, but I am here. You actually look at it, what exactly are you going to do?

So, my grandchildren, for example, are British because of me. If they go to Europe, they know that they have a free education from now to the university level. And their parents also know what they are going to be doing because they are citizens. People do not know that there are two sides to this thing. If you are a citizen, you are slightly above water.


So, you must measure it. I remember during the Civil War, my late uncle, Captain Smart Ali, who was in the navy, told us that when they were bombing the ships, some people jumped from the navy boat into hot water. That is what some people are doing. And for most of them, it is just the lure of what they have seen. But if you find time, I challenge you to look at some Hollywood movies that have been well put together. Nigeria looks like El Dorado.

I was in England some months back and I got a signal that we should not wear an expensive wristwatch on the streets of London. Crime too is gone up. They cannot cope. It is not from Nigeria that everybody Japa. That is why it is becoming more and more difficult. I cannot tell anybody to or not. What I would say is look before you leap. It is a personal decision.


TheCable: What is your opinion about Wole Soyinka’s statement on the censorship of social media?

Jimi Disu: A large part of what I am today is traceable to him. I was a member of the pirate confraternity in 1975. And the principle that Wole Soyinka put together at that time is what is in me. People like him and Fela Kuti created a man like me. The professor does not understand social media. It is way out of his league. I do not mean intellectually. Social media is amorphous. He complains about the language they use on social media.

Jim Disu

I think it should be regulated. Everything in life has to be regulated. It should not be stifled. But sure it has to be regulated. Everything in life is regulated all over the world, if you say it should not be regulated then some people can drive left and others can drive right. Freedom is not freedom in its total sense. Everything in life has to be guided.

TheCable: Would you accept an offer to hold public office?

Jimi Disu: I have nothing against those who accept because somebody has to do the job. But I just know that I cannot fit in. I am a bit of a rebel. It is not as if I am for or against. The issue is that I cannot change the system or anything. I do not think I can last up to a month. I do not like the way public service is structured here. You have to belong. I do deceive myself. Besides that, at 70, I am tired.

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