BY LAZUDE EZE
Infant mortality can simply be described as death of a baby before the age of one year old. Nigeria occupies an unenviable position on the global ranking on infant mortality. According to a 2018 report by UNICEF, our beloved country was the 11th country with the highest infant mortality rate. The common child killers in Nigeria include malaria, pneumonia, measles and malnutrition. But is it only humans that suffer untimely death in Nigeria? Like babies, many ideas die in-utero (during incubation) while some that are fortunate to be delivered alive also die pre-maturely.
On 7th August 2018, something big and significant happened to the media space in Nigeria. An innovative idea of my friend, Mr. Ohimai Godwin Amaize was delivered alive safely. Birthed by the African Independent Television (AIT), Kakaaki Social was a 20 minutes program and a segment of its popular breakfast show – Kakaaki. It highlighted trending conversations on social media, particularly Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It provided a bridge between traditional media and the new media. The leadership class used to dismiss criticism on social media as being of no consequence, this programme brought the unedited truth expressed on social media to their living rooms and offices through AIT. It became a delight for all lovers of democracy and free speech and also a nightmare to the Fascist Virus (FV) and its likes.
Within months of its birth, Baby Kakaaki Social became a national celebrity, loved so much by many and also loathed by a few but powerful clique. The astronomical rise in the number of viewers of AIT especially between the hours of 8 and 9.00am every week day served as exclusive breastfeeding that ensured a robust growth and development in its first 6 months of existence. The Fascist Virus is authoritarian, totalitarian, and dictatorial; it has zero tolerance for opposing views. It will not sit and watch this baby take its “shine” and diminish its status.
Like King Herod felt threatened and went after Baby Jesus, Fascist Virus went after Baby Kakaaki Social. On 6th June 2019, a day to its 10th month, the secondary parent (AIT) was hit by the virus but was rescued by the court 24 hours later. With a huge sigh of relief, Nigerians looked forward to seeing the baby again on Monday, 10th June but were told it had a brief illness. Till date, Baby Kakaaki Social has not been seen. Is it in coma? Is it dead? Is this another case of infant mortality?
While I may not have specific answers to the questions posed above, I am certain about something – the primary midwife of this baby (Ohimai) will not allow it to die. I have known him since 2003 when we met in Mellanby Hall, University of Ibadan. I was his first editor in Mellanby Hall Press. I observed his sustained growth in campus journalism from the position of News Editor of Mellanby Press to Editor-in-Chief of the Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ) and later the President of the union. As the President of UCJ at a period when student unionism was put in a state of coma by the university administration and voices of students suppressed, he gave a voice to the students. It didn’t go without some persecution but he overcame all and came out stronger.
I have also followed his progress after school, his high points and low points, and I’m proud of what he has achieved in private and public life.
Furthermore, I make bold to say that Mr. Ohimai Amaize loves Nigeria. There are no many Nigerians of his age that have equalled his passion and contributions towards national development. Coming from a humble family with strong moral background, he resisted lots of temptations to soil his hands especially while he served as an aide to two ministers across four ministries between 2011 and 2015. Mr. Fix Nigeria as he’s popularly known is a patriot. I choose to dedicate two paragraphs of this piece on him to enable those who only knew him from Kakaaki Social learn a bit about his background.
I stand in support of my friends at their best times and also at their most difficult times. It pains me that Ohimai is forced to leave the country he loves so much and contributing to make better. But it is only a tree that will stand to be cut down despite being aware of such plan. How can anyone accuse him of treason and incitement for simply reading the views expressed by Nigerians on social media on a live TV programme? But why not? With the presence of Fascist Virus, anything is possible in this “democracy”.
Kakaaki Social is not even about Ohimai or AIT, it’s about us as citizens and it’s about our democracy which is now on the edge of a precipice. It is about our rights to free expression as guaranteed by the constitution. I love the fact that a lot of Nigerians, young and old, understand the significance of the show. In November 2018, I was on a trip to Lagos when I met a man who was watching Kakaaki Social. He had become a big fan of the programme since its inception. On that particular day he was visibly uncomfortable by 8.12 am when the programme did not come on air at exactly 8.00am due to technical difficulties. He was already alleging that the Presidency may have stopped the programme to stop the views of Nigerians from being heard. Clearly, the Fascist Virus was going to strike and many Nigerians had seen the handwriting on the wall.
I was excited when many prominent Nigerians and organisations spoke loudly in defence of free speech when the Fascist Virus struck in June 2019. Like the way Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks and weakens the body’s immune system, the Fascist Virus has continued to attack the institutions of our hard-won democracy. The judiciary has fallen, the legislature is in the bag and the last hope – the media and citizen’s right to free speech/assembly – have been under persistent attack. Should we allow this virus succeed?
Fellow Nigerians, it is high time all men and women of goodwill stood to defend the country and save it from the rampaging Fascist Virus. On Wednesday 7th August 2019, it will be exactly one year since Kakaaki Social was born. As we reflect on this moment in our media history, especially in the wake of recent developments in Nigeria, we must continue to fight and keep hope alive because truth shall always prevail and good shall always triumph over evil no matter how long it may take. As HIV, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Hepatits B Virus (HBV), Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and all virulent organisms combined have been unable to wipe out the human race despite the serious threat they pose to human existence, this Fascist Virus will not succeed in silencing all Nigerians. Like Small Pox Virus, it shall be defeated at last. God bless Nigeria!
Laz Ude Eze, a health management specialist and good governance advocate, writes from Abuja. He tweets at @donlaz4u