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But Where is Happyboy?

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The Verdict according to Olusegun Adeniyi. Email, olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com.

 

The moment Yemi Akinsuyi saw me inside the premises of THISDAY Abuja office that looked more like a scene out of Iraq, she said, “oga, we cannot find Happyboy. He was inside the premises when the bomb exploded and now he is not picking his calls.”

Happyboy Ohije is one of those circulation boys you find in newspaper houses. They are called inserters since they help to collate the papers when it is being printed but they also run all manner of errands for people in the newsroom. With minimal education, Happyboy is very dutiful and everyone knew I was fond of him. He had come to me one day that he had a challenge concerning his education, a rather moving story but I liked the confidence with which he approached me and the manner in which he presented his problem. After offering him some little assistance, we became close, especially since he told everyone about my intervention.

Last Thursday, it was quite natural that I would be very worried about the fate of Happyboy. It turned out that he was sleeping when the bomb exploded and he eventually emerged from the rubble in a pool of his blood. But his was not the only miracle. Nurudeen, the security man seated at the exact spot where the suicide bomber exploded the vehicle is injured but alive. Incidentally, we did not know at the time and I recall one security man asking me: “Nurudeen’s wife has been calling me repeatedly and I cannot pick. What do I tell her?” His colleague by the gate, Christopher Sadiq was, however, not so lucky. Neither were some of the mechanics who had set shop behind THISDAY premises. They died along with a passer-by as the vehicle exploded.

The whole drama started for me at about 11.08 when I got a call from an hysterical Ms Avershima Ahenjir, an advert executive, saying, “they have just bombed our office.” According to what I was told when I reached the office, a vehicle came in to deliver tiles that was meant for some work at about 11am. While they were still trying to offload the tiles, the suicide bombers drove into the premises and the rest, as they say, is now history. But as everyone pointed out to me last Thursday, I would have been caught by the bombing but for the fact that I was preparing for my trip to Ibadan for the burial of my mother-in-law later that day.

I have watched on YouTube the video clip released by Boko Haram on how THISDAY was bombed, especially the moment when the vehicle entered our premises and exploded. Incidentally, the clip displayed my photograph along with my statement following the incident. I have also read their declaration of war on the media but I fail to understand why. The charge is that we have taken sides with the Nigerian state. But do we have any choice in this matter?

In an unusual backpage editorial last Sunday, the Trust newspaper put the issue in perspective: “A violent campaign to target and kill security agents, to overthrow the Constitution of the Federal Republic and ultimately to dismember Nigeria cannot be supported by the Nigerian news media, which derives a lot of its legitimacy, protection and privileges from the same Constitution. As for Nigeria itself, there cannot be a ‘Nigerian media’ if there is no Nigeria”.

That exactly is the position to which all journalists subscribe but many of us are becoming increasingly worried for our country. It is therefore incumbent on all men of goodwill who can intervene to end this cycle of violence to do so now in the interest of our corporate existence as a nation. As for THISDAY, in my 13 years here, we have seen some dark days and have come out stronger from all the tragedies. I remember our midnight plane crash right in the middle of Maiduguri desert in 2001 when the Board of Editors decided on a “Meet the Nation” tour; the fire incident that consumed our corporate headquarters in Apapa and the death of Mr. Godwin Agbroko. In each of these events, we were shattered and broken. But we never gave up the ideal for which we stand.

Where do we stand? When Bayero University Kano was attacked last Sunday, our thoughts and sympathy were with the victims of the attack and when Jalingo was attacked the next day, we took sides with the people. On the killing field that Maiduguri has become, we are one with the innocent people of that ancient city who are now besieged. We have made that very clear. But we have also been professional in our reportage while advocating dialogue with Boko Haram, believing that any and every aggrieved Nigerian deserves a hearing. What we oppose is violence and bloodletting of innocent people for no just cause. Even at this most difficult period, we remain persuaded that common sense will still prevail in the interest of our nation and its good people

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