By The Staffers
Intervention will be one year old in a matter of days. It calls for this reflective piece although, in a rapidly growing realm such as the social media, one year is almost nothing. The exception to this rule must be those who made analytical journalism their entry point because theirs is journalism that thrives on uncovering power relations which drives governance, leadership, conflict management/security, development and all such core issues that define society glocally. Doing that has, however, put Intervention in the eye of the storm, with key centres of power across all divides curious to know who we are and what might be our essence. In the end, Intervention has been analysed and comprehended as a threat, alarming to many interests suspecting a political project masquerading as journalism. So much so that our birth was greeted with all manner of informal sanctions from across the divides, especially in northern Nigeria.
This was even as ‘they’ drew blank wherever they despatched ‘fact finding’ missions to determine funding sources for this project. The most amazing of everything is that some people still think that everything Adagbo Onoja, our Editorial Coordinator, is involved in must be for or about Sule Lamido, the immediate past governor of Jigawa State. Of course, Onoja worked with and for Lamido for ten years. And there can be no denying that Lamido and Onoja did develop attachment to each other. It could not have been otherwise after that length of being together politically.
However, five years after Dutse, two of it spent in the cold UK condition retooling himself, it is static reasoning to see Lamido’s shadows in Intervention simply because Onoja is there. All those who think that way will always get it wrong and end up in shame as these ‘fact finding’ missions did. In this case, it’s even doubtful if Lamido knows that an Online platform called Intervention exists. Or if anybody else does at the level the ‘fact finding’ missions were looking at! Money is very crucial but the human spirit is even more crucial. With absolutely no funding from anybody, anywhere, we have registered our presence. Ibrahim Magu should, therefore, grab those of them whose anti-Intervention politics involved waste of public resources trying to establish who is funding Intervention to pay it back because there is no such funding.
This is more so that it was after the ‘fact finding’ disaster that ‘they’ piled pressures on anyone seen to be interacting with Intervention, including those granting us interviews and so on. But Intervention has not been set up in such a way that it would collapse to such tactics. Analytical journalism does not depend on such resources to survive. Blocking Departments from interacting with us or breathing down on those who interacted with us without knowing that we were ‘persona non grata’ have meant nothing to our growth.
It has been thrilling being incomprehensible. We considered reassuring everyone but we also realised that there is no convincing people who were already too fearful to think of courage. After all, they are not ignorant that there is a value called courage. So, we relaxed and continued on our journey, in complete agreement with our moral adviser in this journey who said that, as long as we have no evil against any individuals or groups, we are secure in the Lord.
As almost everything else he said, this too has come to pass. The dynamics have worked out in such a way that those who were alarmed about Intervention have now decided that Intervention is not a threat after all. Not all of them yet but significantly. We consider it a feat to move from being viewed with alarm to being accepted across class, religious, regional, party, ideological, generational, gender and geopolitical divides. It is considered an achievement to survive such a first year and to be read by the number and type of people who read us now. This is more so that we did not have to do any explaining of ourselves to anybody.
All that is left is to formally acknowledge and thank everyone, including interests that have tried to block our existence. It must be said that our fear of and determination to outlive them have been one of our greatest source of strength and determination to move on. We thank them immensely and do hereby recognise their right to be fearful of what is strange or different from the world they are comfortable with and to try to strangulate what is unfamiliar.
It is also apt to turn to those whose solidarity we took for granted and remained thrilled by. From whatsapp to email batches to the Facebook warriors, the tweeter aces, those who roam the website itself, and our unpaid Digital Editor, we don’t have the words enough to convey gratitude. There are those we regularly ask to score us. We say a mighty thank you to both those who do respond and those who do not. We are particularly grateful to those who have offered sharp criticisms. They might have noticed how some of such suggestions have become part of the presentation of materials.
It is now time to look ahead by responding to one or two criticisms we have received. One of such is the length of the stories and features. Readers say they come too long. They would want shorter pieces. That concern is appreciated because it cuts across. However, we set out to provide researched pieces which readers would like even if they do not agree with the direction of the analysis. So, reconciling the contrasting position is something that would have to be gradual.
Second point is how we hope to survive as we are not carrying adverts. We stopped displaying Google ads on the homepage when it was disfiguring the beauty of our design but Intervention has a range of corporate business services it offers and plans to strengthen as we go into the second year. Whether they come in the form of conventional advertisements or not are matters of production decisions.
Third main criticism is why stories in Intervention do not carry the name of the writers? Interestingly, the most consistent voice on this is an avid reader of London based The Economist which, as everyone knows, does not carry bylines. There is no policy against writers putting their names on what they write in Intervention. There are rarely names on the stories because most of the stories are products of collective editorial work. It is as simple as that.
The last point and on which one would spend some time is what has been perceived as Intervention’s indulgence of certain locations such as Benue State, especially Ugbokolo. In other words, there is an allegation of ethnic politics against Intervention. It appears the critics on this point have no idea of the works of scholars such as Professor Egite Oyovbaire and Dr Iyorchia Ayu on the Nigerian media and the immensely regarded text edited by Dapo Olorunyomi called Covering Diversity: A Resource and Training Manual for African Journalists. Intervention will simply ignore any allegation of ethnicity against it that does not show evidence of familiarity with these works, especially Dapo’s text because all the texts identify ‘allowing the Other to Speak’ as the critical missing in the media-diversity nexus in Nigeria arising from the media’s indulgence of certain locations, language groups and class. So, indulging remote locations such as Ugbokolo is something that we in Intervention would be proud of should it be true when the 500 or so stories we have published in the last one year is dis-aggregated. For, it is pretending that nothing happens in such places that is at the heart of the Nigerian problem.
The distribution of the 500 stories and features we have carried so does not prove concentration on anything or anywhere when mapped unto our financial and human resources at the moment. Like all other media platforms in Nigeria, we are also dealing with a very diffuse readership in class, gender, regional, religious, generational and ethnic terms. Once awhile, there must be something that appeals to members of each of these different groups. There is no alternative to doing so because even as Intervention may be a radically inclined outfit with strong advocacy content, it is not a communist party newspaper read by a homogeneous audience. Rather, it is in business.
It would seem that the problem with some critics is that they have no regard for context in their analysis and they, therefore, risk seeing ethnicity where none exists, alleging ethnicity against people who have conquered it. This is the case here because most leaders of Intervention have lived, studied and/or worked in almost all parts of Nigeria, except their own state of origin in some cases. There is a case here of one who has been a journalist in Kaduna in the Northwest; journalist in Cross Rivers State in the South-south; Journalist in Lagos in the Southwest; worker and then student-journalist in Kano in the Northwest for five years; moved across Nigerian campuses as a national student leader; political appointee in Jigawa State in the Northwest for six years. And then some people who have never lived outside their own state capital would expect such a person to learn anything from them on ethnicity?
The pledge is to serve as a platform for diverse voices, competing with but also complementing each other in a complex country. It is that which Intervention celebrates. That is a very difficult thing to attempt in Nigeria of today where many people read only what agrees with their religious or identity outlook. As such, there are those who do not like the reality of Intervention serving as torch bearer for such a value and they cut across the divides. They are entitled to fight Intervention out of existence. However, until they succeed, we are here as a journalistic platform with bias to peaceful co-existence secured through ‘allowing the other to speak’. That would best guarantee Nigeria’s emergence as a demographic global power in the next few decades. It is certainly a moment to live for.
Finally, it bears restating that Intervention’s only ambition is to be rated to be above mediocrity, mediocrity being Nigeria’s graveyard. Anyone operating along that line would find Intervention a great journey mate, no matter his or her ideological, class, ethno-racial, religious, regional, generational, gender and geopolitical locale. Once again, it is a great ‘Thank you’ to you all!