Arts  

With Audacious Journalism, Anietie Usen interrogates art, style of news gathering


The book, Audacious Journalism, The Art, Style and Depth is written by Anietie Usen. It is a breathtaking story of Nigeria, told humorously by an eyewitness. This big paperback volume was published this year (2018) by Parresia Publishers, Lagos, Nigeria.

The book is wel designed, coming from the perspectives of a field artist, who lived his life for 30 years in a crusty, sparsely furnished room of rookie reporters in Lagos, Nigeria.

The book’s author, however, moved quickly from the jungle of scary wars onto the comfort of the boardroom in middle age.

Anietie Usen has been able to craft a massive book with 710 pages, an index of two pages and a foreword by Des Wilson, a professor of mass communications.

Audacious Journalism is in seven parts. The stories are grouped as those on Nigeria, his columns, on Africa and America. Other stories are on the world, his interviews and then sports reports. The section on Nigeria has the largest contribution. This first section hosts 42 chapters, starting with Usen’s baptism of fire at the Newswatch magazine and closing with ‘Back from the brink’ a description of the maiden speech of Nigeria’s head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Section two contains his columns; hosting 19 articles. Africa has 11 chapters, America: six; the world: seven; interviews: five and sports: three.

These hundred long stories reflect both his eclectic interests and various journalism beats. By its title, the book seeks to serve as a guide for entertainment, education as well as playing the role of a sourcebook of journalism practice, which is why mass communication students can learn from its contents, the art, science, style and in-depth news gathering and analysis. Thus, this book provides valuable information and entertainment as a sub sector of mass communication.

The Prison in Hell is an article offering much information on the state of the country’s prisons. Let’s have a taste of Anietie’s pudding:

“The prisoner died just before lunch. A plate of pottage kept at the foot of his hospital bed was covered with flies. His sore mouth and sunken eyes  were closed. The rusty iron that fettered  him to the bed had left his ankle badly bruised. One could count the number of his ribs. He had the ugly look of a drought victim. The doctor’s report simply said Muazu Mohammed prisoner No 1519/86 of Kano Central Prison, died of acute malnutrition. Life in a Nigerian prison is hard, inhuman and cruel.

“Only this month, the newspapers reported an official of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre saying 12 million Nigerian children have grown stunted owing to malnutrition this year.

“Mohammed, in this case, was not sentenced to death. He was just one of the 46 inmates in Kano state, who died that time as a result of bad conditions of life in the state. Many more died of pneumonia, sclerosis of the liver, tuberculosis and meningitis.

“Another case was Saminu Lawal, who had survived three years in detention without trial could not survive another day to prove his innocence. When an Ilorin magistrate called his case the next morning, Jimoh Ishola, a warder, stood up instead. “My Lord,” he said, “Lawal died last night and his body had been taken to the mortuary.”

These stories show the state of the Nigerian nation in the second half of the 20th century. This condition has shown why Nigerians don’t live long.

In contrast, A Prison to Desire, another article in the book, compares prison houses. Unlike the Kano prison, this is in Cardiff, United Kingdom. A smooth narrow road ends abruptly at the foot of a brick wall. The huge remote controlled glass door slid open to admit Newswatch to her Majesty’s prison. Hardly any black man was in sight except the author, Usen.

The English spoken there is strangely laden with an accented intonation, akin to what the evangelicals call speaking in tongues. There, some 486 inmates are locked up in three blocks of three storeys built in 1884. In the visitors’ hall, about 50 of the inmates sat opposite their relatives across a row of five long tables, trying to say as much as they could within the 30 minutes permitted each prisoner.

More than 200 were in the workshops, busy with their handicraft. Another hundred were sitting or lying on lush lawns enjoying their hour-long break. Inside their three-by-five metre rooms, some prisoners sat on their beds, smoking. Their walls were covered with pornographic pictures. There were two beds a small table and a locker squeezed into the room, leaving a narrow passage between the two convicts. The room was designed for one convict. But now some of the rooms even accommodate three convicts. Mathematically, that is 200 per cent overcrowding.

The prison governor, Alan Rawson, was ready with explanations. “A degree of overcrowding is expected in a prison like this because we keep short term prisoners not exceeding 12 months. Virtually all British prisons of this kind are overcrowded,” he said.

Of the 486 inmates, 152 were non-convicts awaiting trial. Non-convicts in Cardiff however, do not await trial for nine years as in Nigeria’s Ikoyi prison. They are taken to court every seven days until their cases are disposed of.

The prison governor told Newswatch that Cardiff prison alone services 26 magistrates and three Crown courts. Such is the content of Audacious Journalism. The stories are told incisively and humorously, captured so dramatically in snippets of well crafted and stylish prose.

Originally published as newspaper articles, this book is a treasure trove of information you need to read as students, teachers or practising journalists. Its author is an award winning journalist and technocrat.

Usen is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, Oxford Business School, Manchester Business School and the University of Calabar.

As a pioneer reporter at Newswatch, Usen rose to become the general editor. Later, he became an Editorial Board member of Thisday as well as Editor at Large of Africa Today magazine, London. Currently, he is the Commercial and Industrial development director, Niger Delta Development Commission, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

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