Dumb journalism: Nigeria Staggers On
Every day, I read something that makes me think, “dumb journalism”. Today, it is Edward Stourton’s turn to piss me off.
This article has it all: childhood memories of family members fondly reminiscing about the old world order (these were restricted to his youth; his family stopped swapping stories about the joy of the Nigeria once the Biafran war started, no doubt), a bit of “exotocism” in the form of naked man bathing himself “naked in the sunshine” (does Edward bathe with clothes on?) and a slap dash reference to the possibility that problems in Nigeria might be a legacy of colonialism, and not in spite of it – “When the colonial past came up during interviews on this trip, my interviewees laid all sorts of crimes at Britain’s door.” Yes, indeed, but perhaps not worth going into in an article that’s main intention is to blame evertything on poverty sticken, violent villagers.
It’s a ghastly article about the Niger Delta with hardly any voices from the Nigerians involved unless they’ve got something to say about a “crisis” or violence they have witnessed. He even has the audacity to visit a church service whilst openly admitting he thought it “was chilling to reflect that the congregation almost certainly included some with blood on their hands.” What evidence does he have to say such a thing? What about the blood on Shells hands for their role in the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa?
As for “the big oil companies” who “have to contend with political sabotage as well as theft,” they can look for sympathy elsewhere. Who says the oil belongs to them in the first place? Nigeria brings in over $2.2 million in oil revenues every day, yet on average residents of the Niger Delta live on less than $1 a day. So who is stealing from who??
Perhaps most laughable is the end of his “article” where he takes us to the home his grandparents once occupied, a “whopping great whitewashed statement of colonial confidence set in an acre or so of grounds.” Now a family live in the outhouse – which is ironically where the Nigerians would have had to live when his grandparents were there too. It’s a shame they didn’t leave them the keys to their monstrous abode.
There are things dying to be said in this piece that are left well alone, issues desperate to be raised that remain hidden. This is another wasted opportunity to give a voice to people in the Niger Delta. Instead, it’s just a middle class white man indulging himself by throwing on a pair of khakis and showing off his “exotic” history. When he leaves Nigeria this time, like his parents, he’ll not honour his legacy in any meaningful way except to make some conversation at a dinner party, which is basically what this piece amounts to.
And as for the title “Nigeria Staggers On” – I just don’t know what to say. A country ranked 37th in world in terms of GDP is not “staggering on”.
Some more pertinent reporting on Shell, oil and the Niger Delta can be found here: