The Journalist Wife, A book Review by Bayo Ogunmupe
SINCE the craving for information is the natural inclination of man, any wonder therefore, that he goes to any length, even up at the detriment of his life to get informed? That was the craving that led the late Bayo Ayanlola Ohu, the Assistant News Editor of The Guardian on to his death in September 2009.
While the widows, children, siblings, parents and colleagues of slain newsmen lick their wounds and continue with their deflated lives, Ochuko Blessing Ohu, widow of late Ohu, has confronted her agony by scribbling down the thoughts that have raced through her mind in the last two years.
Thus, Blessing has poured her heart out and opened it for all to see. The result is this book, The Journalist’s wife (Jonap Communications Limited, Lagos, 2011).
Her book is in five parts: her life story, interviews and commentaries on the state of the Nigerian nation. From part one: ‘Sunset at Dawn’, the author begins a mental journey into the past to ascertain the veracity of her existence and experience. Jolted from a dream, her mind races through the maze of the Nigerian reality, of her initial meeting with her late husband. Born into the family of an itinerant military officer, Blessing was with her family when it was transferred to Katsina.
Thus at Katsina, two southerners of differing ethnic nationalities were locked in love tango in a most unexpected place – a stadium. And so began a blissful congress of holy matrimony, faithful parenthood and beautiful motherhood and tragic separation.
The life of a journalist’s wife, Blessing was soon to find, is far from being blissful. Beside the simple popularity, ephemeral connections in high places and respect from folks in the neighbourhood, journalism doesn’t turn bylines into money. Often with no time for the family, the journalist sacrifices his home for the public good. For the love of duty, a passionate journalist may abandon his family for months and when he triumphs, he might be neck deep in more devious search for truth, culminating in cases more risky if not down right deadly.
At the receiving end of it all is the journalist’s wife whose heart is always in her mouth, keeping vigil over late nights and long travels. Because the journalist isn’t a regular nine-to-five worker, his home is often manned by a powerful woman who acts both as father and mother to the children. Thus, the journalist’s wife is often the power behind the home.
While journalism poses great challenges to family life, Blessing’s story has come to demonstrate a sincere appreciation of the newsman’s work and his contribution to national integration and development. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the goal of journalism is “to serve the general welfare by informing people”. The Journalist’s Wife makes that purpose abundantly clear to both the author, who is a budding journalist herself and her readers. In this way this book has provided some cathartic relief for a woman who has passed through the gates of hell and has come out triumphantly.
As admirers of newsmen know, The Journalist’s Wife also demonstrates that truth-bearers are no common beings. They are the custodians of the moral values of the society as admonished by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 at Section 22 which says: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.
Accordingly, journalists form the ombudsman for the government and a gadfly that stings the people to a lawful uprising in situations of crass ineptitude and injustice.
In a nation where falsehood has become the gospel of governance, truth-bearers would be nailed to the cross. That was what they did to Ohu and those others before him. This is a highly commendable book in for the Nigerian public. Its five parts cover from the meeting, marriage and family life to the death of Bayo Ohu. Part two deals with the life and times of the author: Blessing Ohu. Part three is on the reflections of the author on what it takes to be married to a journalist in Nigeria while part four is captioned ‘Bondage of Lies as the Foundation of Corruption’. Here, Blessing avers that lying has become a cultural thing in Nigeria. Mrs. Ohu believes that there cannot be justice where there is no truth or respect for truth. Thus by Nigeria’s descent into pseudologia, she warns of the dangers the future holds for Nigerian journalists, and warns that the Nigerian environment is dangerous for the survival of newsmen.
In its final chapter captioned ‘Tributes’, Ohu shows gratitude to those who by messages, gifts or attention got in touch with her over the loss of her husband. Those she mentioned include the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State, Ejiofor Abugu and Eno-Abasi Sunday of The Guardian.
Ochuku Blessing Ohu, the widow of Bayo Ohu, is a professional teacher. She is presently pursuing a degree in Mass Communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. She is 33 with five children for her late husband.