If there is any circle, if there is any gathering bookmakers would say with confidence one can be swept off his feet assailed with a hail of humour it is certainly in the ranks of journalists. The reason is not far to seek. The Newsroom is unceasingly tension soaked. The reporter rushes in with his exclusive; the news editor paces up and down scavenging for a compelling lead story. He looks at the blank ceiling wanting to pluck stories therefrom on a dry day. And in truth, he could get some inspiration to squeeze water out of stone minutes later. Ask Chief Theo Ola; ask the man we call JFK, alias, yes a.k.a. John Olufemi Kusa; ask Angus Okoli. Clear out of the way of the moving train of the no nonsense news editor Nduka Irabor. The chief sub, getting under pressure, is looking at the time, copy-flow is behind schedule; the deadline is knocking! The menacing eyes of an Nworji, the lion, are flashing from a corner of the works department. It is tension, tension, tension unremitted. When all the shouting and all the kicking is over, all roads lead to dimly lit, and sometimes smoke-filled Can-Can, for some comestibles and drinks, for stories, and for humour! At the head of the train, you can guess, is iron-fisted Chief Theo Oladele Ola! The bar attendant already has his credentials!
I have just gone through the discussions of colleagues of yore on their platform and their exchanges of banters of last weekend, laced with humour galore; I almost broke my ribs with laughter. The exchanges were simply hilarious! In one, mention was made of the graceful emblem of this column, The Ram. The Forum is filled with reminiscences of their days at Rutam House. They re-enact life in the newsroom. We are talking about men and women who are already slipping into what accurate census delineation would put in the ranks of senior citizens. In one I read: “Plenty thanks to the ace stylist and TV talks show expert, Kingsley, for extricating me from the spun yarn of ram… With the virtual ram feast mercifully obliged by Kingsley all ram palate…ought to have been satiated. Case closed.”
In another: “All arguments, postulations, evidence-based or not are justified to win a tray of spicy Sallah meats. The ‘Dems’ and Republicans are there to learn from you. In this case, Sir, you aren’t even suggesting a shift in the day of feasting like cornered DT has done for the U.S. elections. In typical African fashion, you just foreclosed it’s ever taking place with that decree to be content with its virtual form. Once a GOC, always one, in or outside the newsroom!” And yet this in the note to former Chief Sub-Editor Alhaji AbduRazaq Adedigba: “And for once, I plead don’t ‘edit’ the ration. It’s not a copy you put a sub knife on and reduce to a mere brief, Sir….virtual servings or supply unacceptable. On the identity of AbduRafiu, and if it is a veil, who is behind it? The response by a former editor of The Guardian was: “But Abraham may wish to consult without disturbing the Sallah enjoyment of Alhaji Razaq Adedigba, the great Chief Sub, who alone could harass AbduRafiu not to delay production of the Thursday edition of The Guardian wherein the column appeared.” In closing, listen to this: “Blame that small boy…for not explaining the rules.” And response: “Ricky. I will not allow you to come to Rutam kiosk for meat pie and Coke.”
What is journalism without humour? The writings will be hollow. How do you relieve tension in the Newsroom without humour? Enheartening, therefore, must it be to note that the younger generation has taken after Peter Pan; they are in the shoes of Allah-De and have put on the hat of Sad Sam who is never non-plussed. He carries his armory of humour to everywhere he goes. There was ‘Aiyekoto.’ I am sure, many must have crossed the paths of Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed! Ray Ekpu drops it effortlessly.
What led to last week’s banters was the rechristening of the high-prized and prestigious NIJ House in honour of Ismaila Isa Funtua over which this column took the position, the Building originally called Lighthouse should be an emblem of wholesomeness and high moral tone, reassuring and welcoming to journalists and all that may cross its portals in search of truth and a role model. This is not the first time issues have been raised over The Ram emblem. Thirty years ago, the issue arose. Here was what I wrote, again during this solemn Festival Season. The date was Thursday, July 19, 1990. It read as follows:
“The Ram which has been missing from The Guardian has been found. That was the urgent message Allah-De sent through the telegraphic wire to this columnist and asked that I be present without delay to sort the matter out, being the friend of the Ram. I was anxious the Ram would not come to harm. It was on a Sallah Day. It was a quiet, jolly day. Only a handful of us were in attendance, typical of Allah-De, the celebrated columnist now on sabbatical leave to attend to complaints from Maroko, Eti-Osa Local Government, the Nigerian Railways, National Provident Fund, NIPOST, NITEL, NEPA, Nigeria Police and Nigeria Airways to mention but a few government agencies, as well as the harassed and the homeless. We have our own Dan Agbese to thank. He obliged Allah-De some cotton wool in aid to clean his ears so he could hear the complaints from this constituency of his clearly!
“I am pleased to announce that this Ram did not suffer any harm. And so it is back, with profuse apologies that it has been away for two long months.
“Ram, by the way, is one of the choicest of animals. Ibrahim whom Christians call Abraham and to whom had been revealed the knowledge of One God, the Almighty, in 1800 BC, was ready to sacrifice his best, his choicest, to his Creator. Ram is the living symbol of loyalty and devotion in service. In reverential awe, Ibrahim was prepared to give his all in the loyal service of the Most High. There was no scheming. There was no calculation for public acknowledgement or chest beating. That was the touching lesson of Sallah.
“Mohammed, the great Prophet of the Almighty, instituted the Festival of Eid-El- Kabir. He was at the head of the train in the first-ever pilgrimage to Mecca. The pilgrims were filled with joy. Many went by foot, some on horses. They sang jubilantly in grateful and worshipful adoration of the Most High, the Creator of all.
“Today, a majority of mankind care only for feasting and not about the monumental Teachings of the great Teacher of mankind. The Teachings in many respects have been dragged down and made earthly. A Festival such as Eid- El-Kabir invites us all to introspection.”