I became a journalist because I have a facility for real-life storytelling; everybody has a story to tell, but with no voice, this fizzles out. I want to become the voice that will shine a light on some of these unheard but valuable stories.
The strife earlier this year between Eggon and Migili, two ethnic groups in Nasarawa State, Nigeria, left a harrowing legacy in its wake. What started as a skirmish snowballed into a strife then to a frenzied state of brutality. In fact, it was a killing spree: the Migili were slaughtered, their homes burnt, their properties destroyed, their livestock decimated. I was a witness to these atrocities, to this genocide. All they owned, all they had laboured for, everything they toiled to get was taken away from them in a day.
Local TV and radio stations just reported that over 14 people were killed. Newspapers and hyper-locals eschewed mentioning the sufferings of the Migili. To me, and many others in Nigeria, that was a flagrant display of censorship. Whenever I visit this ravaged area, I see in the laborious efforts of these people why I became a journalist: to go to places like this in dire need of a voice; places where injustice still prevails; places with heart-rending tales; places where tears and sorrows still flow.
After joining Youth Journalism International (YJI), I was awakened to the power and value inherent in journalism. It was a life-changing experience; I was tasked with filing newsworthy stories in Nigeria to the organisation. I read many articles written by its members, all are young, burgeoning journalists whose enthusiasm is decidedly demonstrated through the flair and passion with which they perform their responsibility. I was bedazzled by their passion. I realised that to make a good journalist, I have got to care about storytelling and why it mattered.
That realisation spurred me on to write a piece on social media, highlighting its pros and cons and how effective use of social media can be a springboard to success. It was accepted and published by the Daily Sun, a national daily widely read in Nigeria. It was gratifying to know via the feedback I got that my piece had immense impact on its readers, especially students. That was my ‘eureka!’ moment.
It’s pretty self-evident that journalism wields unparalled powers. It has saved nations, exposed corruption, and promoted justice, peace and unity. It has given succour to the deprived, destitute by bringing their stories to light.
Everyone has their own stories, but who will help them to bring them to light?
In a sense, journalism is “a service of love for country,” and it is my love for my country which makes me determined to tell the tale of the people who cannot do so alone.
Linus Okechukwu is in his second year of a BA in Mass Communications at the University of Nigeria. He aspires to write full-time for the Daily Sun.