Mahmud Jega: Calling Column In Vain


“Columns should be authoritative without speculating knowledge and know-how; it has to be concise and concrete and coherent enough not to misinform; it should exude integrity in accuracy, professionalism, and good scholarship; in all, depending on the issue, it can make a policy document that will strengthen public governance”.


I waited in vain yesterday as I expected what appeared to be a lurking and looming scandal with the huge potential to rock the government of Barrister Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State to bust in Jega’s Monday column.

In his last week Monday column, Jega stirred old hostilities when he shrewdly betrayed his client by turning a business brief into the stuff for ‘column’ writing. In the write-up which Jega’s fans celebrate as a “satire”, he claimed that “a committee set up by the Plateau State, Jos to assign specific job descriptions and key performance indicators (KPIs) to the 204 newly appointed media aides to Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang worked through the night on Saturday but was unable to finish the assignment”.

Thus, he claimed further, “On Sunday morning, it commissioned me as a consultant to complete the task”. Certainly, the ‘column’ was about the latest exemplar of hate speech; a scurrilous essay which understandably was in bad taste for the government and people of Plateau State.

Predictably, a few days after that, Governor Caleb Mutfwang’s adviser on strategic communication, Hon Timothy Golu, was out to acquit the State Government, put some challenges to Jega to prove his claim with all essential material particulars or keep quiet as a barefaced liar and shameless grandstander. This has not only cast a slur on the credibility of the ‘columnist’ and his column but has strained and depleted the integrity and authoritativeness of the column to dire limits.

In his reply to Jega, Golu denied that the Plateau State government ever set up any such committee to assign job descriptions and KPIs to the 204 media aides, and declared unambiguously that “no Plateau State government official contacted Jega for any consultancy engagement to assign and train appointees under whatever guise”. Golu asked Jega “Who is the top government official and where is the contract agreement?” Also, Jega was challenged to publish the agreement letter alongside his column.

Certainly, this piece does not intend to extend Golu’s officialese but mainly raises some professional and ethical concerns. Many of us thought and hoped that the judgment day would be yesterday in the same ‘column’ where Jega launched the offensive. But it’s like the show was on without the usual gallery! The question is did Mahmud Jega use his ‘column’ to bandy lies and wilfully grandstand and portray Plateau State in a doleful light? But in the same ‘column’ piece, Jega had claimed that “attached to the contract letter was a copy of the announcement made at the weekend….” What is the challenge that Jega cannot mention the “top government official” or produce the agreement letter to redeem his professional image and remedy what is turning out to be an obvious case of abuse of column writing?

To me, Jega’s inability (or delay?) to provide proof of his claims only adds verve to why the said write-up suffered a wandering theme and wobbled through so much illogicality just to reach a preconceived and premeditated conclusion. As a “consultant”, who asked Jega for a qualitative distinction between “the time is now” and “the time is past” which is unarguably a sentimental creation of his parochial stereotyping and diatribe?

“Even Jos’ famous cool weather has warmed up now” is another summation in Jega’s column’ that is laughable and fallacious but goes a long way to confirm Jega’s confession that his knowledge of Plateau is poor since he visited for the first time thirty-six years ago, and for the second time “only recently”. But, this, too, is one misleading lie that a column should neither afford nor tell. If the weather in Plateau had changed, the range of agricultural produce from the State would have disappeared too; and the aggressor land grabbers stalking the land would have since disembarked.

Column writing is more about good principles than pettiness. Of what need was it for Jega to suppose “aren’t there enough (shameless) girls in Plateau….” Good principle presupposes that column writing must not be allowed or be corrupted into a tool for mischief and blackmail. A column can be read as well as an editorial. I believe, too, that as Editor, Jega had had both cause and opportunity to write an editorial for the paper. A lot of responsibility goes with it especially when you realise the implication of using the collective pronoun “we”, instead of the first person singular, “I”. It is like a Judge writing or giving judgment in a case, As late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa put it: justice is not a two-way traffic – it is justice for the accused, justice for the defendant, and justice for the society.

Again, remember what the famous columnist, Walter Lippmann, said of the difference between an editorial and a column: “There are differences, of course. But even if the two jobs are not identical twins, they are certainly near cousins”.

When a client comes to you, it’s because he believes and is convinced that you have the service and therapy of which he stands in need. It is unethical, unprofessional, and even irresponsible practice to turn the plight of your client into a news peg to generate and peddle stereotypes and old-fashioned hatred and serve the same to the public as a column. As William Shakespeare put it, columns “should be made of sterner stuff”.

Columns should be authoritative without speculating knowledge and know-how; it has to be concise, concrete, and coherent enough not to misinform; it should exude integrity in accuracy, professionalism, and good scholarship; in all, depending on the issue, it can make a policy document that will strengthen public governance.

It is obvious that there is a peculiar columnist on the prowl and preying on the disadvantaged position of their victims. What Mahmud Jega wrote about Plateau State and the 204 media aides is malicious emotion displayed in the marketplace. It is time for the Ombudsman in every media house to step up the game to save standards before names and pedigree fritter away the remainder of traditions and ethical journalism practice.

…Ukandi Odey can be reached via

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