“News is what your editor says it is.” Professor Esa had purred in his all too familiar throaty voice. We listened, some intently, some just hearing the words filter through his dry mouth. No one could pretend not to hear him; he threw his voice to the back of the class.
I was overjoyed to have been given a chance in this firm; not many graduates secure jobs immediately after their service. In this Nigeria. I knew guys who waited five years. Mediocrity would never be my thing – lest I get replaced by one of these teeming unemployed people.
The harsh realities of this job, my job, was already setting in. I was queried for the third time this month. My editor said he hiked my stories.
“What is getting into your head?” Mr. Editor fired, snot flying about his nose, his bespectacled eyes startled. “Repeat same, get fired!”
He let the words peel off his tongue the way he cast headlines. He reviled seeing and – instead of the widely accepted comma – when people cast headlines. He appeared to have adopted that bitterness (for and) into his speech too.
‘Repeat same, get fired!’ I mimicked. But in my mind, of course.
He hardly said why he killed my stories. He just hung my stories alongside other bunch of helpless papers on the sickle-like iron behind his desk. It wasn’t something of delight to see a well-researched piece end-up that way. My older colleagues, when I showed them the stories, were wide-eyed by the articulation of my findings. I peered deeper. Beneath their bloodshot eyes hid a maddening fear: the kind you get only when you have families to feed and your main source of livelihood is about to be taken away from you.
“Tone down, Tade, tone down.” They called from their desks inside the news room. I argued that ‘conscience and truth’ were our guiding principle and made toward my desk.
“Yes! Conscience and truth,” Ofodile, the feature editor, contended, “Only when those two don’t threaten our interests, and the nation’s interest.”
I followed the governor and his entourage to one of the numerous projects his administration had flagged-off. I saw that only 3 kilometres of the road was completed out of about 10 kilometres. I took notes as the bald governor beamed to television cameras and read statements his press team had prepared for him. When I got to the news room that day, the headline was sweet:
Kaiama, Baruten road get Facelift
My editor saw me and hi-fived me. No query. My employers were happy. My salary came to me in one piece. I was sad, and happy at the same time. This was not what I signed up for. But what concerned me was the interest of my employer and partly mine: my employer’s colour of giving is white, the colour of the envelope they sheathe my salary in and, brown, the colour of the envelope journalists – like me – get from news sources.
Notiki Bello is a 22-year-old student who is actually Muhammed-Nauteeq. He became frustrated with the way people always misspell and mispronounce his name and that is why he has adopted the latter spelling.
Bello likes antiquated African cultures, but is still trying to find a balance between the thing he likes and the craze for modernity by most Africans now.
Although, he is a Nigerian, he sees himself as some sort of Kenyan from the Maasai or the Gikuyu tribes. He wishes to travel to Kenya before he dies to find his apparently non-existent root in the nation.
He finds pleasure in clashing with authorities. However, this pleasure has been replaced by the love for backpacking and hiking. He hopes to travel to at least fifteen out of the thirty six Nigerian states before graduation from university. He has been to twelve already.
His musical taste used to be strictly hiphop. Even though since 2013 he’s completely tilted his attention toward other genres like: reggae, lover’s rock, soul music, alternative rock, Nigerian folk music, RnB, PBR&B, and more recently, Fuji music (which he believes is an embodiment of happiness). This change in musical interest, to his chagrin, was predicted by his guardian, Christian Okpara, who has also been through the same turnaround in musical interests.
He finds photography interesting and has even taken a photography position during his internship. His photographic interests lie in photojournalism and nature photography.
For one who has written a couple of articles and fictions, he still doesn’t consider himself a writer. When asked why he didn’t see himself as a writer during an interview with a popular newspaper, he said, with a sheepish smile: “Me myself gan I don’t even know.”
Bello has worked, as in not work really, for Thawatcha, Goge Africa, Double Portion Ltd., Herald Newspaper, and News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). He considers Double Portion as his favourite work place because he was a bakery boy – someone that carries bread up and down – there.
Despite all these great great strides the 22-year-old has taken in his small life, he has not won anything. No awards. No nothing. Not even the smallest of cash rewards for his genius. But he hopes to win the Creativenaija #ColourOfGiving contest so that he can use the money for December.
Notiki Bello is presently a moderator at The Afro-Book Club.
African and, Proud