There has been a lot of half-truths and outright falsehoods about the CAA Asaba 2018 African Senior Athletics Championships on social media and online newspapers.
Responding to all the posts will be like reacting to every dog that barks at you on a trip from Lagos to Sydney, you will never get to your destination.
But it is a different case when the likes of Osasu Obayiuwana is involved.
A star in sports reporting, who learnt the trade at The Guardian Newspapers, at the time when the medium was the most authoritative and credible medium in Nigeria and probably Africa.
A man who learnt under legends like Stanley Macubuh, Lade Bonula and Femi Kusa, and has worked for a prestigious medium like BBC and other highly revered media houses around the world.
There is need to put the record straight especially because Osasu, who has a large following on social media, has a penchant for going public with information without deep reflection or fact checking.
Two examples from Osasu’s long list of gaffes will give readers insight into his attitude of instant reaction without fact checking and fondness for half truths.
After missing his flight from Calabar to Lagos, Osasu was killing time at the Calabar International with Nollywood films.
Obviously he didn’t like what he saw and the next thing he did was to go on Facebook and pull down Nollywood, with many negative adjectives.
I sent him a message that all he wrote about Nollywood may be true but if the industry is visited with the calamity he was advocating, these are the likely implications:There will be more wayward youths, street urchins, unemployment and other negative effects.
I explained further that in spite of the picture of gloom he painted, Nollywood has many positive effects including producing many stars, millionaires, as well as the Nigerian film industry being ranked number three in the world.
That for someone at his level, he should seek audience with the powers that be and see how the industry could be made better.
Osasu’s second gaffe was even more embarrassing. Dapo Sotiminu, then of New Telegraph Newspapers, picked a story from the net that claimed former football star, Kalusha Bwuaya, of Zambia is dead.
A big error by any reporter, no doubt he deserved to be punished, if investigation proves that he didn’t do the necessary checks.
But for Osasu, Sotiminu must not just hang without trial, the Nigerian press is not professional. He started ranting about how such could never happen in Europe or America.
Even when I cautioned him that it is a global thing and that journalists make such blunders worldwide, he kept calling for Sotiminu’s head and continued his condemnation of the Nigerian press.
When he kept ranting, I gave him a list of over 50 examples of global media blunders, including an occasion where his darling BBC announced the obituary of the Queen of England and CNN the death of Pele.
Osasu was dazed. All he could say was ‘where did you get the information from?’ I just told him to check his fact before going public next time.
CAA ASABA 2018 MEDIA WORKSTATION AND ATHLETES AT THE AIRPORT
But like the leopard, he never changes his spots. He seems not to learn from his previous gaffes which should be an embarrassment for a man of his stature in the media.
In the last few days, Osasu, instead of checking facts, has joined punks on social media to peddle half-truths and outright falsehood about CAA Asaba 2018.
He has been ranting about the LOC not providing chairs for the media to work with. While I am not bothered about punks on social media, it is worrisome that an international journalist like Osasu cannot call to check facts before putting his reputation on the line.
For Osasu’s information, the media workstation was equipped and ready to serve journalists a week before the start of the championships.
On July 30, a clear 48 hours before the start of the Championships, we had the CAA/LOC Press Conference at the Media Workstation and journalists were seated.
This was shown on many television stations. If Osasu had bothered to ask the five man BBC crew and other journalists here, they would probably have told him that they worked in a convenient place on July 31 when they arrived.
But on the day of the opening ceremony, we got to the Work Station early and discovered that most of the chairs and table had disappeared. Whether it is sabotage or whatever, I cannot explain.
However, I immediately called Harrison Ocholor and we ordered for one hundred chairs from a store nearby. As a result of the crowd that thronged the Stephen Keshi stadium at the opening ceremony, the chairs could not be brought in. There were so many VIPS, many of them governors; hence, the security operatives would not allow a truck drive inside.
The moment traffic eased, we brought the chairs in. So Osasu, it is not true that provisions were not made. A simple phone call would have given better insight.
ATHLETES SLEEPING AT THE AIRPORT FOR THREE NIGHTS
Osasu and other regular users of Nigerian airports know that many of our airports are shut down by latest 11pm every night. So how could athletes have slept at the airport for three nights? Moroccans arrived Lagos early Monday morning and were in Asaba Tuesday morning, I was at the airport to receive them. So how is Monday morning to Tuesday morning three nights?
Secondly, Osasu, the head cheerleader of those deriding Asaba 2018, can go to Novotel Hotel and the two Ibis Hotels in Lagos. They are three of the four hotels arranged for athletes and officials who had to stay in Lagos. Many moved to the hotels, while some insisted they will stay at the airport until flights are arranged for them. So if athletes decide to sleep on his training mat at the airport while waiting for the next flight or before being moved to a hotel, does that equate to spending three nights at the airport?
While I agree that we have some issues we could improve on, the first question I expect Osasu and his likes to ask is who’s responsibility it is to take athletes and officials from Lagos to Asaba.
For the information Osasu and other members of the internet mob, it is the responsibility of the teams to make their way to the host city, in this case Asaba. Lagos is not the host city, Asaba is.
The chairman of the LOC, Solomon Ogba knows about flight challenges between Africa countries. AFN former Technical Director General Omatseye Nesiama spent 19 hours at the airport between Johannesburg and Durban in 2016.
While organizing the Delegation Registration Meeting (DRM),Ogba recommended that delegates should send in their travel plans least two weeks before the arrival date but majority did not adhere. The few that did respond only did so a few days before their arrival date.
Equatorial Guinea was the worst, we were at the stadium discussing one evening and they just walked in to inform us that they are the delegates from Equatorial Guinea.
For Osasu and other internet mobsters’ information, Delta has a tradition of hosting Africa and hosting well. From football to athletics, laurels have been won. The inaugural edition of the CAA African Youth Athletics Championships (AYAC) in Warri in 2013 is still the best in the series.
FALLEN TANK AND OTHERS
The story of the fallen tank and athletes and officials scrambling for safety is even more ridiculous. Festus Ahon of Vanguard Newspapers, the man who broke the story that Osasu and the internet mobs are feasting on, is not even in Asaba.
He is in Ughelli. When I called him to ask why he did what he did, his only response was that the LOC has not recognized him.
The site where the tanker collapsed is about a 100m from the stadium. Secondly, the area is condoned off as it is a construction site. When the tank fell, it fell outside the stadium and the affected cars were outside the stadium.
Ahon’s approach is the way of a few journalists here. They come to Asaba believing they must be fed, accommodated and paid. Once they don’t get this treatment, they fabricate stories to ruin the championships.
Thank God majority of Nigerian journalists here are not like Ahon and that is why most of the stories coming out of Asaba 2018 are positive, so kudos to the Nigerian sporting press.
OKOWAS DESERVES PRAISE, NOT BAD PRESS
I am not a fan of the PDP. As a thorough bred Offa man, I am progressive. President Muhammadu Buhari’s shenanigans, including inflicting my industry, the sports industry, with a grossly incompetent Sports Minister in the person of Solomon Dalung will not make me abandon the progressive train. That is the path Josiah Sunday Olawoyin, our political father, laid for us.
If there is Governorship election in Delta today and I am eligible to vote, I will vote for the progressive candidate; but the truth we should not take away is that Governor IfeanyiOkowa has done well with this championships.
I remember when we first visited the Stephen Keshi Stadium in March 2017. It was abandoned property, home for snakes and other reptiles. Today, it is a world class stadium with a nine lane track. Just across the stadium is a training ground constructed by the LOC at the Anglican Girls Grammar School, among other facilities.
The equipment Delta has today is enough to host the IAAF World Championships or the athletics event of the summer Olympic Games. No state in Nigeria has half of the equipment Delta has, not even the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
For the information of Osasu and other internet trolls, athletes and officials for this championships are in some of the city’s best hotels.Transport for them is super, ditto feeding and other things.
For the first time in the history of African Championships, athletes are getting prize money and teams are getting transport subsidy. There has been no security breach, not even petty robbery or mugging. Many Deltans and Nigerians have prospered from the championships.
Billions of Naira has been pumped into the state because of this Championships by the government, sponsors, and thousands of visitors from far and near. Most of the hotels in Asaba environs are fully booked, souvenir sellers, food vendors, etc are smiling to the bank. Asaba and Delta is now etched in the memory of millions from around the world.
Stars of AYAC from Nigeria like Ese Brume, Tobi Amusan and Divine Oduduru are winning medals at this championships. These should be the positives that Osasu and co should be projecting instead of aligning with opponents playing politics with everything, including CAA Asaba 2018 African Senior Athletics Championships.
OLUKAYODE THOMAS, a two time CNN African Journalist of Year Award Winner, is the Head Media and Publicity CAA Asaba 2018.