The failure of information/communication technology is glaring when one considers its inadequacy as a means of communicating with a dead acquaintance. How can one confirm from a deceased his death through his GSM or email address? That was the dilemma I face, when the speculation was strong about the death of jolly media-friend whom I interacted with regularly through email and GSM.
When the news was broken of the death of the Group Business Editor of Independent newspapers, fear, bewilderment and shock overwhelmed those who had interacted with him or have read and benefited from his excellent economic reportage and business analysis over a decade in the media. For those in the corporate world, whether in the private sector or institutions of public finance, the name Joseph Sesebo rings a bell – a bell that reminds one of a guru in financial and business reporting, a personification of high standard in journalism, an embodiment of simplicity and humility. Writing a tribute on a talented star in his prime age is more grief-stricken than the dirge.
Late Sesebo for more than a decade was on the financial desk, one of the dreadful and sensitive beats in the media. Any slight misrepresentation or mischief invariably has adverse effect on the political and economic environment. Factual and undisputable report can also put the reporter in danger apart from incurring more enemies. It is nonetheless, the same media reports that promote many big names presently in high positions and enrich the credibility of many organizations. It is through the media that the public are acquainted with the share index and the rating of business enterprises. As adequate information propels the emergence of big companies and heroic personalities, media alarm has seen to the demise of weak and fraudulent institutions. Therefore any institution that conceals public information, or individual that ignores the importance of the media, does so at its own peril. Afterall in a democracy, accountability and transparency are all about openness to the stakeholders.
An economist by qualification, Sesebo had ample opportunities to bolt out from the newsroom to the real financial world, where he could have risen to top management level, yet he stuck to the noble media profession to serve as a voice for the voiceless and a defender of human virtue. Sesebo who started his media profession as Sub-Editor in the Guardian in 1988, was Business Editor in Vanguard in 1991and later, Editor at Corporate magazine. He was also Assistant Editor in Thisday newspapers and later the pioneer Editor of the first financial daily in Nigeria, Financial Telegraph. He moved to the elitist journal, Exchequer as Editor-in-Chief. It was in 1999 that he returned to the Guardian as Business Editor before his last movement to Independent newspapers in 2003 as Group Business Editor. Until his death, he was a founding member of African Economic Editors Network AEEN, which promotes the best ethic in modern business journalism in the continent and beyond.
Even as many claim that the Nigerian media are corrupt, it is possible to vouch for many financial reporters and business editors. Knowing the sensitivity of their beat, Sesebo and some crop of other related correspondents formed an alliance, through a forum for business editor and finance correspondents to check unethical practice amongst their colleagues and to weed out fake journalists. As refined journalists, they hardly wait after an assignment to hassle for gratification which is popularly known as Qua, Communikua, Brown Envelope and Dividends.
As the Nigerian media receive condemnation in some areas, it is interesting to note the patience and courage of the practitioners when it comes to information gathering and objectivity in reportage. Mr. Sesebo was amongst the journalists who believe that fact and figure are crucial ingredients of business reporting, and therefore should not be twisted or sacrificed on the alter of sensationalism. He enquired, listened, examined and analyzed issues fairly. The positive impact of the activities of Business Editors and Finance Correspondents, who are the watchdogs of the nation’s economic development, can be viewed from the professional ways they cover their beat. Their searchlight reveals the success stories of privatization under Elrufai; revenue and fiscal policies from Hamman Tukur-led Revenue Commission; reform in oil sector under the watchful eyes of Funsho Kupolokun; strengthening of banking sector under Professor Charles Soludo; reinvigoration of capital market under Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke; revolution in GSM operation under Mr. Earnest Ndukwe; sanitization of finance bodies under Dr. Okonjo Iweala; transparency in debt reconciliation under the watchful eyes of Dr. Mansur Mukhtar and other banks and insurance firms under friendly and transparent management.
The Business Editors just like popular columnists have tremendous respect from the public with direct access to business moguls and exposure to outside world, but they rarely abuse that enviable privilege as they remain consistent and fearless in the discharge of their duties. Born 49 years ago with children, Mr. Sesebo was a core-practicing journalist; an incorruptible media man. He would attend and treat issues fairly and objectively without expecting a reward even in the face of the hardship Nigerian journalists confront in the course of performing their assignments. With the high cost of GSM tariff in Nigeria, Mr. Sesebo would call your office just to clarify an issue and yet would not force you to give him a scratch card in return. Imagine Sesebo, a journalist hosting a PRO to a feast on the basis of fraternity.
He was a journalist who craved for exclusive stories which he treated with maturity against frivolity and negativity. Even though it is unethical to kill a story, he was a reporter who considered the need to soften injurious story to protect the image of corporate Nigeria. Apart from taking pain to balance controversial news items, he accepted rejoinders to either correct erroneous impression or to give others the chance to express their views freely. Like a professional soldier who must perform his role at battlefront, Sesebo died in the course of duty when he had to sacrifice his work-free day to cover an accident and file the report to his office. It was on his return journey home that a monstrous vehicle rammed into his car culminating in his sudden death.
With the benefit of hindsight many would speculate on possible scenarios that would have saved Sesebo’s life with belated admonitions. Some would suggest he shouldn’t have been taken to a public hospital were the resident doctors have been on nationwide strike for weeks. Others would query the sense of going to office on the day he was supposed to be off duty. Some would say he should have since moved to a lucrative organization, where he could have raked millions, outside the thankless field of journalism. But he was a journalist, a core mediaman who was passionate about his profession and succeeded in setting standards for new generation of business reporters. Mr. Sesebo would forever be remembered as a professional martyr who died in the course of duty and left behind a good name and first-class legacy in business reporting.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in The Daily Independent Jan. 24 The Guardian Jan. 24, New Nigerian Feb 5, 2005