There is this friend of mine, a very evil wag named Vitone, who keeps stressing that journalists must be made to wear uniforms like policemen. My friend argues that the role of journalists as societal watchdogs places them on the same pedestal as the police. He then goes ahead to drop the bombshell that journalists actually collect more bribe than policemen; whence the need for journalists to have the same make of uniform as their colleagues in bribe-taking, that is, the police!
Given that I am the poet just moonlighting as journalist, let me play the devil’s advocate by playing up the “satanic verses” of this my “uniform-for-journalists” friend. Journalism happens to be an all-comers profession in which the existence of a common uniform for all can lend a measure of regulation to the trade and its ill-assorted practitioners. The absence of a uniform actually makes all kinds of quacks and fakes to pose as journalists. Any person wearing a journalist’s uniform as it were would thus be properly identified instead of hiding behind different coats and dresses to commit mayhem in the name of the profession.
If journalists are made to wear uniform like policemen they would not see any further need to be asking for “brown envelopes”; they would be taking the money straight thereby saving the country the cost of the envelope! The lowly-ranked journalists would not pose to collect big money as though they were editors! These journalists of lower ranks would end up collecting N20 or N50 notes like their police mates!
The fear though is that many fellows may end up faking the uniforms, and giving themselves all kinds of ranks. After all one living journalist who was so fond of big titles actually arrogated to himself the title of RIP (Rest in Peace) without knowing what it stood for! It may turn scandalous when journalists start addressing themselves as Supol! Mopol! DPO! IG of Journalism! Etc.
The uniform matter will necessitate the setting up of a special body to monitor the wearing of the uniform by journalists. The catch though is that members of the body charged with monitoring the uniform of journalists may end up posing as journalists themselves! After all such a thing happened in the award of the Nigeria Prize for Literature one unfortunate year where the judges who were members of the Academy of Letters ended up awarding the $50,000 prize money to themselves in a classic case of 419! If it can happen among the old eggheads of Nigerian academia, then the case amongst journalists and their minders is better left to the imagination…
With well-starched uniforms journalists can then stand solid guard as paparazzi at checkpoints in the many high class hotels of Nigeria! The nuisance of seeing scruffily dressed fellows harassing guests in the name of journalists as had always been the case would stop for good.
There is the problem though that once armed with uniform the journalists may start fighting for the right to be armed with guns like policemen! Now we shall start having “Kill and Go” journalists! The journalists can then actually “point and kill” as had been the special privilege of the police. When armed journalists confront armed policemen it will then be the forte of armed robbers to save the land! This is a very serious matter that can kill all the laughter remaining in Nigeria. This way, we may stand to lose our world title as the happiest people on God’s earth.
Just as the police have the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) journalists who would not want to appear in uniform can join the CID section of journalism as daredevil investigative journalists. In short, it would be a win-win story for the pen-pushers of Nigeria. Some can hide their uniforms and claim to be CID journalists when the occasion demands.
Finally, instead of fighting for the full implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Nigerian journalists should take full charge of championing a new cause: Uniform for all Nigerian Journalists! What makes the police superior to journalists such that they are always clad in their uniform while the journalists can boast of none? The only thing better than press freedom, I daresay, is the compulsory matter of sewing the uniform for all journalists. As the legislators would say, this is a matter of urgent national importance!