By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
Do you know what TIA means? … Yes, TIA (tee-ayi-aee) is an acronym that stands for ‘This Is Africa’. Say… a foreigner (non-African) happens to get annoyed by a given African guy over his delay to appear at the appointed time. What the non-African guys will do in return is that they will take a glance at their wrist watch and solely say in amazement, ‘TIA’. This is to mean that such thing is common in Africa… or to say it bluntly, this is what westerners expect from the backward people of this continent. An available source put thus: TIA is used to shrug off a range of inconveniences, from power cuts and roadworks to general inefficiency, infuriating bureaucracy and questionable ethics… Having said this for the time being, let’s pass over to our main issue of discussion.
If you are an African journalist with your target audience westerners, this is what you should do while covering events for your stories. Here abiding by the rules and regulations of journalism may not be advisable. Your journalism and communications instructors might have taught you to use formal language while writing news stories. I tell you, buddy, we have nothing to do with this thing! Speak or write whatever you want in the informal way of communicating in the English language.
If you really need to capture attention of western audiences, make the solid foundation of your stories on famine, war, conflict, Kalashnikov, corruption, nepotism, coup d’état, unrest, civil conflict, clashes, skirmishes… The principles of journalism like proximity, responsibility, accuracy, fairness, truth, decency, impartiality, accountability… should not be considered here. Tell your esteemed readers in the western world about an incident in which the police officers let their bulldogs against the black toddler who encroached on the farming estate of a white master. Show in your stories vividly how the bulldogs tore up the flesh of the young poor African kid like a piece of paper.
If you are given an assignment to cover events of thefts in one of the cities of African countries, don’t forget to recount your stories in a lively manner. Tell the audience how the crowd of young people put used up vehicle tires round the neck of the thief and roasted him alive. Don’t forget to put the photographs of the young man burning alive in the very front-page of your paper. See how mob justice is capturing attention of your readers. As I said, don’t give a damn to the ethics of journalism. Your major purpose is to get profit and attention from your western readers…
If you go out for reporting, I advise you not to forget to carry in your pocket a match-box or a lighter. You know why?… if you happen to see a crowd of young people who captured a street thief, feel for that match-box or lighter in your pocket…? Is it there? Yes!… Pass it over to a young boy running amok in the area and tell him to light alive the allegedly thief in the middle of the street. That’s a creative idea of having a worth reading story for your paper. I advise you to think of newsworthiness. Know the interest of your audiences… Your lead story may start like this: …a street thief who was caught red-handed while pickpocketing a business man was set alight near the transport hub here down town… See? Yes, if you do this, you will get a number of readers who appreciate your stories. Now you can write a story of newsworthy. By doing this, probably you may receive an award or an appreciation letter from one of the western countries. The western readers will say in appreciation, “oh, my God! What a shit! … This is cool! …How interesting!”
As an African reporter, if you get a chance to write about a military coup d’état, don’t forget to come out with detailed account of the incident. How young soldiers raid the streets and terrorize the entire souls by shooting in the sky. How the military personnel shot point blank on the heads of civilian officials … How the skulls of the officials were shattered by the damning bullets… How the soldiers drag the dead bodies of civilian officials behind a truck…
I should remind you here that as our man, Binyavanga Wainaina put it down beautifully in his memorable piece, ‘How to Write about Africa’, writing about a genius African boy is worthless and be sure you will never get readers from among the westerners. It is rather advisable to write about a poor little girl who was raped by a gang of four or five young urbanites. Write about how many rape cases are reported on daily basis in the land of Africa. Don’t get tired of scribbling about the development efforts Africans are putting forth to purge themselves of abject poverty. No way! Don’t do that! … This is shit, my man! You will never get a single reader. You rather select jargons to beautify your stories that are recounting about child soldiers who invaded villages, burned houses, killed many mothers, sisters and elderly people. Tell your western readers how the real toddler soldiers smoke marijuana … rape big ladies (quite big enough to be their moms) and little girls. Mind you, in Africa, this is more newsworthy than any other hotchpotch.
Don’t write about an African scientist who have become known for his or her ground-breaking research in agriculture, medicine, rocket science, engineering…. You don’t need to write about a contemporary African soldier who can fly sophisticated fighter jets or helicopters. If you dare to discuss issues on the progress of Africans, be sure, you will never be accepted by western readers… or your newspaper will be tossed in to dust bin. Yes, if you need your news stories get the best attention of your western readership, create headlines like the ones listed here next… “AIDS hits Africa like a never-ending hurricane… Civil war causes displacement of over one million Africans… The entire African city gutted down by fire … Africa imports millions of machetes… More relief aid needed for starved poor Africans… AIDS and Ebola gobbling up young working force of Africa…Illicit trafficking of goods, live animals intercepted in an African country… Africa experiences major economic chaos… Africa suffers bureaucratic bottle necks, embezzlement of public funds…Gross enrollment rate at all levels of African schooling is said low… Africa’s school age children are out of school… Acute respiratory infection on the rise in Africa… The poor, downtrodden African citizens dying of hunger… Africa falls in to civil war… Civil war drags Africa in to an abyss of chaos…. President’s murder sparks unrest across Africa… Africa hit by inner party squabbles and political uncertainty… African government officials driven in to corruption by personal greed…” See how your story becomes newsworthy!
“But why am I supposed to do this? …Why all these nasty things? …”
Did I hear you asking that? … Ok… Coming back to the very beginning of this piece… the response is TIA. You are from this backward, uncivilized and dark continent. This is what you deserve! … TIA! Period!! … As Africans, you are not supposed to deserve development, progress, better livelihood and modernization… Because …TIA! What you are damned to get in to are… Or what you are cursed to wallow in to are poverty, corruption, nepotism, famine, murder, civil war, coup d’état, backwardness, disaster, misery, quarrel, selfishness, disrespect, disagreement, arrogance, dishonesty, deception… My man, these are the things you are ‘blessed’ with… TIA… TIA! …Can you hear me!!