‘Sophisticated Morons’ – Vanguard Editor in Hot Water over Ethnic Slur against Yoruba

The Vanguard announced Saturday that it was investigating a senior staff member at the newspaper, Ochereome Nnanna, who hurled an ethnic slur on the internet.

Mr Nnanna, a columnist and chairman of the paper’s editorial board, apparently derided the Yoruba ethnic group as “sophisticated morons” in a Facebook thread in the wake of the award of Nigeria’s highest honour to Moshood Abiola.

President Muhammadu Buhari on June 6 conferred the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Mr Abiola, a posthumous honour that came 20 years after his death, and a recognition of his victory in the June 12 presidential election.

The move has got Nigerians split, with many hailing the president while others have accused him of seeking political advantage amongst the Yoruba.

Mr Nnanna was apparently debating the political angle of the development on Facebook weekend, when someone suggested it would be surprising if the Yoruba fall for the gambit as they are seen as “the most sophisticated ethnic group politically in Nigeria.”

“Sophisticated morons more like,” Mr Nnanna retorted, and his comments elicited widespread condemnation.

His employers were compelled to issue a statement following the uproar.

“While we are carefully interrogating the circumstance that led to that comment, with a decisive response to the author, we wish to acknowledge that the statement was made entirely as part of a private conversation,” the Vanguard said

“Vanguard dissociates itself totally from such unwarranted but careless, private outburst.”

“But we also wish to stress that Mr Nnanna’s position (as indeed like that of any senior editorial staff at the Vanguard) must always reflect a circumspect conduct that takes into cognizance the sensitive nature of our responsibility, and in particular, the need to maintain decorum and decency in all conduct and dealings, whether private or public, formal or virtual.

“We will like to re assure our patrons, readers and stakeholders that Vanguard newspapers will always remain on the path of correct professional etiquette, practice responsible journalism and adhere to the highest ethics of fairness, objectivity and just conduct, as these are essential ingredient for peace and growth in a plural and multifaceted society such as ours.

“We will like to place on record that Vanguard newspapers will continue to do all within its power to ensure that we do not betray the trust that has been reposed in us by the public,” the paper said.

Mr Nnanna, meanwhile, told PT his comments were taken out of context by those who initially circulated it outside Facebook.

“The matter was misunderstood and taken out of context by people who are circulating it,” Mr Nnanna said in a telephone conversation Saturday evening.

“Those who are ready to understand would allow this matter to go.”

He said he remained bounded by the statement issued by his employers and would cooperate fully with their investigation into the matter.

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