It is a 590-page book made up of a collection of 1,036 editions of TELL magazine written in 50 chapters. All the pages and chapters of the book are loaded with unputdownable materials. Right from the first page, the reader is held spellbound by the content of the book aptly titled, TELL: Courage In Print. And it could not have been otherwise. The book is a compilation of stories, interviews, editorials and opinions considered to be the best of TELL in the last 20 years.
Divided into four major sections namely, cover stories, interviews, editorials and opinions, the book is a national encyclopaedia of sorts as it reveals principal actors, hangers-on as well as seismic and passing events that shaped and continue to shape the socio-economic, political and national life of Nigeria and Nigerians within the period under review.
While the book gleefully flaunts the magazine’s inimitable style of investigative journalism, excellent reporting, with insightful details and arresting prose; it is sadly a jarring reminder of a 50-year-old nation that can be likened to a rudderless ship tossed at will by the raging sea of fifth columnists struggling for tribal, religious, political and personal interests.
For instance, with an almost prophetic insight, the magazine chronicles in chapter one of the book, the struggle for the presidency between the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria, which is still rocking the boat 20 years after.
Chapter two exposes the treachery of former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, whose decision to annul the June 12, 1993 elections said to have been won by the late M.K.O Abiola effectively postponed the country’s entry into the democratic world by a further six years. Chapter three chronicles interesting details of happenings before and after Sani Abacha’s death in 1998, including the arrest and detention of some of the magazine’s editors of the magazine. Chapters four and five give further insight into the June 12 crisis, Abiola’s detention and the impact of his death.
Chapters six and seven are brilliant but sad chronicles of corruption and murder perpetrated during the infamous Abacha regime. While chapter eight, Niger’s Graveyard of the Living, was the 2005 CNN Award-winning piece written by Shola Oshunkeye, a former editor of the magazine, now with The Sun. Chapters nine and 10 tell a riveting story of election rigging in the country as well as its aftermath. Chapter 10 particularly details the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness and eventual demise, plus the constitutional crisis that followed this whole scenario. It also predicts the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as acting President and then President of Nigeria.
Just like the previous chapters containing cover stories, readers are spoilt for choice in the interviews section, which runs from chapters 11 to 20. Notable interviews include the ones with slain human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa (Chapter 11, We will Defend our oil with our Blood), late human rights lawyer and activist, Gani Fawehinmi (Chapter 16, All Evil Men Will Soon Perish), late Kudirat Abiola (Chapter 15) and Abubakar Umar, retired colonel (Chapter 18). Other interviews include a double blockbuster with the self-acclaimed Evil Genius, Babangida (Chapters 14 and 19), former president, Olusegun Obasanjo (Chapter 13), Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Chapter 12), former US ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington (Chapter 17) and Sola Adeyeye, former member of the House of Representatives, now a senator, (Chapter 20).
The remaining chapters spanning 21 to 50 are also no less interesting. They are made up of selected editorials and opinion write-ups. While 10 chapters are devoted to the editorials, the remaining 20 chapters are occupied by opinions.
In all, TELL: Courage In Print leaves the readers spoilt for choices of favourites as each chapter is a tidal wave of brilliantly woven stories etched in TELL’s trademark style. It takes the reader through a journey of powerful emotions as it regales telling stories of the evil days of Abacha’s killer squads, many uncertainties in national politics, systemic corruption, the sycophancy of the country’s leaders and their cronies, plus the triumph of the people’s endurance both in military regimes and democracy.
Aside from its weekly editions and daily website, this is one single publication that may have stamped an everlasting seal on the legacy of TELL as one of the champions of Nigeria’s democracy and the rule of law. With hard-hitting stories, editorials and opinions that called on the government of the day, both military and civilian, to shape up or shape out; TELL editors and writers have been able to tell the Nigerian situation the way it is — no holds barred — while also importantly, proffering solutions for the country’s socio-economic and political development.