Notes on the Omawumi Interview: I shake my head at Zinnia

On the menu today we've got Omawumi, an Itsekiri Nigerian singer whose music is really rather good. It's a brand of raw African pop that competes directly with the polished touches of everything that Don Jazzy touches. She's got a flair that's reminiscent of Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Angelique Kidjo. As such it is no surprise that she is the main course.
Our soup is Zinnia, the face of HFtv Africa's Da Chat. It's a show that interviews Nigerian celebrities. The interviews typically are typically over 16 minutes long. Omawumi's interview was shorter, and that's because she walked out. Now, Zinnia is not a journalist. Her facebook page it says that she is a recording artist, singer, song writer and an on air personality. After the interview that she had with Omawumi she should consider restricting her efforts to music.

While I worked with Star Gist (an entertainment news show on Africa Magic) under Vimbai, I was told time and time again to exercise caution and empathy. She said, "If you are harsh or crude in the way that only bloggers can be, you will kill the show." This was just after I had written a red carpet rundown that was more malicious than hilarious. She was right.

After that interview, Zinnia will probably find it difficult to secure another. No celebrity in their right mind will willingly throw themselves into an out of control frying pan.

And it was a frying pan. Quite early in the interview, Zinnia asked about the father of one Omawumi's children. She said, "rumour had it that when you were having your daughter, it wasn't your husband's it was your manager's." It is a question that is both difficult and rude, especially when you consider that Omawumi had probably not been informed that the question would be asked. In that, Zinnia showed that she is both unethical and tactless.

The next question was similarly tactless. "Now when you got married... rumour had it that you got instead got married to Dr. Frabz?" As far as I know, Dr. Frabz is not the man that Omawumi has said that she married. It went straight from the frying pan straight into the fire. It is the sort of slut shaming that serves no one.

As insensitive as those two questions were, they paled in comparison to the last one. It was delivered in a rambly, disorgarnised fashion; the sort that makes efficient transcription impossible. A reasonable summary would be, "Do you think that the rumours of your drinking and smoking habit make you unfit to be a mother?"

At that point Omawumi concluded that the interviewer did not mean her well. The conclusion was called for. The vast majority of the questions were asked with the sort of negativity that you'd reserve for an enemy. Even if the questions were called for (and they weren't) they required a sensitivity that the interviewer lacked. It is possible to ask who the father of a woman's child is without coming across as a vulture. I cannot say how such a thing should be done, but I do know that Zinnia did not succeed. You cannot explain away attempts to destroy careers with murmurings that you were looking for the truth.

Vimbai tweeted, "I don't think the lady conducting Omawumi's interview was being malicious - she probably doesn't have the tact that comes with experience."

I agree, but I'll add that she lacks the training that she so desperately needs. You cannot ambush people that do not owe the public anything with questions whose answers the public need not know.

Now, if she were to interview Bukola Saraki and ask him about the numerous allegations of corruption levied against him I wouldn't bat an eyelid. He's a public official. He owes us these answers. Omawumi owes us nothing. You cannot seek to burn her at the stake and expect that she provide the firewood for the flames.

Happy Days,

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