Yesterday’s News?


It’s time for the newsflash at noon on Cool FM, Nigeria (89.9 FM). We’re heading for the town of Bodo to meet more oil-victims. The taxi driver passes time listening to the radio and is overtaking other vehicles in places where overtaking never should have taken place.

The news anchor starts off by telling her listeners about six Nigerians being accused of selling human body parts on the black marked. According to police sources they sold organs both for medical transplants and for ritual purposes (whatever that might mean).

The driver passes a minivan and two motorbikes, before he throws the old Toyota Camry back into the right lane a split second before we’re hit by a truck carrying crude oil. The speedometer tells us he’s doing 130 km/h (90 mph).

The next story is about a Nigerian man who recently killed a 15 feet snake with his own two hands. The news anchor fails to mention that this bloke either is extremely lucky or extremely stupid, or most likely both lucky and stupid.

Then we get the story of a woman who cries tears of blood. Due to some physical malfunction blood, sweat and tears are the very same fluid for this poor female.
Fortunately we have entered a part of the road where “sleeping policemen” is stopping the driver behind the wheel from putting his own and other people’s lives at risk.

Every time the lady who reads the news finishes one story we expect the next one to focus on oil pollution. After all the Niger delta is one of the most polluted areas on earth. But apparently there are more interesting stories to be told:

The listeners learn that the Pope used to work as a head bouncer in Argentina in his younger days.

After the Catholics have gotten this very important piece of news the next story up must be one on oil spills, we think. It’s hard to tell what the driver thinks, but most likely he’s not too concerned about the consequences of high speed car accidents.

The next story is about death, but neither from collisions, nor oil spills. The death in question took place when a couple from Pennsylvania stabbed a man to death “because they wanted to kill someone together”.

The houses of Bodo are visible in a distance when the last story of the news flash reaches us via the old loudspeakers of the even older car:

A baker in Tennessee was taken to court for not selling a wedding cake to a gay-couple. The baker didn’t like gay people, and refused to let them buy his cake. Unfortunately the sound of our exhaust pipe against a speed bump deprives us from hearing whether the gay-sceptic won or lost the case.

Enlightened by the news we park our car outside the New Apostolic Church where Patricia Nakpee is placed to die. The mother of two suffers from the same oil-related lung condition that kills people in Bodo almost every day. She is vomiting blood when we come to see her. The centre has a lot of patients, but no other means of healing than the words of God. In Patricia’s case they don’t help much. The woman is too sick to talk to us, but before we leave her she manages to tell us who she thinks is to blame for her misery.

−The oil companies have done this to me. If my children are orphaned the oil companies are to blame.

Most likely Patricia’s suffering will never reach the news desk of Cool FM, or other media for that matter. News that happens all the time isn’t really news anymore. Besides, stories like this are just too depressing.

16 Responses to “Yesterday’s News?”

  1. My God, Otto. We are criminal in our disregard. Having a Merry Christmas at this poor woman’s expense. Something is wrong with us. And the world. Your photographs are beautiful in their tragic storytelling. Thank you.

  2. […] For the full story I have done with my colleague Øystein Mikalsen, look up Untold Stories. […]

  3. Reblogged this on Villagephotography and commented:
    This story needs to become news! I read it and feel helpless. So I am Re-blogging to spread the word. Also read the previous post “the Heir” for more of the background story. If we all re-blog maybe it will become news!

  4. If we all reblog this story maybe it will become news!

  5. Thanks for posting these…the storeis need to be told…and your photos say it all!

  6. Quite a story to accompany your amazing portrait.

  7. A world of hurt.

  8. Cool FM needs a copy of this post.

  9. I’ve copied the link to this post to Twitter (@AngelineM1)

  10. It never ceases to amaze me how disconnected we can be from what is happening in other parts of the world. This story is heartbreaking, and were it not for you, I wouldn’t have any awareness at all of oil-related lung disease and suffering taking place in Nigeria because of the oil companies. These are hard stories to hear, but I don’t prefer ignorance. Thank you very much.

  11. My guess would be that the oil company either owns the radio station, sponsors the radio station or sponsors the news on the radio station. Either way, they are controlling what is put out there as “news” with money. This does not change, unfortunately.

  12. Stories like these, in Niger or almost anywhere else, are rarely in the news. Who are the decision makers re: what deserves mentioning in the news? Who pays them for making those decisions?
    Follow the money trail….

  13. Three Well Being says it best “It never ceases to amaze me how disconnected we can be from what is happening in other parts of the world.” I agree. For us in the developed world, we are lucky to have some stability in our lives, we also have a voice to move such atrocities to the public where something can be done. Not easy, but as it has been stated before ‘doing the right thing to do never is.’ Well done series, thanks for bringing this out to more of us.

  14. sounds like a believable event. i wonder who owns the media/news stations there?

  15. I can only hope that ifif concerned journalists and photographers like the two of you keep publicising these abuses by large corporations, that some change for the better will occur…

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