The media industry in Nigeria is seriously challenged by the prevailing ethical decadence in the society. Every sector is affected by the high degree of corruption which distorts the value system in the society, even among media workers. This has seriously impeded the prevalence of quality journalists and professional news platforms. A few journalists in Nigeria still standout in the media landscape as brands that have refused to slaughter professionalism on the altar of quest for illicit offers from news sources. Among them is Kofi Isaac Bartels, one of the top broadcasters in Nigeria’s investigative reporting landscape.
Who is Kofi Bartels?
Kofi Bartels is one of the leading broadcast journalists working in the South Southern part of Nigeria. He is among the most amazing On-air Personalities (OAPs) in the country with an infectiously exquisite on-air and off-air personality. Kofi was born and raised in Nigeria but his parents are from Ghana. So he could be said to have dual citizenship – Nigerian and Ghanaian. He works with leading talk radio station – 92.3 Nigeria Info FM, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Kofi had his primary, secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria, though he is Ghanaian. He had his bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Calabar.
Kofi is an Integrated Marketing Communications consultant with experience on how take clients’ firms to the next level of growth and profitability. He set up Generation Now Africa, a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on youth empowerment. Kofi also has public-speaking and corporation presentation skills which he harnesses in events where he is invited as host or resource person.
Kofi has an eventful journalism career though turbulent to an extent. Not many journalists can survive what Kofi has passed through and survived as a journalist. To begin with, Kofi is a fearless but straightforward radio presenter with one of the best radio stations in Nigeria – 92.3 Nigeria Info FM. He works in the Port Harcourt office of the station. What he and his colleagues do in this station is to act as the real watchdogs of the society, making sure that the audiences do not just get the best programmes but that the entire public get justice where authorities have aired. Nigeria 92.3 Info FM Port Harcourt is noted for holding the elites and office holders accountable to the people. One such cases is the exceptional role Kofi and his colleagues played through their station in the infamous incident involving a mechanic based in Port Harcourt, Chima Ikunado, who was allegedly tortured to death by the Police in Rivers State. Right from the day the incident was made known to the public, there was no single day 92.3 Nigeria Info FM did not talk about the incident both in their news items and as extended discussion/phone-in programmes. The pressure mounted by Nigeria Info on the matter exposed illicit activities and attempted cover up by the police who had earlier claimed that late Ikunado had died in their custody of high sugar level. This turned out to be false leading to one of the heaviest embarrassment the Nigeria police force has ever experienced. Kofi and his colleagues, especially Dayo Ilusakin and Sam Chinedu Orakwe kept the pressure high with educative programmes on functions of the police, where the police aired, rights of the citizens, constitutional provisions against torture, including functions of police public relations officer (PPPRO). This was after it was confirmed that the state PPRO, Nnamdi Omoni had initially lied to the public that the police had carried out an autopsy which showed that late Ikunado died of blood sugar level.
One of Kofi’s radio phone-in programmes, ‘Hard Facts’ attracts the attention of millions of audience within the Niger-Delta region and beyond. It also attracts scores of haters who feel threatened by the robust nature of his investigative-questioning approach that exposes the hidden. This has landed Kofi in a few nightmarish situations which many reporters and OAPs never pray to encounter in the line of duty.
Nightmare in the hands of SARS
One of the nightmares Kofi has encountered as a journalist is the brutal beating he received in the hands of men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) department of the Nigerians Police Force in June 2019. This story received international publicity and condemnation from various organizations across the globe, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a renowned international press organization.
In that sad show of brutality by SARS men against a journalist, reports have it that on June 5, 2019, a group of at least five police officers punched and kicked Kofi after he tried to intervene in a matter between the SARS men and a boy living close to his house in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Kofi was beaten by the police officers on the knees with pieces of wood, and was arrested for filming them, according to his report to CPJ, and what he posted on his twitter handle. It was further gathered that at the police station, an officer told Kofi that he had “been giving them problems for a long time,” citing Kofi’s work covering the police in Rivers state, and said that they would put the journalist in a prison cell with an inmate who would rape him. Kofi also said that at the police station, the officers took turns in slapping him, even as one of them said he would have “wasted” the journalist if he had been among the officers that arrested him. Very frightening indeed!
The officers did not charge Bartels with a crime, and released him at about 2 p.m., after the intervention of their former commander, about four hours after the incident began, Bartels had said. He actually landed in the hospital with serious body pains after his release. “The police officers involved in this horrific alleged assault against Kofi Bartels must be swiftly brought to justice,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in Johannesburg. “The initial assault of a reporter documenting police behavior, compounded by the brazen retaliation for past reporting, is a chilling example of a gravely consistent pattern of Nigerian security services’ violence against journalists.”
Kofi said the incident began when he was filming the officers, whom he identified as members of Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, beating a boy outside Kofi’s home in Port Harcourt. He further told CPJ that the officers saw him filming, beat him, and brought him to the robbery squad’s headquarters where, after learning that Bartels had a history of reporting on the police, threatened him and beat him again with their hands and wooden sticks.
Kofi sought redress in court over this incident.
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Ordeal in the hands of DSS and Immigration Service
Kofi has also suffered series of traumatic experiences in the hands of Department of State Security (DSS) and Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in Port Harcourt, with a threat to deport him back to Ghana. This happened in 2016. Reports have it that the popular OAP faced possible extradition by the federal authorities over unknown reasons. He was invited twice by the Department of State Security, DSS for questioning without an established fact. He was reportedly cut off from his radio programme briefly when he returned from the DSS. Kofi then sent a petition to the Speaker of the House of Representatives detailing his ordeal in the hands of Federal authorities. In the petition he said the NIS had seized his travelling papers despite meeting the needed requirements. He then asked for the prompt intervention of the National Assembly before his “hard-earned reputation,” is completely disparaged. That was the dangerous level that matter got to before it eventually fizzled out gradually after interventions. Kofi has really had it hot as a journalist and OAP; and this is what professionalism often brings the way of those who insist on steadfastness to its tenets.
Kofi is known for his fierce evangelical beliefs, which made his Sunday Morning Gospel show very popular among listeners. His attachment to his mother is never hidden. He said that his mother introduced him to evangelical life style right from childhood and showed him so much love throughout his growing up, including while he was a student of the University of Calabar. When his mother passed on in 2017 he wrote an emotional verse on twitter where he encapsulated how his life was shaped by his caring mother. His evangelical world view patterned him after an unassuming lifestyle, with impressive gentility and conviviality.
Kofi’s exceptional performance on and off air has attracted laurels his way. Though he is very unassuming and prefers to do his job well without specifically targeting awards, Kofi still gets recognized for the monumental positive impact he makes in the society through his programmes and career practice. The OAP won a hat trick of awards in 2019 in the prestigious The Media Awards. He was the “Best Radio OAP (Male), Best Radio Host (Gospel) and Best Radio Host (Human Interest). This is huge considering the competitive nature of the radio industry in Nigeria, especially in Rivers State where he is based. Kofi always believes that “The life of a journalist is a call to serve humanity” just as he wrote on his twitter handle after receiving the awards, so he puts in his best in whatever he does in the line of duty.
Kofi is one of the most popular OAPs in the entire South East and South South geopolitical zones of Nigeria based on his performance and engaging presentation techniques. He has become a household name for hosting or co-hosting the following programmes, The Morning Crossfire, Hard Facts, Rise to Wisdom, a Sunday Morning Gospel Programme. Kofi is an inspirational role model to younger people who have a passion for broadcasting, with the intention of becoming courageous OAPs in Nigeria. Kofi is indeed a true watchdog of the society.