Expelling a Journalist and Other Presidency Blunders


Lekan Fatodu 

Undoubtedly, the last thing President Muhammadu Buhari wants to put up with now are blunders that will bring unnecessary attention to how well he should be performing in managing the country.

But it really appears some of the President’s aides are oblivious of this fact; and of the danger of the failure to oversee the affairs of citizens that are almost completely disillusioned with the government.

The recent report on the expulsion of the State House correspondent of the Punch newspaper, Mr. Olalekan Adetayo, over some stories on the President’s health and the lull in the Presidency which were credited to the journalist and published by the Punch is one of those grave blunders that should have been avoided by the President’s handlers. And that’s because such actions will always do more damage than good to the government.

Adetayo was reported to have incurred the anger of Mr. Bashir Abubakar, the President’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), for rendering journalistic accounts of the activities in the Presidency under the following headlines in his paper: ‘Seat of power’s event centres going into extinction’ and ‘Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari’s poor health’.

The evidently overzealous CSO thought, from his obviously sentimental perspective, that the reporter didn’t do justice to the portrayal of the picture of the events within the seat of power in the reports. He as such thought Adetayo should be severely punished for performing his duties in line with his professional ethics rather than observing the rules and wishes of those in power by serving the public tons of “alternative facts”.

So for Adetayo’s failure to succumb to the desires of the powers-that-be, his press accreditation tag was retrieved and he was expelled from the State House. The CSO further issued strong orders that Adetayo should not be allowed into the State House anymore.

That’s unfortunately, in the CSO’s thinking, the best way to strengthen wrinkles with a journalist; and to feed him with appropriate news items for publication.

That said, the backlash from the wider public on the incident would be a great lesson on the expected conduct from those in government who usually forget that the positions they are holding are at the expense of the general public.

Furthermore, this if one of the instances when the citizens have become so embarrassed by the quality of communication and interactions or the lack of it amongst people serving even in the same government.

Clearly, the reaction of the spokesperson to the president, Mr. Femi Adesina, was suggestive of poor internal communication and exchanges and total disregard for rules and roles amongst the men and women of the President.

Shortly after the incident was made public, Adesina came on his twitter handle to say that the media office of the Presidency was not contacted before the reporter was expelled. In addition, Adesina said President Buhari was committed to press freedom.

“We weren’t consulted in the media office by the CSO before he expelled The Punch reporter. President Buhari is committed to press freedom.

“An amicable solution would be found to The Punch reporter matter. President Buhari does not intend to muzzle the media in any way,” he concluded.

The fact is it has long been observed that the officials of this government are seriously struggling to unify their purpose and harmonise their actions. This appalling development has made the government a laughing stock in many quarters and also fuelled the determination of purveyors of falsehood and merchants of fake news who continue to propagate negative impressions of the government to the detriment of the whole nation.

There’s no doubt that discordant messages and porous communication strategies from the top officials of this government largely contributed to the antics of those spreading fake news on the death of the president while he was away on medical vacation in London.

This disorganisation amongst the officers of President Buhari was also the reason Nigerians were totally confused and their important plans were disrupted due to the conflicting information that was dished out on the travel ban imposed by the new American President, Donald Trump.

While the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, warned Nigerians at the time that the United States was not a suitable destination for Nigerians, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama discredited the advise and insisted that Nigerians should disregard unsolicited advise that was not coming directly from his ministry.

Just imagine! These are people serving in the same government and representing same Nigerians. Basically, it will ultimately be to the benefit of this government if it’s principal officers started paying close attention to avoidable pitfalls that will trouble its over-burdened shoulders and disturb the peace of our president.