Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency yesterday lashed out at online media critics and opposition politicians, who had insinuated that President Muhammadu Buhari might extend his 10-day private visit to London, and said the president’s return to the country on schedule has put them to shame.
The president, who left the country from Maiduguri, the Borno State Capital, on April 25, arrived in Nigeria about 8.30 pm and was received by government officials at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Announcing the president’s return in a statement, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, attacked some online media which had speculated that the president would not return to the country within the scheduled 10 days.
According to him, such media outlets should eat their words and apologise to Nigerians at home and abroad whom he said had been misled by their cock and bull stories, saying press freedom does not give anyone the liberty to publish falsehood.
Promising that the federal government would always uphold press freedom, Adesina warned that such commitment, however, should not be construed as an opportunity for irresponsible publications and disinformation.
The statement read: “Some reckless online media, irresponsible political opposition and other bilious groups and individuals, had gone on overdrive since the president left the country on April 25, insinuating that he was going for hospitalization, and would not return after 10 days as stated. In their vain imaginations, they even stated that fictive doctors have advised President Buhari to stay longer for more intensive care.
“Now that the president has returned, can these apostles of evil imaginings swallow their words? Can they retract their tendentious stories as well as press statements and apologize to millions of Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora that they have fed with hogwash?
“Few days after the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, we daresay that this valuable freedom does not tantamount to liberty to mislead and hoodwink the populace through concocted and jejune publications.
“The Buhari administration will always respect and uphold press freedom, but the onus lies on those prone to passing off fiction as facts, to remember that freedom demands concomitant responsibility. Those who further share and disseminate falsehood are also encouraged to embrace responsible conduct.”
The president had been variously criticised by sections of the media, opposition politicians and social critics for travelling abroad on undisclosed private visit abroad at a time of worsening security challenges in the country.
But the presidency treated the criticisms with cold silence until yesterday when it found its voice upon the return of the president after some online media had speculated a possible shift in the date of his return to the country.