*Say duo want to use press council to gag media, create dictatorship
*Assure Tinubu of fair, robust coverage
The Board of Editors of THISDAY/ARISE News yesterday accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council’s (PCC) Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Bayo Onanuga and its Director, Strategic Communication, Mr. Dele Alake of attempting to silence independent media, cower as well as bully free press ahead of the 2023 general elections in what they described as a copycat style of former US President, Donald Trump against independent media.
The THISDAY/ARISE News Boards of Editors stated this in a joint statement titled: “Tinubu and THISDAY/ARISE Media Group and the Attack on Free Speech.”
They also noted out of envy and pettiness, the continuous attacks on their Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Prince Nduka Obaigbena by both Alake and Onanuga.
The editors pointed out that in at least four separate press statements and interviews in the last three weeks, Onanuga and Alake, instead of responding to issues or sending petition to the organisation’s Ombudsman, have variously accused the group of bias against the APC Presidential Candidate, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“They are wrong. Truth and the pursuit thereof, and the reporting of facts is no bias. The duo has taken unprofessionalism, recklessness, picayune politics and blackmail to a new art form. After their first press statement, we ignored them; but they authored a second statement, which we again ignored, not wanting to insert ourselves into the political discourse.
“But the more we have ignored them the more they have mistaken our silence for cowardice and continued their unrelentless attacks with virulence, even threatening us with The Nigerian Press Council.
“A Press Council that has been completely rejected by the mainstream independent Nigerian media precisely for this reason: misuse and abuse by an incipient dictatorship.
“Imagine these insecure duo of Onanuga and Alake already threatening the free press when they are seeking our votes. What will they do if Tinubu was elected President? Kill independent media or take their markets over using the power of the state and replacing them with media platforms they control and which kowtow to them?” the editors stated.
The editors pointed out that the attacks intensified since the publication in the THISDAY edition of 18th November, 2022 of the death of one Mueez Adegboyega Akande, a Tinubu associate mentioned as being involved, by US authorities, in a drug trafficking investigation of the APC candidate in 1993.
According to the editors, the THISDAY report introduced the person that died as Mueez but included a condolence message from Lagos State governor to the family of Dr. Kolapo Akande.
“Did THISDAY mix-up the identity (of two brothers?) We needed to be sure before issuing an apology. We needed to hear from the family. Till date we have not heard from the family. The fact is that mistakes in reporting the death of someone who may not have died is not unusual in the media.
“But then a quick statement from the family of the person so reported to have died, as happened when the media mistakenly reported the death of the late nationalist and past President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in the ‘90s, would have quickly laid the matter to rest.
“Most newspapers, including the national television stations (Except THISDAY) made the error and was quickly corrected. THISDAY later became the first newspaper on May 12, 1996, to exclusively break the true story of the passing of Nnamdi Azikiwe,” they added.
However, for some strange reasons, Mueez, since the publication of the story, has not disowned the THISDAY report that he was not dead, nor has any of his family members.
Therefore, the editors stated that they found it curious that it was the APC Presidential Campaign Council that would issue a statement that the person that died was Kolapo, not Mueez.
In a statement he issued on 21 November 2022, Onanuga had accused THISDAY of denigrating Kolapo, a medical doctor and “an Accord Party candidate for the House of Representatives some years back”.
But a quick internet search showed that the Accord Party candidate in question was indeed Mueez, not Kolapo.
“Where was Onanuga’s professionalism in passing off Mueez for Kolapo? Did he verify his story as a journalist of several decades? Strangely, the trio of naijanews.com, sarconnectmedia.com, kossyderrickent.com, which highlighted the poster in an internet search outline, have since deleted it on their websites.
“What a curious coincidence! Perhaps, Onanuga, the self-assigned publicist of the Akandes, may wish to clarify this. He should also clarify his relationship and the relationship of the APC PCC with the Akandes and why they would issue a statement on behalf of the family.
“Or better still, get Mueez Akande to step out, so we can close this matter. We note that the APC campaign council is riled by our report on Akande’s death,” the editors stated.
According to THISDAY/ARISE Board of Editors, with documents already in the public domain about Tinubu’s funds forfeiture over drug investigation in the United States of America, it was important to state that for national security, foreign policy, and national interest, any candidate aspiring to be the president of Nigeria should not shy away from media scrutiny concerning any link with drug trafficking, or be associated with anyone so involved, however tangentially.
They stressed that it was a national security question for which all patriots must seek answers, saying it goes to the heart of the country’s nascent democracy and indeed its political stability.
Furthermore, they demanded for full and complete answers on the entire circumstances leading to the forfeiture.
They recalled the case of Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian leader who the US helped to put in power between 1983 and 1989, and whose involvement in drug trafficking later led to the US invasion of Panama, and his capture, trial and conviction in Miami.
As a result of the foregoing, the editors warned that Nigeria, “cannot afford a Noriega moment despite some of the acrobatics of APC spokesmen trying to make light of forfeiture of funds linked to drug trafficking.”
“Have the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) investigated this? We need their reports and clarity, one way or the other, in this most important national security question on the 2023 elections with implications for our democracy.
“We also note that two senior APC campaign officials had separately requested that we move THISDAY Editor and columnist, Shaka Momodu, and The Morning Show co-host on ARISE News, Rufai Oseni, from their current positions to stop the attacks or get reprieve from a future Tinubu presidency.
“The Boards of Editors of THISDAY Newspapers and the ARISE News Channel would like to state without equivocation that we do not fire journalists because of their views.
“Facts are sacred and opinions free is the age-old dictum to which all free-thinking men subscribe. We allow our editors the freedom to air their opinions unfettered and have created The Office of the Ombudsman to take any complaints and discipline any abuse of office by any of our staff members,” they explained.
However, despite the unwarranted attacks, unprofessionalism and envy of THISDAY and ARISE successes by Onanuga and Alake in the face of their journalism failures, who both wish to create a cabal to ring-fence Tinubu (away from more moderate and reasonable APC leaders), they assured the APC, it’s PCC and the Tinubu Campaign of fair and robust coverage of THISDAY and ARISE Media group as they do for other political parties.
“We will continue to be open, unbiased and professional. However, we will not be intimidated by the bullying tactics of some APC campaign officials. As Michelle Obama said in response to Donald Trump, when ‘they (Onanuga and Alake) go low, we go high’, for the greater good of journalism and Nigeria.
“A journalism that holds leaders accountable to the people by always telling truth to power. In the words of Othman Dan Fodio, “Conscience is an Open Wound, Only Truth Can Heal It,” they added.