This newspaper condemns in totality the recent harassment, intimidation and expulsion of Mr. Olalekan Adetayo of the Punch Newspaper from his beat at Aso Rock Villa by one Mr Bashir Abubakar who, according to media reports, is Chief Security Officer (CSO) to President Muhammadu Buhari.
For the avoidance of doubt, we are of the unimpeachable view that Mr. Adetayo was in Aso Rock on a constitutional duty as a journalist charged with being the eyes and ears of the Nigerian People in the seat of Executive Power, which belong to no single individual person and can NEVER be owned by an individual because it is the Property of the Nigerian People.
We submit that if the so-called CSO felt aggrieved by any report done by Mr. Adetayo, there are at least lawful and constitutional means to seek redress, namely to drag Mr. Adetayo and Punch before the Nigerian Press Council and any court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria.
We note that a presidential spokesman cum senior colleague in the pen-pushing trade, Malam Garba Shehu, has distanced the President from Mr. Abubakar’s illegal action. We also note that Mr. Adetayo’s employers, The Punch Newspaper, had demanded a widely publicised apology from the Presidency over the matter before the harassed journalist can report back to the Aso Rock beat.
We at The Dream Daily finds these action as belated widow-dressing, condescending and patronising afterthought, which are insufficient to redress the violation of Mr. Adetayo’s fundamental human rights as a Nigerian Citizen, a breach of his rights as a journalist and, most gravely, the right of the Nigerian People to know the goings-on in Aso Rock as seen through the eyes of Mr. Adetayo, all of which we consider singly, jointly and severally sacred and inviolate.
The recall of Mr. Adetayo and the demand for a public apology from Mr. Abubakar can only suffice for those ignorant of the grave implications of the CSO’s condemnable action. Also, it could only satisfy the simple-minded and anyone with a poor sense of Nigerian History as its relates to the crimes committed against journalists and media houses in this country by men in authorities of yesteryears and the possibilities of a repetition by today’s wielders of transient power.
Do you recall how Mr. Dele Giwa of the then celebrated Newswatch Magazine left this earthly abode? How about Mr. Bayo Ohu, Deputy News Editor at The Guardian Newspaper, Mr. Bagauda Kalto of The News and Mr. Abayomi Oladeji of ThisDay newspaper, to mention but a few of our fearless colleagues killed in the line of duty? These journalists were all murdered in cold blood. There exist still unresolved allegations that these journalists were murdered by State Agents. Yet not a single individual has ever been prosecuted and punished for the murder of these journalists.
The road to the extra-judicial killings of these colleagues of ours whom we knew in person, we recall, started from subtle and brazen illegal threats and intimidation from official quarters just as Mr. Abubakar did to Mr. Adetayo.
A stich in time, they say, saves nine.
We believe that Mr. Abubakar’s illegal action has created a toxic environment for any serious-minded journalist or media house to work unfettered in Aso Rock. Mr. Abubakar’s continuous stay as President Buhari’s CSO has become untenable because it creates a climate of fear for journalists on the Aso Rock beat who, from now on, must watch their back as they work for the spectre of the CSO – an Orwellian Big Brother menace hanging over every stroke of pen, lap-top stroke, a flash of the photo-journalist camera and a roll of the midget tape of all State House Correspondents.
This can only make every stories emanating from Aso Rock today purpose-fit for misinformation of the reading public since it must of necessity be panegyric dross that cannot offend Mr. Abubakar’s arcane sensibilities. Any newspaper which publishes such betrays the sacred public trust reposed in the media and becomes a swindle sheet.
Therefore, we demand that President Muhammadu Buhari sacks Mr. Abubakar from his post as CSO.
Failure of the President to take this step, all accredited reporters covering State House, Abuja, should march down to the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, to hand in their accreditation tags and walk out of Aso Rock, NEVER to return until the President sacks Mr. Abubakar.
It is our well-considered view that if all media houses currently covering Aso Rock fail to take this radical action, they should be responsible for whatever happens to any of their reporters from Mr. Abubakar and any other overzealous official of Aso Rock who has no regard for our sacred duty as journalists charged with the constitutional responsibility of holding government accountable on behalf of the Nigerian People.
They shall also have demeaned our noble profession, for whatever personal reasons, etc, do a great violence to independent journalism and the memories of our distinguished colleagues home and abroad who have been killed in the past in the line of duty.
They shall also have pissed on the sufferings and trauma of journalists all over the world currently being intimidated like Mr. Adetayo.
It is up to these media houses to either further the cause of independent and fearless journalism via a walk-out of Aso Rock until the President sacks Mr. Abubakar, or continue to working under his menacing gaze to the detriment of truthful, objective reports – rather than claptrap passing off as independent journalism – as the Nigerian People expect of us all in the Fourth Estate of the Realm;
This editorial, which has been sent to the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), editors of Punch and others, Chairman, NUJ, Aso Rock Chapter, among others, is written for the record and in defence of free, respectable, responsible and people-oriented journalism.