“AIT has been asked to stay aside based on security and family concerns. In addition, Buhari has decided that they will have to resolve some issues relating to issues of standard and ethics.”
That was Garba Shehu, Media Aide to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, while rationalising the defenestration of one of the largest independent broadcast stations in the country.
In the immediate hours after the news filtered out, the response from APC water carriers in the media was scurrilously predictable in their refusal to acknowledge the embarrassing blunder Buhari committed in denying access to a supposedly hostile media house.
The excuses for Buhari’s action ranged from hysterical to downright perilous. While many of them argued that Buhari has a right to deny coverage of his activists to his real and perceived political bête noires; others said Buhari being only president-elect has not attained enough political power to call him a public official, ignoring the fact that their man has moved into a public building and was receiving a foreign diplomat. The situation was disgusting to watch.
General Buhari came out two days later to deny any involvement in a controversy that his most prominent image maker had directly held him responsible for. Both AIT and Buhari’s handlers have since settled the matter and salvaged whatever is left of their unenviable relationship.
“As a matter of speaking, observed political analyst Ralph Omobude, “the controversy was just unnecessary,” adding that “Buhari has already lost 25% of his ‘honeymoon’ lifeline.”
Considering Mr. Buhari’s antecedents, the controversy stablished two things:
1) That most of those who support Buhari in the media are shameless about being left with egg in the face after each controversy.
2) That Buhari’s was not, is not and will unlikely be as indifferent to criticism as his predecessor, Jonathan.
One of the most frequently issued advices (FIA) for Buhari is to refrain from impugning on the freedom of speech, association and expression of every Nigerian as guaranteed in the Constitution. Whether the speech is a political jibe or personal insults against the president-elect is immaterial. He must not punish anyone for any reason bordering on speech. Simple as A,B,C.
And so, in refusing to grant access to a media house over ethical issues, Buhari and his inner circle go along with the patently false charade that media houses are supposed to report only public issues and not go personal with politicians.
This has profound national harmony implications not only for those in the media but for many individuals who have unfavorable opinion of his administration.
A public affairs commentator recently advised Buhari to caution his vigilantes against going after anyone critical of his administration, if he truly had no foreknowledge of the AIT controversy, then advise is a low hanging fruit Buhari needn’t mull about.