Home Editorial What Is The Price Of A Newspaper’s Soul? Asks Mustafa Bello

What Is The Price Of A Newspaper’s Soul? Asks Mustafa Bello

The media is no doubt one institution that has a critical to play in helping to deepen democracy and good governance in Nigeria and thereby promoting accelerated economic development, political stability, national integration and social harmony. It is certainly in recognition of its professional significance that the constitution specifically assigns the media the role of oversight of governments in power and by implication watchdogs of the people.
To effectively play its part, however, the media must necessarily place uncompromising premium on truth, accuracy and integrity in the information it disseminates, which are indispensable elements for it to enjoy the trust, faith and confidence of the people. A media outfit devoid of credibility is like a plant without roots; its leaves will sooner or later shrivel and die no matter how well it seems to be blossoming in the short run.

These thoughts come to mind as one contemplates the unrelenting efforts of the THISDAY newspaper to denigrate and discredit the person and politics of a National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through a series of mostly fictional reports predicated mainly on wild speculations, baseless insinuations and outright falsehood.

The newspaper does not appear to have reflected on why Tinubu’s political stock not only remains strong and unshaken, but continues to rise by the day despite its unceasing attempts to tarnish and cast aspersion on his reputation. It clearly undermines both the intelligence of its readers as well as the political sophistication of Nigerians.

In its Sunday, April 2nd, edition, THISDAY had reported in a front page lead story that the PDP caucus in the Senate had met to deliberate on Tinubu and had concluded that he was responsible for negative reports against its members and the leadership of the Senate in the media.

According to the story, members of the caucus accused Tinubu of trying to destroy the Senate as an institution to smoothen the path to the realization of his purported presidential ambition in 2019. To achieve this, the caucus allegedly said that Tinubu was working in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to fight Senators through the investigation of alleged corrupt acts on the part of the latter.

The story’s unsubstantiated claim of a close relationship between Tinubu and the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, whom it describes as ‘a creation’ of Tinubu (whatever that means) suggests that it was planted partly to instigate Senators against voting in Magu’s favour, should his name be forwarded once again to the Senate by the Presidency for confirmation as the substantive EFFCC boss.

Magu was the officer in charge of operations during Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s tenure as Chairman of the EFCC. He was reputed to be very effective. During the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, he was hounded by some of those he had investigated who had come to acquire considerable influence in the new dispensation forcing him to quit the EFCC in controversial circumstances. If President Buhari has decided in his wisdom to bring Magu back to head the agency, how is that Tinubu’s business?

The PDP caucus in the Senate has since made complete nonsense of the THISDAY report by stating categorically that it had not held any meeting at all at which Tinubu was discussed.

The South-East Leader of the caucus, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, emphatically described the report as the handiwork of mischief makers stressing that “It is far from the truth. We did not at anytime discuss Tinubu at our meeting and nobody accused the EFFCC of anything”.

Senator Abaribe further said the caucus would not descend to the lowly level of attacking individuals for the purpose of vendetta. Yet, THISDAY had ‘authoritatively’ claimed that the PDP Senate caucus was set to go public with its purported allegations against Tinubu! Who then were the unnamed sources to which THISDAY attributed its story; a now discredited report that has done incalculable damage, once again, to its credibility as a believable medium of information dissemination?

The report accuses Tinubu of responsibility for what it calls ‘savage attacks’ against the Senate and its leadership by some media outfits. Although it does not exactly say what these media attacks exactly, the newspaper was obviously referring to news reports as regards ongoing investigations by anti-corruption agencies and allegations of graft against the leadership of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

These include the Senate President’s widely reported ongoing case of alleged false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), his alleged implication in the attempt to bring a luxury vehicle into the country without paying the stipulated duties and the latest allegation that some aides working with Saraki were involved in the scandalous diversion of billions of Naira from the Paris Club refund to states through the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).

It is astonishing that a newspaper would report that news reports, which are not opinion articles by individuals or the editorial, which is the opinion of a newspaper as an organization, constitutes ‘savage attacks’ on anybody. All the allegations against the Senate President are in the public domain. Not only is the false declaration case against him still in court, Senator Saraki has personally appeared before the Senate’s Ethics Committee to clear himself of any involvement with the importation of the vehicle whose existence he has not denied.

Dr Saraki has also vigorously denied any personal link with the illegal funds diversion from the Paris Club loan refund, arguing that he cannot be blamed for alleged infractions of any of his associates.

Since these are all issues in the public domain, can any credible news medium afford not to report them? Could such reports be described as ‘savage attacks’ especially since in every instance the Senate President’s side is reflected in the reports?  In any case, how do these reports constitute an attempt by Tinubu to bring down the Senate as an institution? It is no secret that Tinubu is one politician with unrivalled network of personal friendships in the country today spanning the length and breadth of Nigeria.

These friendships include scores of senators in the 8th Senate across partisan lines. Why would he, therefore, be interested in destroying or diminishing the Senate as an institution, which would also mean working against the interest even of APC Senators? It is simply illogical.

If it is true that Tinubu is responsible for ‘attacks’ against the Senate leadership and the Senate, how come that he strongly commended the decision of the Federal Government to withdraw the forgery of Senate rules charges against the presiding officers of the Senate? On that occasion, his media office had issued a statement in which it described the withdrawal of the forgery charges as a welcome development. Tinubu had stated then through his media office that “New legislation will be required to help pull the nation out of the economic mire. With these forgery charges found not to apply, it is good that they be dismissed so that the National Assembly may focus on this important work ahead”. Are these the words and spirit of an adversary of the Senate and its leadership?

The entire THISDAY report is hinged on what it purports to be Tinubu’s 2019 presidential ambition. In doing so, the newspaper is completely silent on Tinubu’s strong and widely-reported avowal that “As long as that patriotic and committed man named Muhammadu Buhari holds and seeks to hold the mantle as our president, then Tinubu stands behind him in unwavering support and confidence. Tinubu remains faithful to the mission of progressive reform and change that Buhari, he and the APC started”. Yet, this report was also published by THISDAY!

On the one hand, THISDAY’s report claims that Tinubu is behind efforts to denigrate and discredit the Senate, but also on the other hand that he unsuccessfully sought the Senate’s cooperation to bring down the Buhari administration while the latter was recently on medical vacation. What a contradiction! In any case, what infraction had President Buhari committed for anyone to have attempted to bring his administration down? Could it be that the THISDAY report simply mirrors the subliminal but disguised wishes of those who sponsored it that the Buhari administration should fail to enhance the chances of their achieving their own presidential ambitions in 2019? It is so tragic that THISDAY readily offers its medium to the use of political blackmailers, hucksters and gangsters. No price should be high enough to buy a newspaper’s soul. 


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