Free speech and a free media are sacrosanct. Any attempt to undermine these rights and institutions will be resisted with the utmost vehemence. A presidential candidate that has refused to honour the invitation of local media for debates has the nerve to ask for the sack of a journalist? We take a lot of rubbish in this country. Who do I speak of? Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
It is outrageously atrocious the way Mr Tinubu has been allowed to get away with his utter disdain for the Nigerian media. But who is to hold him to account but the media itself? Unfortunately, the local press has quite literally been an appendage of the Tinubu campaign.
Hitherto, the Nigerian media couldn’t talk sufficiently to the issue of Mr Tinubu’s drug-trafficking past without robust evidence. His multiple identities could not be fairly interrogated without substantive proof either, nor the numerous inconsistencies around his personal and educational history
Tinubu is not fit to be president
Mr Tinubu is unwell, has multiple identities, and has in at least one documented instance, by the US government no less, been involved in drug-trafficking. What does the Nigerian media do? Radio silence. Outside of a few young brave types and blogs, the mainstream media has largely given Mr Tinubu a pass. That the Nigerian media has largely glossed over these many red flags speaks to the hold of Mr Tinubu on the local press, members of which are mostly based in Lagos, where he presides as the unofficial lord of the land. Little wonder, Mr Tinubu can afford to ignore invitations for debates and townhalls and expect no consequences.
It is really ridiculous the kids glove with which the Nigerian media has related with the Tinubu campaign thus far. But that is beginning to change. And I am really glad about that. But for the courageous work of some young journalists, especially David Hundeyin, a BusinessDay columnist, it would have been really difficult to formalise the many controversies surrounding Mr Tinubu’s candidacy.
Hitherto, the Nigerian media couldn’t talk sufficiently to the issue of Mr Tinubu’s drug-trafficking past without robust evidence. His multiple identities could not be fairly interrogated without substantive proof either, nor the numerous inconsistencies around his personal and educational history. But that has since changed. And the nation has Mr Hundeyin to thank for investigating and revealing the facts that abundantly show Mr Tinubu is not fit to be president.
But first, I must declare my bias. I fervently hope that Mr Tinubu does not win the presidential election. Anybody but Mr Tinubu will be fine with me. Why? I do not like Mr Tinubu; never did. I do not like what I have come to know Mr Tinubu represents, especially in Lagos, where gangsters and cultists have free rein. It will be a sad day indeed the day a Mr Tinubu can win a presidential election in Nigeria. Yes, the Nigerian system is quite literally rotten. But it is not so bad that we will turn a blind eye to the potential accession of a documented drug-trafficker with multiple identities to the highest position in the land.
And come to think of it, where is the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on this? Our security services? It is highly doubtful that the secret service was not aware of Mr Tinubu’s inglorious past. Is the commander-in-chief not violating his oath of office if despite knowing about Mr Tinubu’s many red flags, he is still allowed to scale through? Quite frankly, I am totally at a loss at how Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s current president, will let such weighty evidence against the propriety of Mr Tinubu’s candidature just slide. Mr Buhari has a responsibility to act. This is beyond politics. It is about national security. Even the military, bad as they were, wouldn’t dare allow this type of nonsense.
It seems the standards are being lowered across board in favour of Mr Tinubu. The way the media, the Bar, and civil society have been tiptoeing around Mr Tinubu’s candidature is outrageously nauseating. Mr Tinubu says Arise TV, a local TV station believed to be allied with the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is biased, and thus he will not honour their invitations for presidential debates. Is that also the case for the other local media platforms? Heck, NTA, Channels, TVC, or even The Nation newspaper, which are media platforms the ruling APC and Mr Tinubu appear comfortable with, could organise their own presidential debates if bias is the real issue here?
But to allow a potential winner of the presidential election to pass through in the current manner thus far without robust media scrutiny smacks of complicity on the part of the press. Even the BBC Focus on Africa interview in early December 2022 did not live up to the rigour expected of such a venerated media house. The BBC journalist, a Nigerian, did not push back adequately enough on the key questions around Mr Tinubu’s health, wealth and personal and educational history. The BBC! Unsurprisingly, the Tinubu campaign has become overconfident, even daring to ask for the sack of Rufai Oseni, a popular local journalist with Arise TV. Kudos to members of the Nigerian press who have refused to bend.
Still, the Nigerian press is hugely corrupt. Anywhere you hear the mention of ‘brown envelopes,’ they are referring to the media. And politicians keep ‘receipts’ (local parlance for evidence of impropriety for leverage). Why would any politician take the Nigerian media seriously when they are this compromised? Where is the heroic media of the Abacha years? Yes, local journalists are paid pittance, when and if they are paid at all.
Only relief nowadays is probably that if journalists are dilgent in their work, they may end up being hired by international platforms, where they are paid their due. But what about the rest? Are we to all go abroad to practice our crafts? Nurses are leaving. Doctors are leaving. Primary and secondary school teachers are about to start leaving too. And they should if there are legitimate opportunities abroad. But those of us that remain must speak up when we see such nonsense of the kind going on in this campaign season. No, this ‘mandate’ should not stand.