Olusola Fabiyi, Kamarundeen Ogundele, Eniola Akinkuotu, Oladimeji Ramon and Olaleye Aluko
The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose; the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights have condemned the expulsion of the PUNCH correspondent, Olalekan Adetayo, from the Presidential Villa for his stories.
Other groups, which equally condemned Adetayo’s expulsion by Bashir Abubakar, the Chief Security Officer to President Muhammadu Buhari, are the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project; the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders and the International Press Centre.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana; Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN), and the Publicity Secretary for the Yoruba umbrella body, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, also condemned the expulsion in interviews with The PUNCH on Tuesday.
They agreed that the health status of Buhari, being a public office holder, should not be shielded from Nigerians.
Fayose, PDP faction react
Fayose described the power-drunk CSO’s action as a sign of what to come from a dictatorial government that desired that the media must only tell Nigerians what it wanted them to hear and nothing more.
The governor, who noted that he warned Nigerians of the emerging dictatorship of the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress government, said, “Even though The PUNCH correspondent was recalled yesterday (Monday) owing to public outcry, the dangerous message of intolerance to freedom of expression and of the press was passed loud and clear.”
Fayose, in a statement on Tuesday by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, stated that it should worry all lovers of democracy and free press that a journalist, who was only doing his job, was subjected to a humiliating treatment of writing a statement.
He added, “When they invaded the Akwa Ibom State Government House with armed men of the Department of State Services, I raised the alarm then and I did warn that Nigeria was being returned to 1984 when President Buhari ruled the country like a maximum ruler.
“I warned then that no one would be spared by the time this Buhari’s emerging dictatorship reached its peak. I did say then that by the time they were through with politicians, they would move to the judiciary and then to the media.
“Now the tyranny has got to the media and it will only take fervent prayers from men of the media profession for the country not to descend to that era of closure of media houses, arrest and indefinite detention of journalists.”
The governor urged journalists in the country to rise in one voice and protect the democratic rights of freedom of expression.
Also, the National Caretaker committee of the PDP said Nigerians deserved to know the true health status of Buhari.
The committee stated that it was wrong for the Presidency to expel The PUNCH State House correspondent from the Villa because of the story the reporter did on the President’s health.
It described the action of Buhari’s CSO, who unilaterally took the action, as a move towards fascism.
The PDP faction submitted that the action of the power-drunk CSO did not come to it as a surprise, adding the the country was gradually tilting towards what it described as a full-blown dictatorship.
The party said these in a statement by the spokesperson for the committee, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, on Tuesday.
He said, “We are therefore not too surprised that the President has not, in recent times, been able to fully face the rigours of government and has to make very rare public appearances. This is pretty obvious to all Nigerians.
“The PUNCH story is therefore nothing extraordinary. It merely reflects what Nigerians already know with perhaps a little bit of speculative licence. It therefore should not have elicited the extreme reaction from the President’s Chief Security Officer.
“The media, as the fourth estate of the realm, is an important pillar of any democracy. Any attempt to gag the press in whatever guise is an abridgment of the rights of the people and a direct assault on our hard-earned democracy.
“We therefore totally condemn the action of the President’s CSO. He must realise that we are in a democracy and not military dictatorship.
‘‘It is also revealing and shows the lack of synergy in the Villa that a reporter will be expelled without the knowledge or concurrence of the President’s Adviser on Media Relations.
“No one has the right or power to hide the President behind the curtain while dishing out instructions to Nigerians in the name of the President.”
CSO should apologise to expelled journalist –Falana
Falana asked Buhari’s CSO to apologise to the reporter for expelling him from the Presidential Villa.
Speaking in a text message on Tuesday, the SAN said the fact that the Presidency had recalled Adetayo was not enough, adding that the CSO must be made to apologise to the reporter with a promise that such would never repeat itself.
He said, “It is not sufficient for the Presidency to recall The PUNCH reporter. The CSO should be made to apologise to the reporter with a firm undertaking that the embarrassment will not be repeated. That is the only way to demonstrate to the Nigerian people that the CSO was on his own.”
Ali, a senior advocate, said, “The life and activities of public office holders are a matter for public knowledge. Now, talking about the number one citizen of the country, citizens are entitled to know how their leader is faring.
“On the expulsion, I don’t think beheading is the answer for headache.
If the journalist has written lies, it is a different thing. But you cannot sacrifice truth on the altar of convenience.”
On his part, Odumakin said the health status of a President should not be a secret issue.
He stated, “It smacks of total disrespect for the people for any official to think they should not know the status of the health of their leader. That kind of mindset is for a kingdom and not a republic.
“Journalists, who cover the Villa, are not under the command of a CSO. If there are issues with any of them, it is the media aides of the President who should deal with it.
“The CSO is totally wrong to have expelled The PUNCH reporter on his own.
‘‘He should be sent back to whatever force he came from as he lacks the democratic temperament. This is the only way the government can show there is no creeping dictatorship in the land.”
CDHR, SERAP, CACOL IPC berate power drunk Abubakar
Also, the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwumadu, believed that the CSO or whoever authorised the journalist’s expulsion should be heavily punished.
Ugwumadu stated, “The action of an expulsion of a journalist from the Villa for writing on the President’s health status ought to attract the attention of Mr. President himself.
“Going by the rule of law and constitutional democracy in Nigeria, such expulsion should attract some serious reprimand on the part of whoever must have done that.
“There are democratic principles in this country in the freedom of expression and the roles of the media as watchdogs. Hence, the expulsion is condemnable and should be investigated.
“Given the trajectory of our experiences in the last two dispensations, Nigerians deserve to know the president’s health status. Recall the case of the late President Musa Yar’Adua. There is nothing sacrosanct or secretive in the health status of the President. It is not a classified matter.”
Also, the Executive Director, SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said he believed that Abubakar was not carrying out Buhari’s instructions in expelling The PUNCH correspondent.
He stressed that press freedom was guaranteed by the constitution, advising the Presidency to do away with any of its personnel who would not respect that freedom to save itself from embarrassment.
Mumuni stated, “The CSO who was said to have ordered the expulsion, I believe, acted on his own. Buhari would not have authorised such an action as someone who knows that press freedom is a sacrosanct tenet of democracy.
“The Presidency must guard against all these fifth columnists, who are being overzealous, so that they don’t continue to embarrass the Presidency.”
Mumuni stressed that Nigerians had the right to be informed about their President, adding that the right of the press to inform the citizens was guaranteed by the constitution.
In his own reaction, the Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said Abubakar’s action was embarrassing as it gave the impression that the Presidency was desperate to keep certain information about the President away from Nigerians.
Adeniran added, “It shows overzealousness on the part of the security agency and it shows insecurity on the part of the Presidency because it means that the CSO must be privy to certain discussions that are tailored towards keeping certain things secret.
“But it is a good thing that Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu have dissociated the President from the CSO’s action.
“It is an embarrassment to the spirit of democratic rule. I have read the stories over again, both the Saturday and Sunday stories and there is nothing in those stories that should agitate any fair-minded person. So, why the CSO should be overzealous, I don’t understand.”
Also, the Director of the IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, condemned the expulsion of the reporter, stating that journalists must not be humiliated or harassed in the course of performing their duty.
Arogundade said, “My position and the position of the International Press Centre is that such actions or acts like the one displayed by the CSO are unwelcomed and unacceptable. ‘‘Journalists should not be subjected to such humiliation and harassment for doing their job. It is an infringement on the freedom of the press.
“We do not say that people should not have complaints about journalists but there are channels of expressing such grievances where they border on lack of ethics. But like you rightly said in your editorial, the CSO should not be a judge in his own case.”