NUJ, IPC, SERAP Demand Apology over Fani-Kayode’s Attack on Journalist

NUJ, IPC, SERAP Demand Apology over Fani-Kayode’s Attack on Journalist

…Say He’s Intolerant, Unstable Person Who’s Afraid of Media Scrutiny …Ex-Minister Circulated a Doctored Video…Daily Trust Management, Reporter …I’ll Not Tender any Apologies…Fani Kayode Media and Civil Society Organisations have risen stridently against what they perceive as the weekend uncontrolled outburst by former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani Kayode, leading to verbal attacks on

…Say He’s Intolerant, Unstable Person Who’s Afraid of Media Scrutiny

…Ex-Minister Circulated a Doctored Video…Daily Trust Management, Reporter

…I’ll Not Tender any Apologies…Fani Kayode

Media and Civil Society Organisations have risen stridently against what they perceive as the weekend uncontrolled outburst by former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani Kayode, leading to verbal attacks on a Journalist in a video that has gone viral. They also demand that he tenders a public apology for his unruly behaviour.

The ex-Minister however maintain that he has no apology to tender to anyone, insisting that the reporter was rude, insulting and was deliberately planted by his opponent to embarrass him.  

A reporter with The Daily Trust, Mr Eyo Charles had at a press conference in Calabar sought to know who was bankrolling Fani-Kayode’s trip to Cross River. But rather than an answer, the reporter got hail of hot words and verbal attacks.

 FFK’s Fleet of Anger

“What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher? Please don’t insult me here. I will not take any questions from this man,” Fani Kayode, also a former presidential spokesman said.

Continuing in a fleet of anger, he said, “I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to? Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.

“I have been in politics since 1990… I have been locked up many times by this government. Suffered. I have been persecuted unlike most of the politicians you follow for brown envelope. Don’t ever judge me by that standard. I spend, I don’t take and I am not a poor man. I have never been and I will never be.

“Bankroll how? Don’t ever suggest that to me. I am sorry that was deeply insulting. I don’t often get annoyed in press conference. I have been doing this type of thing for so many years. Don’t you ever make that kind of suggestion to me. Bankroll who? A former Minister, a lawyer? Don’t ever try that with me again o, please. You see me well, don’t ever. Try it with others, but with me, don’t! I will hit you hard and if anybody sent you to ask that question and gave you brown envelope, go and tell them that you got more than they bargained for to do it.

“Very rude. It is not the standard of gaining trust at all and I will report you to your publisher. Thank you. Somebody that has been on the road for how long, you are coming to talk about that. Very stupid,” Fani Kayode added as he got enmeshed in rage.

Action Totally Reprehensible

In a statement titled, “FFK’s attack on Daily Trust reporter, totally reprehensible,” signed by its President, Mr Chris Isiguzo, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) says it condemned “the gangster-like outburst by Chief Femi Fani Kayode against the Cross River State Correspondent of the Daily Trust Newspaper, Eyo Charles who asked him a simple question which he felt was embarrassing.

“In his reaction, Fani Kayode assaulted the Journalist and threatened him for daring to ask such a question.

“By denigrating the Journalist, Fani Kayode has exposed himself the more as an intolerant and unstable person who will not want his activities closely scrutinised by the Media.

The Media’s Watchdog Role

The NUJ went on, “It is instructive to remind the likes of Fani Kayode that it is the Constitutional right of Journalists to monitor and keep a check on people and institutions in power.

“By delving into politics and holding political office, Fani Kayode is very conversant with the watchdog role of the media.

“For him to have embarked on assessment of projects in some states, even though we are yet to be told under what platform, he is doing so, it is proper for the media to hold him to account for his actions and decisions.

“His reaction was totally unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible and we demand for retraction of his untoward, irritating and awkward utterances which negate simple decorum and civility.

“We are more shocked that the same Kayode who had in recent times, used his social media handles to call leaders to account is at the same time attacking a Journalist for a simple demand for him to unmask those behind his nationwide tour. He had already visited six states. This is indeed, terribly disappointing,” the NUJ said..

Abuses Out of Place

Also deploring the action of Fani Kayode, the International Press Centre (IPC) says, it “views this development as repulsive and unacceptable since there was nothing wrong with Journalist Eyo Charles wanting to know if the tour was an independent initiative or a sponsored one.”

“The former Minister had the option of not answering the question and the abuses were totally out of place in the context of the event”, the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said.

The organisation therefore demands that the former Minister should apologise to the Journalist and give an assurance of his safety in view of the alleged further threats.

“IPC is of the view that journalists who are saddled with the constitutional obligation of monitoring governance and holding the government accountable to the people should not be subjected to harassment in the course of duty,” it said..

Tender Public Apology

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has also frowned at the action. “We condemn reported intimidation, harassment and attack on Daily Trust journalist by a former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode. Mr Fani-Kayode should publicly apologise to the journalist.

“No one should ever call any journalist “stupid” simply for doing their job.

“Journalistic freedom also covers possible recourse to a degree of exaggeration, or even provocation. The media has a vital role to play as “public watchdog” in imparting information of serious public concern and should not be inhibited or intimidated from playing that role,” SERAP concluded.

I’ll Render No Apologies

Recalling the event, Fani Kayode insists he will not render any apologies.

“During my tour of the South and after a long and successful press conference in Calabar, Cross Rivers state, a journalist put up his hand for the last question and said, “Well we do not know who is bankrolling you?”.

“This is not a question but an assertion and an insult.

“And if this insulting ASSERTION were made before Trump or OBJ, I know how they would have reacted.

“Below is my response and I have no apology to offer for it.

“The young man apologised to me during the press conference and sent his apologies to me after the conference. I have accepted his apologies in good faith and moved on.

“I have always had respect for journalists and I always will. Those of them that know me or have worked with or for me over the last 30 years can attest to that.

“However there is a distinction between asking a question and offering a gratuitous insult .

“This is all the more so when it is clear that the assertion was sponsored and engineered by my political enemies who wanted to use the young man to insult and embarrass me and question my integrity. Well they got more than they bargained for.

“I repeat this was not a question but an assertion and an insult and I will not accept that from any man born of a woman. Thank you,” the former Minister said.

Narrating his account, the Daily Trust reporter, Mr Eyo Charles ckaim the former Minister released a doctored video to the social media.

Circulating Doctored Video

“Now the ex-Minister is circulating a doctored video claiming I was rude to him. What could be farther from the truth!  I have a modest background and well trained as a high priest to respect people of all standing. Please note too that I am a Bishop in the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, which exalted stand can never allow me to descend to insulting public figures or anyone.”

Eyo says, “One that has risen to become spokesman to President of a country and later a Minister aside other important public offices, should be seen as one that is a diplomat and statesman.

“But Chief Femi Fani Kayode failed in his public carriage last week when he rounded up his visit to Cross River State where he spent about a week, probably on the ticket of the state Governor, Prof Ben Ayade.

Guided Tour of Projects

“To climax the visit, he had asked Alhaji Rasheed Olanrewaju of the AIT (African Independent Television) to invite some media houses so that he can relay report about his extensive guided tour of Ayade’s projects mostly in the southern part of the state.

“The invitation was kindly extended to Daily Trust newspaper, a frontline national newspaper, I work for since  early 2011.

“I obliged the invitation not that I was deliberately left out of the guided tour led by Ayade but so that it would afford me opportunity to hear more from the former Minister why he said if the national PDP secretariat denied Gov Ben Ayade the honour to control all party structures in the state, he, Ayade and good number of politicians in the party would pull out of the party. Of course, it would be interesting to read and see his body language over his new found romance with Ayade, I thought.

“The press briefing was fixed for Thursday 20 August 2020 by 10.30am at Ayade’s private hotel situated adjacent to his palatial house in the State Housing Estate Calabar

.”The hotel was believed to be moribund before now but having been refurbished, distinguished persons and government guests are routed there instead of to the massive, well furnished Lakeside hotel in Tinapa Business Resort, owned by the state government or other presidential lodges in Calabar, which are now reportedly vandalised or converted for private use.

“The government house press crew including Channels TV, NTA, state owned Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, AIT led by Mr Christian Ita, the chief press secretary, Imani Odey (special adviser to Ayade on electronic media) and Rasheed Olanrewaju, correspondent of AIT (chairman of government house press crew). Other journalists from some national papers present included, Mr Gill Nsa-Abasi of NATION, Aniekan Aniekan of ORACLE Today, David Odey of The PUNCH, Richard Ndoma of the Leadership, George Odok of NAN, Ikechukwu Uche of Vanguard, etc.

“FaniKayode came with his own media team and security details, including Police officers, some of them who he shouted at even in front of journalists carried his baggage.

Extolling Ayade

“The former Minister spent over one hour speaking highly of Gov Ayade, extolling his academic and political qualities and how that his acumen, sagacity, intelligence and versatility have largely been ignored even with massive, gigantic and plethora of projects he has initiated in the state.

“FFK said he lives in the northern part of the country. He said he was in Cross River to see his friend, Ayade whom he has been pulled to due to his extraordinary achievements and though with about the poorest federal allocation, yet he has been able to perform more than those with much state resources.

“He said soon after the COVID19 lockdown was lifted, he visited Zamfara,Anambra and five other states to meet with the governors, to appraise extent of their projects.

“He said although a PDP man, yet the visit was across party lines. For instance, at Anambra state where he was hosted by Willie Obiano, an APGA governor, he could see that he was constructing the biggest airport in the country.  But when he shared the secret with Ayade, Ayade told him he has already acquired nearly a quarter of Obudu LGA where he hails for an international cargo airport, that his own will, on completion, be the biggest in the country.  According to FFK, he agreed with them over what he saw in both States, having himself built the Port Harcourt airport when he was Aviation Minister.

Ceding Bakassi

“He spoke about how Bakassi was unjustly ceded to Cameroon when he was in Obasanjo’s government, and how the Supreme Court also nailed the plight of Cross River by almost simultaneously ruling that the entire 76 oil wells once owned by the state now belong to Akwa Ibom State, thereby making Akwa Ibom the richest in the country.  He pleaded that federal government should revisit both thorny issues, and also create a special status for Cross River.

Question Time

“Time for question. Christian Ita moderated. But Olanrewaju interjected and sought permission from the ex-Minister that questions be limited to what FFK has said.  But FFK himself said, “There is no problems at all. They should ask any manners of questions”, that he’s equal to the task.

“Many asked questions. Gill Nsa of The Nation, for instance, asked whether his national tour had any political undertone such as having presidential ambition.  A reporter from the state owned TV asked whether some of the 33 projects he said Ayade has embarked upon such as the 278km superhighway from Bakassi to the border of Benue State as well as the Deep Sea port were not, in fact, White Elephant projects. FFK disagreed strongly and said what Ayade needs is Federal Government to take over the projects and that Nigerians would see that the superhighway for instance will boost trade and integrated Nigerians.

Breaking Camel’s Back

“Now the question that would break the carmel’s back! When I was recognised, I asked, “Sir, please you did not disclose to us who is bankrolling you…..”. FFK did not allow me to land with the question when he threw caution to the wind and shouted at me, and said the press briefing was over.

“He then rained terrible abuses on me, calling me unprintable names; that I was sponsored to come and ask and insult him.

“How dare you ask me such a very stupid question!  I know that you, a hungry-looking, brown envelop journalist, you are sponsored to ask me such insulting question. You can look into my eyes and ask me such demeaning question! I cannot take that!

“I am a very rich lawyer who has been in government; who has been detained many times by governments.  I have a very rich background. How can you ask who is bankrolling my tours of the states. It is very insulting, and I cannot take that. You are very stupid.  I know your publishers, I will call them in next few minutes. You have to be fired. I cannot answer any more questions from you or from any other reporter. This conference has ended. I have very short temper…..”, he said.

“It took the intervention and pleas from Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ayade, Mr Christian Ita and other journalists before the ex-Minister would leave the Daily Trust reporter, saying “You can go ahead and write your rubbish.  I have marked you”.

Aides Threaten Reporter

“When he returned to his suite, he sent one of his security aides to further threaten me.  The man accosted me, saying what effrontery do you have to ask such a stupid question, and what was my next action.

“Sensing how tensed up the atmosphere was, I said to the man, “I had apologized to the ex-Minister. If the usage of the word ‘bankroll’ was offensive to him, then I withdraw it. What more should I do?”. I then sneaked away.

Assaulting Our Reporter

Also in a statement titled, “Fani-Kayode’s Attack on Daily Trust Reporter: Our Stand,” the management of Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust and other titles, said it “would like to condemn the reprehensible actions of Femi Fani-Kayode, who in a video clip now gone viral, verbally assaulted – repeatedly – our reporter, Eyo Charles in the course of doing his job. The encounter occurred in Calabar, Cross River State, in the morning of Thursday 20, August 2020 at a hotel, during a roundtable with invited journalists.

The statement signed by its Executive Director and Editor in Chief, Mr Naziru Mikailu Abubakar, explained that, “During the roundtable, Charles asked Fani-Kayode who was bankrolling his recent trips around Nigeria, to which the ex-Minister responded with a raised voice, insults, and eventually a threat to inflict bodily harm on our reporter. The barrage continued for some minutes, while bewildered journalists, including our reporter, looked on.

We Stand by Charles

“The video clip, also released on one of the ex-Minister’s social media accounts, was conveniently edited to exclude the question asked by Charles, totally devoid of mischief, simply sought clarification and information, like good journalism should. Said editing paved the way for a social media lynch mob to rain expletives on our reporter, labelling him as ‘rude’. This could not be further away from the truth, and we stand by Charles, and commend him for his calmness during the ordeal.

Daily Trust reporters are responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices.

“That Fani-Kayode attacks a reporter doing his job, is an indication of the chilling disregard he has towards the media, and its work in investigating and reporting on issues. As always, we stand in solidarity with our reporters, and will continue to fight for the rights of all journalists. After all, journalism is part of the bedrock of democracy; therefore practitioners must not be intimidated or threatened as they carry out their work.

Setback for Press Freedom

“We urge the Nigeria Police to take note, that if anything happens to Charles, Daily Trust will hold Fani-Kayode responsible, especially due to the intensity of the verbal threats he issued during the shocking incident.

“The actions of Fani-Kayode are not only reprehensible, but also constitute a setback to press freedom, in a most dire form. This kind of assault raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in Nigeria.

“Daily Trust is a completely independent media organisation that does not pander to the whims of any individual or group, no matter how powerful or well-placed in society. We will continue to serve Nigerians – and indeed the world – with quality, reliable reportage, no matter whose ox is gored, the paper’s management said..

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