By TUKUR MAMU
I am sure that those who made the NUJ leadership to compromise its professional ethics and conscience at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and their few sympathizers are disappointed like myself with the outcome of their so called report against me. Initially the paymasters of the NUJ leadership at the FCT were deceived to believe that the NUJ has the powers to ban Desert Herald Newspaper. Similarly, they also thought that the NUJ had the powers of preventing newspaper distributors, vendors or from journalists working for Desert Herald.
The shameful and self indicting report they finally presented after weeks of intrigues and internal politics has exposed the extent they (leaders of the NUJ) can go, despite the gross violation of their own constitution to satisfy the interest and desire of the person that bankrolled the mischievous activity of the ‘committee’. For the record, it is important to reiterate my respect to those members of the NUJ nationwide that chose to be independent of government’s manipulation in their practice and conduct; members that preferred honour to anything they can get from those that are looting their own treasury dry and members or leaders of the Union that are not using their privileged positions to pursue ambition and subject the Union to disrepute such as the one the current NUJ leadership is enmeshed in under Garba Balogun.
The predictable outcome of their wishy-washy report with its obvious contradictions makes it clear to the reader at the end of this response that the current leadership of the NUJ under Mr Garba Bolugun is the worst generation of ‘leaders’ the NUJ has ever had.
Why the NUJ under Balogun took up the fight against Desert Herald and me:
It is a well known fact that ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau is not only Garba Balogun’s mentor but one that bankrolled his premature emergence from a state owned print medium to the president of the NUJ. He has no idea about the workings of a newspaper, the difficulties and challenges of its management particularly private owned. Acquiring experience only in a government owned newspaper or other related media where there is restriction and no independence to practice is capable of making any future leader that emerged from such outfit to cultivate the culture of dictatorship, unprofessionalism in practice and conduct and the desire to always do the bidding of the highest bidder and those in government. That is the NUJ of today under Balogun.
Our crisis with him in DH started in 2007 when we extensively covered the assassination of late Sheikh Jafar Adam and provided reasons and instances why the then Governor Shekarau (Balogun’s boss) must be held culpable, and several other investigative reports by DH on the alarming corruption and non-performance in Kano under Shekarau. On several occasions Balogun had pleaded with me to soft paddle on account of his relationship with Shekarau but in each occasion I was gently blunt. I told him that in DH we don’t compromise on issues of public interest and that the atrocities of the then government, considering the fact that we used to have privileged information, will be irresponsible for any responsible media outfit to ignore for whatever cost. When his selfish intervention failed it was at his instance and advice that Shekarau got me arrested by the police and I was taken to the Force CID in Abuja. After Shekarau’s exit Balogun wanted DH to engage the new government under Governor Kwankwas, in the same manner DH did under his boss (Shekarau). I told him journalism is about privilege to credible information and no matter how you want to report something you will be in trouble if you don’t have your facts right. I said the two governments (Shekarau and Kwankwaso) are different in view of their performance or otherwise and if we in DH did not encourage Kwankwaso for what he has been doing today in Kano and the sanity he brought out of Shekarau’s hopeless and corrupt government, we must not be a party to bringing such leaders down because encouraging responsible leadership at all levels has been our guiding principle in DH. I told him that if Kwankwaso were to follow Shekarau’s path of mismanagement he doesn’t have to lobby me to engage the government because Kano and whatever happens as far as governance is concerned should be of interest to every northerner.
So when Sen. Bala approached Balogun’s NUJ with his ‘dossier’ on me and even made mouth-watering pledges, should the NUJ accept his request of dealing with DH, he met a willing leadership in Balogun who wants to contest for the House of Representatives in Kano because he needs a reliable ally to bankroll him in 2015, now that Shekarau is no longer in government. NUJ members nationwide must demand for credible representation and must make their leaders account for their stewardship. At a time they don’t even have a decent office in Abuja they should ask where their leader got the money he acquired to build an edifice in Abuja and a mansion in Kano. Interestingly, the newly added second to the last chapter of our book – FCT: The Rot Within titled, “NUJ: Politics & Corruption” explains the travails, official intrigues and onslaught we went through in the course of producing the book and the massive corruption and politics in the NUJ and how Balogun and four NUJ officials were compensated in the DH/FCTA saga.
X-Raying Nuj’s Report And Its Many Contradiction
In concluding that I am guilty of all the alleged offenses presented to it by the MFCT, the NUJ without providing any proof in its report lied that they agreed to all the initial conditions I gave before appearing thereby giving the false impression that despite accepting my legitimate conditions I decided not to appear because according to their fabrication I cannot defend myself. It is important to emphasize for the record that there is no where in NUJ’s record where I ever registered as their member therefore it is not mandatory for me to appear before any committee constituted by it, but I accepted to attend in order to expose certain issues and to clarify deliberate distortions of facts by the petitioner if certain fundamentals of due process and rule of law will be allowed by them. If accepted by them, they know that it will block all possibilities of compromise and will ensure fairness to all parties. All the conditions I gave them which were published in print and online and which were duly communicated to them officially via DHL were not entertained in anyway and no answer was given as at today. In fact there is no letter from the NUJ acknowledging even the receipt of my first and second letters not to talk of the false claim of accepting my conditions. In a report such as the one they presented; and if they are indeed clever they need to convince the public and the reader beyond all reasonable doubt that they indeed did all they fabricated to have done with supporting evidence. A seven page report is grossly inadequate for a full and final report of a committee considering the mandate and scope it was given to cover. It shows that the committee members too, if they are not deliberately attempting to mislead the public, they certainly didn’t know how a committee of this nature works and the elaborate and full report expected from it at the end of its assignment. They should refer themselves to reports of similar committees in governments, agencies and even NGOs so as not to continue to embarrass themselves in future.
The committee members are people claiming to be leaders and learned in the journalism profession in Nigeria. What a poor country! How can a serious ‘committee’, a committee that promises to be fair to all claim to have responded to the letter I sent officially via DHL which even in their own report they have acknowledged receipt of it chose to reply me via a purported telephone call? It shows that they don’t even know what they are doing by claiming to have replied a duly sent official letter through phone call. What an indictment! Why didn’t they insist if truly they have agreed to all the conditions in my first letter as they claimed for the petitioner, who is the FCT minister, to appear in person and defend his petition before the committee? Why did the Kangaroo committee insist and conduct a separate hearing for them if the mischievous claim of accepting my conditions were true and refused to invite me to Abuja to ask certain fundamental questions to both Jamila Tangaza, Ibrahim Bomoi and Nosike which are my rights? The story of how Jamila came to the FCTA, her many shameful excesses, how she became a major conduit pipe in the FCT administration and how and why she was controversially rewarded with the AGIS job against all odds is a subject of its own under Bala’s inept stewardship in the FCTA.
Interestingly, the National Assembly too is convinced that there are indeed many rots in the FCTA under Bala’s watch when it recently constituted a committee to look into controversies and scandals of land allocation under the current minister who has silently caused more harm than good to the interest of the north than any minister in history. For any responsible judge or committee member(s) to come to the conclusion that the fabricated document and audio Nosike and co ‘craftily’ developed through their contacts in Lagos are accepted as exhibits and evidence of fraud, the three of them must be cross examined by the accused or his lawyers for the committee to determine the authenticity, credibility or otherwise of what they presented, but these basic rules are not of interest to Balogun’s committee. The sitting they organised separately for me in Kaduna and pleaded desperately with me to attend because they have a hidden agenda will deny me all those rights because the three FCT officials including my corrupt brother, Ibrahim Bomoi, that ‘testified’ in Abuja were not invited to Kaduna for me to ask them questions regarding what they told the committee in Abuja. And the issue I later raised regarding giving an accused a minimum of 21 days with all the facts and claims of the case to study for appropriate response/defense is a fundamental right and a provision in their own constitution which the NUJ deliberately and desperately violated and we insisted that it must be applied with other conditions before I appear.
On the claim that the NUJ ‘committee’ accepted our request to invite foreign professional bodies to attend all the sittings of the committee and to allow television coverage, we challenge the leadership of the NUJ to prove to the world their sincerity by producing an acknowledgment copy of the purported approval letter they gave us to that effect. I have painstakingly contacted all the relevant bodies including Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Boarders, Protection Rights of Journalists of Africa etc and they all confirmed that the NUJ committee did not contact them on the claimed approval. And as at today and even though I offered to voluntarily appear before their committee no copy of the said petition and the audio CD from the MFCT was sent as a matter of right to me to prepare myself to answer any question. As a ‘wise’ body and if they indeed want to convince the people, the NUJ should attach the evidence by way of even publishing (since their sponsors can afford to pay for any number of pages in papers) the acknowledgment copy of the purported petition they claimed to have given me as evidence of our receiving their letter.
Part of the ‘evidences’ the NUJ ‘committee’ used and concluded that I am a blackmailer is that I insisted in having Nosike’s fabricated recorded transcript of my supposed conversation with him before appearing before the committee which by their (NUJ’s) own submission I don’t have the right to have, even though they expect me to answer questions based on the distorted audio conversation they concluded is an overwhelming evidence to finally conclude that I indeed requested for money solely “to settle other interests that contributed in the book”. The nagging question is that since the purported audio transcript is the most vital ‘evidence’ the petitioner has against me, is it possible to face the committee to answer questions regarding contents of that same audio CD without giving me a copy prior to the sitting of the ‘committee’ to study and prepare my possible defense? The fact that it is clear even from the content of their one-sided report that up to the time they came to Kaduna in desperate anticipation to have my audience in order to complete their hatchet job, I did not get a copy of the said CD, is an obvious indictment of their claim of accepting my conditions. And despite the mischievous claim of accepting my conditions before appearing which are all issues of law and human rights in their so called report, membership of the committee remains only three which has gone contrary and a gross violation of their own constitution which requires a minimum of five members for such committees. And notwithstanding, accepting my observations, two out of the three members that did the rubber stamp job by adopting what the petitioner wants in their final report are currently staff of government agencies. I have recorded my full conversation with Akin Orimolade as evidence of the lies I know they will fabricate to justify their shameful and embarrassing conduct. There is no where in that entire conversation that I agreed to meet with their committee if the conditions I gave are not officially addressed. I challenge them to produce for public consumption if they have anything contrary.
If the NUJ leadership is not bent in doing a hatchet job, why did they insist on only three committee members contrary to the provisions of their own constitution? In today’s NUJ only Garba Balogun and Sha’ibu Leman run and manipulate its affairs without being accountable to anybody. In the entire history of the NUJ only Garba Balogun’s leadership ignores its duties to members in preference to politicians at executive authority that can line his coat. This is a so called leader that fraudulently and shamelessly introduced NUJ Governor of the year award with the soul aim of giving ex-governor Danjuma Goje award using criteria only known to him. He got N20m for that singular decision. Meanwhile, Balogun’s NUJ never thought it appropriate to even once organise similar ceremony to honour outstanding members of the union nationwide that continued to sacrifice their blood for the good of the nation. And I stand to be corrected that no professional union like the NUJ in the entire world that makes it a policy to honour politicians and other non-members no matter how they excel in their chosen profession, except the NUJ under Garba Balogun.
In fact, it is the standard policy of recognised professional unions across the world like Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), PRJA, Reporters Without Boarder etc not to recognise the achievement of anybody except those within the journalism profession and in active service. Garba Balogun should verify that. He is the only NUJ leader in the nation’s history that goes around Government Houses and became the unofficial Personal Assistant to the nation’s Information Minister all in a desperate ambition to gather money to contest for the House of Representative in 2015. It has now been confirmed that Garba Balogun is not even an indigene of Kano. Also, in the embarrassing report of the committee it concluded and established the claim by Bala Muhammad that I am a blackmailer based on the submission of one Hon. Sidi Siraka that he (Sidi) knows of three governors and two ex-ministers I extorted money from even though he could not bring them to confirm his claim or to even mention their names, the committee out of nothing to write in their report agreed to Sidi’s claim because he was a ‘veteran journalist’. We all know Hon. Sidi’s criminal tendencies and how his desire for money through what nearly consumed the CPC. As a so called journalist and a failed politician that now resorted to sycophancy and boot liking as a means of survival, he wants the minister to consider him for the jamboree that was budgeted against me.
On the issue of whether I am a journalist or not the ‘committee’ and indeed the NUJ leadership tried desperately to distort a well documented fact. It is not for the NUJ under the law to determine whether I am a journalist or not. It is there on record and online that in all the interviews I granted there is no where I specifically said I am a journalist to warrant their mischievous distortion. What I said which is on record is that I am not a reporter or a correspondent and that as a publisher, a practicing journalist and winner of the United States Congressional Recognition Award, I am an employer of some of the members of the NUJ and that I require no approval from the NUJ as a voluntary union to practice. Our myopic colleagues in the media should know that journalists (including publishers) in Nigeria and from all parts of the world practice even as freelancers if they wish not to belong to associations such as NUJ, NGE, NPAN etc. But here in Nigeria due to very limited knowledge and low research of the workings of the journalism profession, if you say you don’t belong to NUJ, NGE, NPAN etc they feel you should be crucified, rejected and forced to stop the practice. The NUJ president himself or their sponsors at the FCTA that align with the journalism profession even though by their consistent blunders they prove to have very limited knowledge of the profession did not possess the credentials I got within only eight years of practice as a journalist. Within the last eight years I received the US Congressional Award due to what he, Bala Muhammad, himself confessed in 2010, during the DH merit award night that we in DH have carved a niche for ourselves as the most authoritative, factual and investigative paper. I was also duly appointed by the Protection Rights of Journalists of Africa (PRJA) as its African Consultant on Media on a salary. I acquired a degree in Mass Communication and Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy, all this have been confirmed secretly by our detractors.
What the NUJ committee and their sponsors at the FCTA want to achieve when they published in their report that I said I am not a journalist is for my international colleagues at CPJ, Reporters Without Boarders, PRJA, World Association of Publishers etc, that hold me in high esteem to disown me, not knowing that at the time they were releasing their self-indicting report, I was in Germany attending a crucial meeting of the organisation. Certainly no amount of propaganda locally against me can make any impact on my international contact and the respect I enjoy, because they are very rational and highly principled people and they comprehend the politics and corruption in the Nigeria media industry.
Lastly, on the main issue of allegation of attempt to extort N15m from the petitioner, it is clear that the ‘committee’ compromised and deliberately ignored basic ingredients that most be followed and adopted to establish culpability on alleged offense. Evidence(s) they suppose to give in the report they published specifically on this subject matter must convince Nigerians and our foreign colleagues beyond all reasonable doubt that I am indeed found guilty as claimed in the petition but they went short of proving that and even made nonsense of themselves. Why did they in trying to prove my guilt in their concocted report decide to publish only part of the purported text message that make an inclusive statement “make it 15″ without publishing other details of the said sms if any, to complete the message? As it is, “make it 15″ can be interpreted in so many ways depending on how somebody wants to manipulate it to suit the message he wants to convey. They also published as part of the ‘big evidence’ that pronounced me guilty one of the DH account numbers which they claimed I sent to Nosike for the purpose of paying compensation for our yet to be released book and ignored the fact that it was the same account they used in paying us money for publicity commercials. And most importantly in the entire report of the committee they deliberately failed to publish the text of the most vital part of their ‘evidence’ against me which is the content of the recorded transcript of the purported conversation where they claimed I specifically demanded for N15m for the purpose of settling other interests that contributed in the book for the world to see and appreciate their ‘sincerity’ and for readers to also judge for themselves what actually transpired between me and Nosike on phone. The content of the so called recorded transcript which can be converted to writing and publishing same in their final report is the ONLY and most important document that can determine whether I actually attempted to extort N15m primarily for the said book but yet it beats rational imagination of our international colleagues and Nigerians why Garba Balogun’s committee and indeed their sponsors didn’t want to make such important ‘evidence’ public to justify their claim.
It is laughable that not even part of the ‘star exhibit’ (content of the recorded transcript) which the NUJ relied on to pronounce my guilt in this lingering imbroglio was directly quoted and presented in the final report of the ‘committee’ as they opted to merely mention it to justify their fraud. The public is not as naive as the sponsors to expect an outright endorsement of this carefully but nonsensically scripted mischief. No wonder none of the online news media accepted to carry it. That is why they are not comfortable going to court. That is why they failed to give me the so called recorded transcript because unfortunately for them Nosike couldn’t finish the job of nailing me for them. At the end of the melodrama I really didn’t know what Bala Muhammad, Ibrahim Bomoi and the NUJ achieved, considering the stress and the millions they have spent so far: Is it disbanding DESERT HERALD NUJ chapel that has never benefited my staff? Is it a disclaimer that will never make impact or work against me? Is it putting my name or that of DH in a so called NUJ black book that will only compound the NUJ’s credibility crisis and of no effect to us? Or has the NUJ succeeded in silencing me at last? Have they succeeded in stopping DH from publishing? Would their self indicting report and all the funny actions stop the release of FCT: The Rot Within? I am happy that our case has exposed the limitations of the NUJ and this will finally bring independence to many exploited colleagues that hitherto believe the NUJ leadership has almighty powers on issues affecting the profession in Nigeria.
The NUJ under Mohammed Garba Balogun is a union of extortion, blackmail and has been commercialized openly to politicians and those in executive authority to exploit at the detriment of blind membership. We are patiently waiting for Sen. Bala Muhammad to resign as he wants to and declare for any elective position.
CC: National Security Adviser (NSA)
Director General State Security Service (SSS)
Nigerian Press Council (NPC)
Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN)
Nigeria Guild of Editors
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Sadau Garba and Company, Kaduna
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York
Reporters without Border, Paris
Protection Rights of Journalists of Africa (PRJA), Cape Town, South Africa
Human Rights for Journalists, Canada
The Ethical Journalism Initiative, Brussels, Belgium
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Germany
International Federation of Journalism, Brussels, Belgium
All Media Houses in Nigeria