Ever since the promotion of the book “FCT Administration: The Rot Within!’ and the invitation for contributions from the general public for the last chapter of the book, coupled with the overwhelming response of contributors, the FCT administration has not rested nor had it relented in deploying many ‘strategies’ aimed at discrediting the yet to be published book, blackmailing the Publisher of DESERT HERALD and even using the security agencies to ‘prosecute’ the paper using concocted and phantom evidences that existed only in the wild imagination of the sponsors of the campaign against DESERT HERALD and its publisher, Mal. Tukur Mamu.
In view of the huge interest the upcoming book has generated nationwide since it was promoted, the sponsored media publications by the FCT, allegations and counter allegations and how the SSS was involved, this reporter has tried without success last week to interview Malam Tukur Mamu, Publisher of DESERT HERALD on the contending issues. The publisher declined the interview and insisted that there is no point responding to issues already sufficiently addressed in the book and which the public would at the end judge.
But when the executive members of the All Northern People’s Union and some selected journalists paid him a solidarity visit in his office last week Friday and confronted him with the questions and demanded an interview, Mamu said “I cannot turn down your request. Even though I have personal reasons why I initially declined, doing so now before you may send wrong signals. Please feel free to ask me any questions you want because I am sure before coming here many of you may have heard and read a lot on the internet”.
In this exclusive interview by reporters who covered the visit, Malam Tukur Mamu bares his mind about the controversial book,- when it would be out for the public, the intrigues in the book, threats to his life, blackmail and many more. Excerpts:
In view of the fact that we have several ministries in Nigeria, what actually motivated you to single out the Federal Capital Territory Administration under the incumbent minister, Senator Bala Muhammad?
I am indeed the author but DESERT HERALD is the publisher of the book. It is in line with our editorial policy and the direction of our paper. So it was a collective decision. Even if you are a good writer writing a book is all about information. Without credible and convincing information and facts you can’t succeed in writing the type of book we are currently working on.
If the perception is that DESERT HERALD hates the minister or anybody in the ministry or because we were not given land allocation that is why we embark on such project, you can’t succeed in writing even a 10 page book on the ministry and the stewardship of those in-charge if you don’t have the information and facts I stated earlier.
Writing a book of this nature is all about getting privileged or official information or facts others may not be privy to. The simple answer is that we are lucky to have the sufficient information needed to produce such a book on FCT and by the time it is ready for public consumption we will leave Nigeria’s to judge. That is why I am not so keen in granting the interview initially. Let them go ahead with all their propaganda work and let them allow us too to work and at the end of the day the Nigerian people will be the judges.
As journalists and one of the most credible and authoritative news medium in Nigeria, we have a duty to enlighten Nigerians about the activities of their leaders, we have a duty to expose corruption, abuse of office and bad governance at all levels and we have been doing so since our debut in 2005. We have received recognition and awards nationally and internationally. The records are there for critics to see and authenticate.
The EFCC, under Malam Nuhu Ribadu, can tell more about DESERT HERALD and its contributions. I can assure you that we will continue to search and at any time we have the volume of information we had on FCT involving any ministry or even the presidency we will embark on similar project. We have stated gathering facts on another very important government agency (not ministry) and the public will know as soon as we are through. This is the first time as far as I can recollect a book of this nature will be published and I want to assure Nigeria’s that they will not be disappointed.
But we have heard allegations from some officials of the FCT that you decided to publish the book because of your failure to secure land in the FCT. What is your reaction to that?
It is part of the cheap mischief they have been peddling ever since the book is promoted. As a Nigerian I am entitled to a land in the FCT. Our company too is also entitled and qualified by law but our book is far beyond the politics of land allocation in the FCT. If I truly want to blackmail Bala and get a land for myself I have several means and ways of reaching out to him to let him know or even see what I have. And I can assure you that Bala must buy it at whatever cost to stop it from reaching the general public.
But what we have is priceless and we made a promise not to ever disappoint our patriotic sources by way of compromising what we have. Whatever we intend to publish is for the good of the nation and will certainly be a reference point in future. Abuja is still so big with so many unallocated land, and despite the massive corruption in land allocation under Bala you will agree with me that if Tukur Mamu or DESERT HERALD did not get a piece of land now it will surely get in future under another minister.
There will be legal and moral justification to revoke some of the controversial and fraudulent allocation the current FCT administration awarded if we are opportune to have responsible government in future. Our book will greatly assist in that direction. We are not rushing to have a land in the FCT, we are not too ambitious like the likes of the billionaires in the FCT. (cuts in).
Why do you believe there are billionaires in the FCT? Where are they getting the money from?
Corruption proceeds, of course. The situation in the FCT is about the worst in the country. Our book will reveal that and we will then challenge them to take us to any court if they are truthful and not guilty. That is why I always laugh whenever they say DESERT HERALD wants to extort money from them or we want this and that. It is a classic case of a thief making loud noise that someone wants to steal the money he stole forgetting that he is the first criminal. I want to say without fear of contradiction that there are many billionaires in the FCT under Bala.
Some of those that made the billons under him have parted ways due to irreconcilable differences and greed. Bala is clearly not in control of the ministry. He is also a sick man. The scandals are too many under him that is why it’s very important to document few of them and present it to the public, as we are sure it will assist future leaders and guide them as well.
Is it true that one of your brothers is a senior official in the FCT?
Yes, Ibrahim Bomoi. He is the Director of Treasury in the FCT.
Then why embarking in writing on such a book?
It is about justice and fulfilling our obligation to the society. It is much more important than any relationship. Even if it is your son that decided to be extremely greedy and selfish, feeding fat at the expense of poor and impoverished Nigerians; stashing what he cannot spend for the rest of his life, it is madness and the best you can do to assist him is to do whatever you consider necessary to discourage him.
Our book on the FCT administration is part of it. Bomoi is among the FCT billionaires that featured prominently in the book with convincing facts and I don’t have any apologies whatsoever to anybody. All we want at the end of the day is for Allah to judge us and to vindicate us.
The media aide to the FCT Minister alleged that you solicited for money from him to stop the publication of the book and even provided the SSS telephone numbers and account numbers which were published online. Are you aware of that?
It is part of the unguided media propaganda against us. Going by their submission it is clear that those managing publicity for the minister are not only unprofessional but confused on how to confront the ‘threat’ against them. Nosike only wants to be clever by half and to manipulate the conscience of the SSS people. As a media aide to a minister he naturally deals with all manner of journalists and may be media executives.
Nosike probably forgot that when Jamila Tangaza was in charge of the FCT media and clearly because of our ability to deliver DESERT HERALD got publicity commercials of N3.9m from the FCT and that the payment was done directly to the same DESERT HERALD First Bank account he gave the press and the SSS to investigate. It was the same Nosike that called me after taking over from Jamila that he wants to give DESERT HERALD media publicity contract instead of the advertorial we once got from his predecessor, Hajia Tangaza.
We naturally bargained the price with him and at the end I told him to pay us N15m for one year media consultancy because we have done media publicity contract to many northern states and the least we charge is N15m. He accepted and we told him to effect the payment through the same account they paid for the publicity commercials during Hajia Tangaza. He said he has misplaced the account details and I directed my staff to forward it to him.
It is important to know that during all the discussions Nosike did not use my private numbers but dedicated office numbers (08036376131 & 08099138343) that are clearly printed on every edition of DESERT HERALD for customers and readers to contact. He has my private numbers. And I used to tell everybody that cares to listen including the governors that we don’t have enemy in the job we do and that patronizing us by way of giving us commercials will not give you immunity from publishing what we strongly believe is in the interest of the common man or the good of the society.
May be Nosike and his brothers at the FCT believe that they can blackmail DESERT HERALD or myself through the mischievous ‘offer’ of media consultancy work or stop us from doing what we believe is good for the society. It was stupid of him to assume that our discussion and correspondence which was mainly on media related commercials and which was on record can be used to blackmail us before the SSS or the Nigerian Press Council.
It is not only enough to provide telephone numbers that are before now on the pages of our paper and account number that was once used by your ministry which also appears frequently in our dedicated advert rate page with a text message which the content does not in any way confirm his claim to probe to the SSS or the Press Council the phantom allegation of extortion against us. That is stupidity and naivety. At first the confuse Nosike told his Igbo brother, the Abuja NUJ Chapel Chairman, Chuks, that we demanded N50m and now he reduced it to N15m because he is desperate to mischievously relate our conversation on the media consultancy contract to the false claim of extortion.
So which one do we believe? Is it the initial claim of demanding N50m or the latest claim of N15m? I don’t know why some people don’t have shame at all. If it is the minister dictating to the media aide what to do because he is an imbecile, the media aide should guide him professionally so as not to ridicule his boss the manner he is doing. It is unfortunate that the online news medium they contracted did a very embarrassing and highly unprofessional PR job for them.
We were told that the matter was referred to the SSS and the Nigeria Press Council. Why have you not been arrested?
As you can see I am not arrested but I’ve expecting it since last week because Nigeria is a very funny country. You know that if it was General Muhammadu Buhari, a former Head of State that made the statement credited to Asari Dukobo recently he would have been arrested but since he is close to the powers that be and probably speaking their minds nothing happens despite threatening and challenging the SSS and other security agents to arrest him.
So we are waiting to see what the SSS will do. If the SSS will do their bidding I am sure that the Press Council consists of professionals and they will be objective. Their conclusion as a professional body will be based on convincing facts and I am sure they will not be manipulated to rush the embarrassing manner Chuks of the Abuja NUJ did. I am also very sure that the Nigeria Press Council knows their job very well. They will not stop the release of a book they are yet to know its content. So the earlier the FCT people accept the bitter fact that it is not possible to stop the publication of the book, the better.
So when are you going to present the book to the public?
As you can see we just finished one of the series of meetings we are doing regarding the best way to go about it. We have now succeeded in publicizing the book and the response from imminent Nigerians is overwhelming and encouraging. Among the many people that contributed in the last chapter is a onetime FCT minister, a former anti-corruption boss, elites and all with very useful comments and information. The idea to allow people to contribute is one of the success stories of the book and will no doubt give it an added credibility.
The date line for collecting contributions for the last chapter of the book as we stated in our promo is 17th June, 2013. As soon as that is done and collated we will formally address a press conference on the release of the book and how the public will get it. At the end of the day the pages of the book will be increased to accommodate most of the important responses. The responses are not negative as the FCT officials see it. To us they are very constructive responses, comments and contributions that can stand the test of time.
We are not rushing because we have done most of the difficult work before deciding to publicize it knowing fully well how they will react to it. So I can assure you that as soon as we finish collecting contributions we will address the public. Certainly we will hasten the release of the book as one of the options of containing their excesses. I am sure we are thinking ahead of them because we don’t have the blood of the ordinary people in us and we have not accumulated what we don’t need in our lives.
One of the publications said you have four wives despite the fact that you are in your early forties (cuts in)
They didn’t even know. I am just 39 now by October 15 this year I will be forty. So I am not even 40. Yes I have four wives and a proud father of nine children. Nosike is a Christian, he is ignorant about the religion of Islam. My religion allows me to have maximum of four wives and believe me if the same religion I am very proud of allows more than that I will go ahead and have if I have the means.
It is better than having only one wife and flirting around perpetrating all manner of fornication. A true Muslim is always expected to leave within his means. I am happy that I have a very legitimate job and I don’t steal from any treasury.
Your critics always say that you are not a professional journalist and they also (cuts in)
Ironically, most of them have not achieved what I have achieved in journalism. My records are very clear they can go and verify. I have one of the most outstanding records in NEPA now PHCN. I voluntarily resigned in 2003 to join politics and eventually left politics after only one year and established a media house. Most of the so called journalists I can assure you cannot run and manage a newspaper house for one year but I did it successfully for 8 years now with tremendous success.
During the period and in an attempt to prove critics wrong I obtained a degree in mass communication which most of them don’t have. My result was good and I secured admission into Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I studied Masters Degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy at the Department of Political Science. The records are there for all to see, verify and authenticate.
I was also among the few Nigerian journalists that received in 2009 the prestigious United States Congressional Recognition and the first Nigerian journalist/publisher appointed as the Senior African Consultant on Media by the Protection Rights of Journalists of Africa (PRJA) where I was invited to Cape Town in South Africa for the offer. DESERT HERALD under my leadership is among the few media organisations in Nigeria that worked closely with the EFCC under Malam Nuhu Ribadu all in our effort to contribute in the fight against corruption.
It is also among the few papers in the entire history of Nigeria that survive with virtually no government patronage compared to others. So I challenge my other colleagues who mostly make success out of government officials through appointments and other forms of gratification to bring out their CVs as private practicing journalists for scrutiny.
So what will be you parting words?
DESERT HERALD is not and will never be an enemy to anybody. We should be considered as partners in building a virile and corrupt free society where your hard work and dedication should earn you a living but not through corruption and insensitivity.
Bala Muhammad is my elder brother and he was once recognized by DESERT HERALD but now that emerging facts have called his stewardship in the FCT to question he should be patient and allow us to do our work and if at the end of the day he or others at the FCT are not satisfied with what we will present to the public they have the right to take further action in a court of law. There is no shortcut about it.
Using the SSS, Police or whatever against us and blackmailing us unjustly will never be the solution because the DESERT HERALD family will never succumb to threats, intimidation and blackmail. There is indeed serious threat to my life by agents of Bala but it is only Allah that takes life at the appointed time. So FCT’s minister’s hired writers should be patient and stop baseless ranting. I’m sure the ink in their compromised pen will dry by the time they go through the content of the book.