by Olabisi Afonja
A new brand of journalists now parades the media landscape. They are the ones who have exchanged good journalism for quackery and hatchet jobs. They pose as journalists while getting paid huge sums for public relations for their clients. Shaka Momodu of ThisDay newspaper fits this mode of predators and character assassination.
His unrelenting attacks on Asiwaju cross the boundaries of decency and ethical journalism. His most recent piece, is The Change We need, should have been titled: The Journalists we dont Need. Shaka’s piece is fit for the trash can where it belongs. Shaka himself is fit for the dregs.
A most worrisome aspect of the on-going campaigns prelude to the general elections slated for March 28 and April 11, 2015 is the drastic depreciation of the core values and statutory mandate of Nigeria is mass media as the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
Ordinarily, it is expected to enlighten, educate and bridge the gap between the electorate and the candidates on their parties manifestos as envisioned for the country after May 29.
The media is other duty is to inform the public on the voting process, their civic responsibilities and the demands on them by the electoral body is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Even while carrying out its sensitive duty as advocates of good governance, the press is expected to be apolitical and neutral is to effectively expand the frontiers of democracy.
Unfortunately, however, some of its practitioners have elected, albeit, for self-serving reasons, to take sides by flaring the flames of discord in the campaigns of calumny between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition party, the All Progressives Party (APC).
In so doing, they stand logic on its head, mudsling and cast aspersions on well-meaning Nigerians; whose driving passion is to see the country reclaim her pride of place in the comity of nations. Shaka’s diatribe, published on the back page of ThisDay on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, is one of such.
Taking off tangentially on the premise of concern for ridding the country of crass corruption in high places, and specifically in Lagos, Momoh had this to say: I have been heart-broken, shattered, devastated and depressed (talk about tautology) about the sheer scale of abuses, mismanagement and careless disregard for the public interest that Tinubu and (Lagos State Governor Babatunde) Fashola are accused of.
Which term has he employed in conveying his so-called disgust? Accused and what was he supposed to have done as a columnist before getting his words in print? Investigate the veracity of the litany of allegations by having a chat with the accused and getting their own side of the story. That indeed, would have added a lot of weight, veracity and objectivity to his highly opinionated essay. But he refused to do so.
Instead, he is quick off-the-mark to amplify the content of the allegations and presumptuous to draw obscene and hasty conclusions.
He said: It is difficult for one to understand the voracious appetite of some people, who it is alleged have shared our common patrimony amongst themselves. What should have bothered the PDP man the more was to ask why Tinubu, who has been out of political office for upward of eight years as governor, is suddenly being accused of sundry crimes of misappropriation of public funds. This is curious and throws up the burning questions.
For instance, why have the anti-graft agencies-the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) been unable to investigate such allegations; call Tinubu to question, and if found guilty, get him prosecuted? Were the allegations true?
Why have the good people of Lagos State, well known for their political sophistication and inquisitiveness kept silent, even till this moment? Is something fundamentally faulty with the agencies in question; for not living up to public expectations, or the allegations are simply fishy. But methinks, the latter rings a deafening sound of political mischief, carried out by none other than the mis-ruling PDP.
That political party, which has been in power for upward of 16 years with little or nothing to show for its existence in terms of infrastructural and human capacity development, elevation of quality education, primary healthcare delivery and job creation has suddenly become uncomfortable with the rising profile of the National Leader of the opposition APC because of his courage, clout and charisma in being the catalyst for the impending change. So, who is afraid of Tinubu? That should be a topical essay for Momoh.
It should be patently obvious that the PDP is afraid of Tinubu for that singular milestone midwifing of the opposition parties (defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha into a formidable force against the PDP behemoth. This deft political move has left not a few politicians in the PDP fold sleepless.
From the Alliance for Democracy (AD) through the Action Congress (AC) to the ACN (all seen as Southwest regional parties) and currently the pan-Nigeria, APC, how did he achieve the feat? This, more than anything else, has sent jitters down PDP’s spine and all they could think about is the pull-him-down syndrome.
It sounds curious that the PDP is only waking up now to question the source of Tinubu’s wealth. It is on record that he was at a time the Treasurer of a multi-national company, Mobil Oil, Nigeria.
In fact, it was out of his passion for the country and the clamour for the return of democracy that he became one of the major sponsors of the activities of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). It was that same love for the country that made him to say an emphatic to the military dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha, the late military Head of State, who wanted him appointed as the Minister of Finance. Is it not a matter of surprise that nobody raised an eyebrow even before he became a state governor?
The truth must be told. The allegations are a bundle of fallacies and fabrications of some power-hungry, sit-tight politicians, who are out to blackmail Tinubu for counting himself out of the political aberration called Interim National Government (ING). His traducers have attempted to soil his name by dragging him to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), allegedly for owning foreign bank accounts while in office as the governor of Lagos State. But they failed. So, will this new set of spurious, unsubstantiated claims of him amassing choice properties all over Lagos and beyond.
It should not therefore be any surprise to Momoh that: the allegations are not weighty enough to rouse the outrage of the people into the streets to demand for answers. Ditto for the silence of our self-appointed custodians of morality such as Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Wole Soyinka and Prof Itse Sagay, SAN, (who are clever enough to distinguish between mere allegations and proven crimes) as mentioned by the writer, who by the way, has some questions to answer.
Now in the court of public opinion, is it not true that you, Shaka Momoh is a member of the Strategic Committee of the PDP along with Jide Ajani (Editor, Vanguard on Sunday), Abraham Ogbodo (Editor, The Guardian on Sunday) all hands-in-glove with the PDP’s fair-weather friend, Femi Fani-Kayode and of course Olisa Metuh? All of you do meet regularly in Abuja to strategise on how to undermine the integrity of stalwarts of the APC, don’t you?
Were you not sponsored to vent your vituperations against the party all because the PDP fears it would lose the forthcoming general elections in a broom-sweeping change? Were you not paid, and handsomely too, to run this deliberate falsehood to hoodwink the public that: the architects of change have been caught in a scorching irony of hypocrisy? May your conscience be the judge, if only you listen to it carefully.
Yet, there is another important question. Will the fear of Tinubu become the wisdom of the PDP? Not likely, as events unfold. In its desperation for the annoying continuity of transformation, ˜it was first the Buhari certificate saga and then his health status. After all that, came the spate of hate speeches, the call for the removal of INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega and now a mischievous device to paint Africa’s political colossus in uncomplimentary colours. But they do not know him well enough.
For the much-confused PDP, let it be known that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a political strategist of no mean stature. His towering political stature may belie his lean frame, but it sends some shock waves across all the undemocratic forces.
Mention his name, not only in Nigeria but the world over, and the image that comes to mind is that of an indefatigable defender of the doctrines of democracy; passionately propelled by the principles of equity; fairness and justice all in the search for the common good. For that, he has made a lot of sacrifice of energy, time, resources and even his cherished freedom.
He was there during the dare-devil days of military dictatorship and exhibited that uncommon courage to stand on the side of his people when it mattered most. And he is still here now witnessing that same democracy he fought tooth and nail for, currently in the throes of annihilation.
Nigeria is being besotted by storms of political ineptitude, cluelessness, crass corruption riding on the wave crests of opportunism and he is saying to it all. Only a patriot would do that.
Yet, he is being misconstrued as a self-serving politician. But nothing could be further from the truth. For the records, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is for now Nigeria is most enduring top political brand. He occupies a pride of place in the hearts of his teeming admirers and of course, Nigeria is effervescent political space because of his past patriotic efforts.
Love to hate his pervasive persona, or hate to love his expanding political influence, you cannot take away the long-held concepts of democracy etched deeply in the principles he stands for.
Members of the PDP are well admonished therefore, to channel their energy to the more worthy goal of winning the next elections, as the baton of political power is gradually slipping off their greasy palms. Or, they should head to the court of law to prove their spurious allegations, if they have any evidence to back them. That is the best way to go. Meanwhile, Momoh should go back and tell his sponsors that they have failed again!