Femi Fani Kayode’s outburst is a reminder that Nigeria needs to respect its journalists

I don’t want to take questions from this man. I could see from your face before you got here how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Bankroll who? You have a small mind. Very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.”

Those were some of the last words directed, with rage and evident contempt, from the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, at a journalist at a recent press conference.

According to a report by Oriental Times, the press conference which held in Calabar, Cross River, had been organised after the former minister’s tour of some south-south and south-eastern states. And, the outburst happened after the said journalist, whose news outlet is yet to be disclosed, asked the PDP Chieftain if he was “being bankrolled by any politician or political group.”

While that question is as heavy and sensitive as any inquiry around corruption might get, especially when directed at a Nigerian politician, it is still within a logical frame, a question and not an allegation, so, an outburst seems rather unwarranted.

But, Fani-Kayode did not agree with the idea of the question. So, what followed were long minutes of the former Minister addressing the journalist and the question asked (when it should have just been the latter) with threats, bile, insults and utter disregard for the informed place this journalist must have been coming from.

What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man.

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. Bankroll what? Please don’t insult me here.

I don’t want to take any questions from this man.

As much as unnecessary goes, Fani-Kayode’s response only shows how force can be used – by people who can – in a country that continues to fail, jail, prosecute and obstruct the work journalists do.

In the past decade, Nigerian journalists have found themselves wading through dire political waters for simply doing their jobs. The journalist who Fani-Kayode ‘bared his mind’ on was simply doing his job and if Nigeria gave its journalists and the institution of the free press the kind of support, respect, and structural protection they deserve, it would be completely unseemly for the former to Minister to have spoken that way to the journalist. Simply put, the former Minister did that because he is well aware that when it comes to it, there is nobody to save the journalist.

Nigeria needs to change the narrative with journalists. Such responses or treatment should not hold ground in a democratic dispensation; where people are obligated to be accountable. Journalists deserve all the protection they can get in their bid to understand the truth and heat from the horse’s mouth.

Nobody should have to apologise for asking a simple question.

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