By Ahmad Sani Ibrahim
It is surprising that media practitioners who are supposed to be neutral in matters of public interests are allowing themselves to be used by self centred individuals to settle scores. This ugly trend not only contravenes the ethics of the profession, but also threatens our democratic ideals.
My observation is informed by one of such instances of media practitioner’s flagrant distortion of facts in an attempt to protect a professional colleague, who it appears, is struggling to evade justice from an alleged professional misconduct.
I read a piece title: “Re: Saving Jaafar Jaafar from Gov Ganduje’s SLAPP”, which appeared in Solacebase, an online publication that has also been notorious for the publication of all kinds of trash in variance with professional tenets, including, of course, from people like Jafar Jafar, even if it means defaming the character of innocent citizens.
The article was pen down by one Godwin Onyeacholem, who identified himself as coordinator of a whistleblowing project, Corruption Anonymous, at the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), which has no location.
The author, who seems to be ignorant of what the whole matter is all about, was singing a song on governance for a thriving democracy and freedom in Nigeria. It is however, clear to the world that the author wrote the piece based on mere hearsay, in his attempt to shield publisher of the viral, but the yet to be authenticated video clips of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state from being prosecuted for his unprofessional conduct.
As a journalist who has conducted many investigative stories, and as an indigene of Kano state, who is conversant with its politics, I understand that the world has come to know that the motive behind the publication of the video by Jafar Jafar, publisher of Daily Nigerian, was a mischief in favour of his paymasters within the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kano state.
That was why it has not come as a surprise to any discernable minds that the real reason behind the emergence of the said video was to bring the name of Governor Ganduje to disrepute ahead the 2019 general elections. If I should educate the writer, let me inform him that despite been a working journalist, Jafar is a member of the PDP and belongs to the Kwankwasiyya faction of the same party; even as he served as media aide to the chieftain of the faction and former governor of Kano state, Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso.
In fact, when Jafar arrived Malam Aminu Kano International Airport to appear before the Kano state House of Assembly Investigation Panel on the matter, he wore the red cap identified with that PDP camp. Not only that, he appeared in many gatherings, both public and private wearing the same.
It is very unfortunate that the same Jafar had dragged the names of descent citizens in the mud. He was on the dethroned Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II. In fact, Senator Ibrahim Danbaba, currently the Senate Whip, had to seek the intervention of the Senate over alleged character assassination by the publisher of Daily Nigerian.
I could remember when Citizens’ Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), an NGO, made an analysis of the video in its report titled: “Insight into Ganduje’s $5million bribe and Jafar’s culpability in corruption,” it cited “political motive” as one of the reasons for the release of the video, and therefore, questions the integrity of Jaafar Jaafar and his motive.
It said that the reasons for such suspicion against him is the fact that Jaafar Jaafar happens to be the first person that made effort to interfere when CATBAN published the content of a petition against the chairman of Hajj Commission, whom he referred to in the report as his boss, the same report he never looked into and even begged CATBAN to remove the post on Facebook.
At a point, Jaafar Jaafar is reported to have challenged head of the NGO, IG Wala openly on why he made the post against his boss. It was the same reason why CATBAN had to launch an investigation on Jaafar Jaafar and Daily Nigerian in relations to the media attack on the Emir of Kano, the result of which findings it says is for another day.
Later, it was discovered that the publisher of Daily Nigerian and few other journalists who were part of the 43 journalists that have been attending Hajj for free and enjoying freebies from Hajj Commission never published anything against the chairman of Hajj Commission and the alleged corruption going on in the operations of Hajj for years.
One is surprised by the writer’s thinking is as if Ganduje has no right to protect and was all out to still portray to the world that what Jafar Jafar did was right. If the writer felt that Jafar Jafar needs lawyers to defend him in this case, so also Ganduje. Even suspects involved in murder cases or other capital offences have rights to lawyers, talk less of a person who is being accused of wrongdoing in video clips.
This is so because the publisher, who used the free passage of all garbage offered by the handy social media to circulate the clips, confessed before the House Panel that he did not care to contact Governor Ganduje on the issue before going ahead to publish the unauthenticated video—an action that is outrightly against the codes and ethics of journalism.
The writer didn’t know that even before the panel, Jafar Jafar could not help himself. Because he was asked whether he was the person that recorded the video or he was there when the recording was going or, he witnessed any of the actions contained in the video. He unambiguously answered in the negative and added that the video clips were given to him by a whistle blower. How can a reasonable and trustworthy person take oath over hearsay evidence? This shakes the credibility of the publisher.
If the author cares to know, as a journalist, an investigative one for that matter, Jafar should at least be guided by demand for balancing and fair hearing and also go extra mile to be sincere with his investigative reporting through observance of the rule of engagement by involving the relevant anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in the matter. That can give him the whack to cancel his identity or that of the so-called whistleblower.
However, since he entombed the personality of the whistleblower he claimed had given him the video clips, it will only be appropriate and fair to the party involved to let the world know the giver who is also supposed to be the real culprit.
One is also happy that even the writer admitted that the Kano State House Assembly took a meaningful step by setting up the seven-man committee to unravel the validity of the video. However, the writer chose not to report what actually happened during the panel sitting but what favours Jafar.
I also do not believe with the assertion made by the writer that Jafar is entertaining any form of fear from anyone how much more from Ganduje. Because the journalist had freely entered and exited Kano since 2018 without receiving any threats and is still practicing. Fleeing the country to seek asylum in Britain won’t solve his problem but further compound them. It also a pointer that Jafar is not sincere in his “celebrated story”.
I believe that by going to court, Ganduje did the right thing. That indicates that he believes in the rule of law. After all, as a citizen, he has rights to protect. That video was published in 2018, and no attempt was made in any ways to harm Jafar. And that is called due process. Let the writer call it whatever he likes. And the fact that the governor also withdrew the case from court with no reason is also his right. No one can deny him that.
Same thing applies to the fact that the governor went to Abuja to file another case, asking for N5billion as damages for alleged defamation, which is also his right. The writer should advise Jafar to defend his case before a court of law, or for better hire lawyers to stop Ganduje from exercising that right to protect himself from defamation of character. And it is only the court that decides in the case.
If truly you are here for Jafar, convince him to come forward and prove his innocence, period. The fact that you are a journalist does not give you the right to infringe on individual’s right. Freedom of the press as enshrined in Section 22 of the 1999 constitution does not allow media practitioners to defame, slander or infringe on the fundamental rights of anyone.
The fact that one is a journalist does not exempt him from facing the law when he erred. The fact of the matter is that as fa as investigative journalism is concern, Jafar has failed, because he failed to uphold the highest standards of fairness, ethics and honesty. And I don’t see how any professional colleague from shielding him from facing justice.
Ahmad Sani Ibrahim can be reached via: email@example.com