MY STORY BY JOURNALIST ASSAULTED BY FEMI FANI-KAYODE
August 25, 2020
Day former minister threw caution to the wind, drenched me with venom
Eyo Charles, Calabar
One that has risen to become spokesman to president of a country and later a minister aside other important public offices should be seen as one that is a diplomat and statesman.
But Chief Femi FaniKayode failed in his public carriage last week when he rounded up his visit to Cross River State where he spent about a week, probably on the ticket of the state governor, Prof Ben Ayade.
To climax the visit, he had asked Alhaji Rasheed Olanrewaju of the AIT to invite some media houses so that he can relay report about his extensive guided tour of Ayade’s projects mostly in the southern part of the state.
The invitation was kindly extended to Daily Trust newspaper, a frontline national newspaper, I work for since early 2011.
I obliged the invitation not that I was deliberately left out of the guided tour led by Ayade but so that it would afford me opportunity to hear more from the former minister why he said if the national PDP secretariat denied Gov Ben Ayade the honour to control all party structures in the state, he, Ayade and good number of politicians in the party would pull out of the party. Of course, it would be interesting to read and see his body language over his new found romance with Ayade, I thought.
The press briefing was fixed for Thursday 20 August 2020 by 10.30am at Ayade’s private hotel situated adjacent to his palatial house in the State Housing Estate Calabar.
The hotel was believed to be moribund before now but having been refurbished, distinguished persons and government guests are routed there instead of to the massive, well furnished Lakeside hotel in Tinapa Business Resort owned by the state government or other presidential lodges in Calabar which are now reportedly vandalised or converted for private use.
The government house press crew including Channels TV, NTA, state owned Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, AIT led by Mr Christian Ita, the chief press secretary, Imani Odey (special adviser to Ayade on electronic media) and Rasheed Olanrewaju, correspondent of AIT (chairman of government house press crew). Other journalists from some national papers present included, Mr Gill Nsa-Abasi of NATION, Aniekan Aniekan of ORACLE Today, David Odey of the PUNCH, Richard Ndoma of the Leadership, George Odok of NAN, Ikechukwu Uche of Vanguard, etc.
FaniKayode came with his own media team and security details, including Police officers, some of them who he shouted at even in front of journalists carried his baggage.
The former minister spent over one hour speaking highly of Gov Ayade, extolling his academic and political qualities and how that his acumen, sagacity, intelligence and versatility have largely been ignored even with massive, gigantic and plethora of projects he has initiated in the state.
FKK said he lives in the northern part of the country. He said he was in Cross River to see his friend, Ayade whom he has been pulled to due to his extraordinary achievements and though with about the poorest federal allocation yet he has been able to perform more than those with much state resources.
He said soon after the COVID19 lockdown was lifted, he visited Zamfara,Anambra and five other states to meet with the governors, to appraise extent of their projects.
He said although a PDP man yet the visit was across party lines. For instance, at Anambra state where he was hosted by Willie Obiano, an APGA governor, he could see that he was constructing the biggest airport in the country. But when he shared the secret with Ayade, Ayade told him he has already acquired nearly a quarter of Obudu LGA where he hails for an international cargo airport, that his own will, on completion, be the biggest in the country. According to FKK, he agreed with them over what he saw in both States, having himself built the Port Harcourt airport when he was aviation minister.
He spoke about how Bakassi was unjustly ceded to Cameroon when he was in Obasanjo’s government, and how the Supreme Court also nailed the plight of Cross River by almost simultaneously ruling that the entire 76 oil wells once owned by the state now belong to Akwa Ibom State, thereby making Akwa Ibom the richest in the country. He pleaded that federal government should revisit both thorny issues, and also create a special status for Cross River.
Time for question. Christian Ita moderated. But Olanrewaju interjected and sought permission from the ex-minister that questions be limited to what FKK has said. But FKK himself said, “There is no problems at all. They should ask any manners not questions”, that he is equal to the task.
Many asked questions. Gill Nsa of the Nation, for instance, asked whether his national tour had any political undertone such as having presidential ambition. A reporter from the state owned TV asked whether some of the 33 projects he said Ayade has embarked upon such as the 278km superhighway from Bakassi to the border of Benue State as well as the Deep sea port were not, in fact, White Elephant projects. FKK disagreed strongly and said what Ayade needs is Federal Government to take over the projects and that Nigerians would see that the superhighway for instance will boost trade and integrated Nigerians.
Now the question that would break the carmel’s back! When I was recognised, I asked, “Sir, please you did not disclose to us who is bankrolling you…..”. FFK did not allow me to land with the question when he threw caution to the wind and shouted at me, and said the press briefing was over.
He then rained terrible abuses on me, calling me unprintable names; that I was sponsored to come and ask and insult him.
“How dare you ask me such a very stupid question! I know that you, a hungry-looking, brown envelop journalist, you are sponsored to ask me such insulting question. You can look into my eyes and ask me such demeaning question! I cannot take that!
“I am a very rich lawyer who has been in government; who has been detained many times by governments. I have a very rich background. How can you ask who is bankrolling my tours of the states. It is very insulting, and I cannot take that. You are very stupid. I know your publishers, I will call them in next few minutes. You have to be fired. I cannot answer any more questions from you or from any other reporter. This conference has ended. I have very short temper…..”, he said.
It took the intervention and pleas from chief press secretary to Governor Ayade, Mr Christian ita and other journalists before the ex-minister would leave the Daily Trust reporter, saying “You can go ahead and write your rubbish. I have marked you”.
When he returned to his suite, he sent one of his security aides to further threaten me. The man accosted me, saying what effrontery do you have to ask such a stupid question, and what was my next action.
Sensing how tensed up the atmosphere was, I said to the man, “ I had apologized to the ex-minister. If the usage of the word ‘bankroll’ was offensive to him, then i withdraw it. What more should I do?”. I then sneaked away.
Now the ex-minister is circulating a doctored video claiming I was rude to him. What could be farther from the truth! I have a modest background and well trained as a high priest to respect people of all standing. Please note too that I am a Bishop in the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, which exalted stand can never allow me to descend to insulting public figures or anyone.
This is also to colleagues that have called to express unhappiness that I did not ‘give it back to FKK’.
The aforelisted journalists should be asked if I made any other statement aside the question.
FANI-KAYODE’S ATTACK ON DAILY TRUST REPORTER: OUR STAND
The management of Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust and other titles, would like to condemn the reprehensible actions of Femi Fani-Kayode, who in a video clip now gone viral, verbally assaulted – repeatedly – our reporter, Eyo Charles in the course of doing his job. The encounter occurred in Calabar, Cross River State, in the morning of Thursday 20, August 2020 at a hotel, during a roundtable with invited journalists.
During the roundtable, Charles asked Fani-Kayode who was bankrolling his recent trips around Nigeria, to which the ex-minister responded with a raised voice, insults, and eventually a threat to inflict bodily harm on our reporter. The barrage continued for some minutes, while bewildered journalists, including our reporter, looked on.
The video clip, also released on one of the ex-minister’s social media accounts, was conveniently edited to exclude the question asked by Charles, totally devoid of mischief, simply sought clarification and information, like good journalism should. Said editing paved the way for a social media lynch mob to rain expletives on our reporter, labelling him as ‘rude’. This could not be further away from the truth, and we stand by Charles, and commend him for his calmness during the ordeal.
Daily Trust reporters are responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices.
That Fani-Kayode attacks a reporter doing his job, is an indication of the chilling disregard he has towards the media, and its work in investigating and reporting on issues. As always, we stand in solidarity with our reporters, and will continue to fight for the rights of all journalists. After all, journalism is part of the bedrock of democracy; therefore practitioners must not be intimidated or threatened as they carry out their work.
We urge the Nigeria Police to take note, that if anything happens to Charles, Daily Trust will hold Fani-Kayode responsible, especially due to the intensity of the verbal threats he issued during the shocking incident.
The actions of Fani-Kayode are not only reprehensible, but also constitute a setback to press freedom, in a most dire form. This kind of assault raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in Nigeria.
Daily Trust is a completely independent media organisation that does not pander to the whims of any individual or group, no matter how powerful or well-placed in society. We will continue to serve Nigerians – and indeed the world – with quality, reliable reportage, no matter whose ox is gored.
Naziru Mikailu Abubakar
IPC CONDEMNS FORMER MINISTER’S VERBAL ASSAULT ON JOURNALIST
For immediate release, Tuesday August 25, 2020
The International Press Centre (IPC) condemns the verbal assault inflicted on a Journalist by a former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani Kayode.
The journalist, Eyo Charles, who reports for the Daily Trust Newspaper, was seen in a video posted by The Cable, an online newspaper. asking the former Minister at a press conference in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, Nigeria, if he was funded to embark on a tour of projects in the state to which he responded with verbal attacks.
The Minister was also seen threatening to deal with Journalist Eyo Charles, who has since claimed that a security detail in the entourage of the former Minister confronted him after the press conference.
IPC views this development as repulsive and unacceptable since there was nothing wrong with Journalist Eyo Charles wanting to know if the tour was an independent initiative or a sponsored one.
“The former Minister had the option of not answering the question and the abuses were totally out of place in the context of the event”, the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said.
IPC therefore demands that the former Minister should apologise to the Journalist and give an assurance of his safety in view of the alleged further threats.
IPC is of the view that journalists who are saddled with the constitutional obligation of monitoring governance and holding the government accountable to the people should not be subjected to harassment in the course of duty.
International Press Centre, Lagos