By Mustapha Shehu…
Nothing buttresses the belief, that a greater aspect of journalism in Nigeria is compromised, than the brouhaha over the appointment, in January, of a substantive Director-General of the NIA (DG-NIA).
On January 13, 2018 at exactly 2.38pm, I received an SMS on my MTN line from then Acting DG-NIA, Ambassador Mohammed Dauda, “pls call me,” the message read. I don’t remember calling because I had already spoken to his representative who sent me a similar text message at 1.31pm the same day. The representative solicited my support to fight in support of the cause of the ousted Acting DG-NIA who was “unfairly removed” from office.
“I have sent you the details on WhatsApp and we want you to propagate it in your media and the social media. There are tools for the job for you (akwai kayan aiki),” he said in Hausa. Realizing that I had just been offered money to do my job as journalist, I became suspicious. I told him I did not need any ‘tools for the job’ as I had my Laptop.
The so-called details the representative said he sent to me were the allegations that the newly appointed substantive DG-NIA is not a Nigerian but a Chadian; that he retired from the NIA as Assistant Director; that he failed promotion exam; and that his wife is Moroccan, and so he isn’t fit to head the NIA.
The representative also disclosed to me that “we wanted someone who has good command of English to talk on ‘Burgami Radio Program’ and I recommended you to Ambassador; he wants to see you.”
I told him I would come.
The first thing I did after my telephone conversation with the representative is what every Journalist should have done. I tapped my sources, who should know, to fact check the allegations. To my surprise, I learned that the whole allegations were false; I then waited to see the ousted Acting DG at night.
I met the ousted Acting DG at a Maitama residence at about 9.00pm same day he sent for me. The representative met me outside and ushered me in. Sitting in the living room were the ousted Acting DG and two other men. After pleasantries, he led me to the dining room where we closed the door and sat at the dining table. I commiserated with him for not being confirmed as substantive DG and we went straight to the issue at hand.
The first thing the ousted Acting DG told me was that one Magajin Garin Sokoto had arranged for me to speak on Vision FM 92.1 Radio. Knowing all the allegations where false, I asked what he wanted to achieve through a media war. “I want to speak to you as a younger brother not as a Journalist. Whatever you want to do, if it won’t bring you back to that seat, then please forget it,” I counseled him. He said he knew he can’t get the position back. Then I asked what his objective for a media war was? “To mess him (the new substantive DG) up,” he answered me. I told him it wasn’t worth it. “I am sure you must have pulled your strings to be confirmed. So, you must have done your best and Allah had the final say. If Allah didn’t will you to be confirmed, you should accept it in good faith. Don’t appear to be troublesome as there is always tomorrow. You could be DG tomorrow, or even NSA,” I further counseled him. He retorted that he felt betrayed by the new DG who as SA to the President, he (ousted DG) had relied so much on him for his confirmation. I reiterated that he should still accept it as fate and give maximum cooperation to the new DG because “you may still need him in the future,” I said. “I will never need anything from him,” he replied.
We parted that night on the note that he would not personally be involved in any media war. He said even the story of the cash ($44million) “stolen” from the NIA vault didn’t come from him. At that time I didn’t understand this statement until I returned home and checked my WhatsApp messages and read the messages he had earlier that evening sent to me:
By about 5.00am January 14, 2018, when I logged on to online news, some online media outlets had carried stories of the allegations against the new substantive DG and nepotism against the president. Throughout the week, the stories got bolder, the radio discussions got hotter, the social media caught fire on the denigration of the NIA and the lies against the new substantive DG. No media, not even the big media outlets in the traditional media deemed it right to do what is right – investigate the allegations. It became free for all while I marveled at how people believe so much lies and how the media has failed Nigerians. I also realized that I had also failed as a journalist for not doing the right thing – report the truth – but chose to keep quiet because I didn’t want to hurt the ousted Acting DG being like family to me.
While I continued to struggle with my conscience, watching a decent citizen deliberately maligned and destroyed for nothing, the NIA being brought to disrepute, and Nigerians being deliberately misled, I had the opportunity of meeting the new substantive DG-NIA at his Asokoro residence around 9pm, on the night of February 24, 2018.
The meeting was about what could have been an explosive ‘Exclusive Story’ one of my sources brought to us to publish in The Politico. It was about a budding plan, being hatched abroad by some Nigerians, to rig the 2019 Presidential Election. Being a strong proponent of ‘Patriotic Journalism,’ I felt it wasn’t for publication. Journalism should bring good to society and not fame and riches to publishers. If there is a way to correct an ill in society, particularly this one that bordered on national security, it is best to effect the correction without recourse to publication.
After we had concluded on the 2019 Election matter, we discussed the misrepresentation and outright lies being churned out, about his appointment, on all media platforms in the country. In the spirit of public disclosure, I must mention here that the discussion was over tea, pineapple, water melon and Fura served by his wife who looks anything but Moroccan. I left him after 11pm feeling guiltier of my failure as a Journalist on the whole matter.
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