We hate to say that we predicted this, but the expulsion and humiliation of the Punch Villa correspondent is attracting very negative, scathing comments for the Villa and the government. On Monday, PMB’s CSO, Bashir Abubakar accused the Punch Villa correspondent, Olalekan Adetayo of writing a “sponsored story” and an ill-motivated opinion article on the President’s health. The articles, “FRESH ANXIETY IN ASO ROCK OVER BUHARI’S POOR HEALTH“, and “SEAT OF POWER’S EVENT CENTRES GOING OUT OF EXTINCTION“.
In spite of the reporter’s explanation that the story and report were done in the ordinary course of duties, and without ulterior motive, Abubakar went ahead to throw the reporter out of the Villa. The reporter’s State House Pass was seized and he was marched to the gate of the Villa, paraded before a platoon of security operatives and ordered never to come near the Villa again.
As we expressed yesterday, this was unnecessary, high handed and unjustified and was bound to be counter productive. This unnecessary bullying has a strong implication on our democracy, the freedom of the Press and the inalienable right of every Nigerian citizen to the freedom of expression. We have said that if a newspaper offends by what it writes, there are enough laws to take care of such issues.
Punch has categorically stated that the paper will not attend any peace initiative by the Villa as it would appear like a soft landing for an exuberant security operative. It is the opinion of the Punch that Abubakar merits a stinging reprimand, heavy censure from his principal and the outrage of all right thinking members of the society. We agree. Sadly, the same Abubakar reportedly has lately been usurping the roles of the President’s media aides harassing state house correspondents.
Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity has dissociated the government from what happened, and confirmed that Abubakar was acting alone and not with the knowledge or approval of the Presidency.
There is the need for the Presidency and the government to fully apprise their aides and officials about the requirements of the political dispensation. The government must move quickly to douse this fire and mend fences.