BY ISAIAH BENJAMIN
Journalism is a noble profession and those who practice the profession are equally men of valour and integrity. Being the fourth estate of the realm, journalists are saddled with the responsibility of reporting the happenings and holding those at various levels of governance accountable through objective reportage. Again, persons who have one issue or the other to pass across to the public regardless of their religion, political party, ethnic and race do so through the media. It was on this premise that aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State, who were not comfortable with the way and manner their local government delegates’ elections, which they termed selection, was carried out and decided to address the press to register their grievances.
It was however unbelievable, when heavily armed political thugs, who were allegedly sponsored, stormed the headquarters of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Kaduna Council, with dangerous weapons and disrupted the press conference which was ongoing being addressed by aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
The press conference, which was being addressed under the leadership of Senator Othman Suleiman Hunkiyi, who represents Kaduna North Senatorial District, also had in attendance, several APC chieftains and prominent among whom were Senator Shehu Sani who represents Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Honourable Musa Mohammed Soba who represents Soba federal constituency, the chairman of Atar communication, Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan, Alhaji Yaro Makama, Ambassador Sule Bubba, Honourable Muhamamed Usman representing Kudan/Makarfi federal constituency and Honourable Isah Ashiru among several other party members.
Prior to the press conference by the aggrieved APC legislators from Kaduna State and party chieftains, the APC leadership in the state also addressed the Press where it expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the delegates’ elections. The text of that press briefing, which was signed by Salisu Tanko Wusono, Acting Publicity Secretary of the party in the state said, “this party will not be hijacked or derailed by those wedded to a medieval conception of politics.”
“It has come to the notice of the Kaduna State APC that some disgruntled elements want to tarnish the reputation of the party. In fact, these persons have been unrelenting in their efforts to destroy the party and sap the spirit of its members. They have failed over three years, but they continue trying. They abuse party process and accuse the party of every ill, their real goal is to hijack it. As leaders of the APC charged with the duty of managing the party in Kaduna State, it is obvious that we are obliged to reject and dismiss any attempt to hijack what is entrusted in our hands.”
“The party is aware that these disloyal persons feel frustrated that they were not able to sabotage the Congress we just concluded. As it is their habit whenever party spirit defeats their politics of ego, these persons will soon be making wild claims. They cannot be considered as serious. The APC cannot indulge those who wish to destroy it, it cannot take things lightly with power mongers, who ascribe powers and dubious privileges to themselves without the legitimacy of any democratic mandate or altruistic leadership.” It was shortly after that press conference ended that the allegedly sponsored thugs stormed the press centre in their hundreds with dangerous weapons, disrupting the ongoing press briefing by the aggrieved APC lawmakers and chieftains. The thugs succeeded in stabbing several journalists including the camera man of Liberty Television who sustained severe cuts on his head and had to be rushed to the hospital following several stabbing injuries sustained from the attack. The trouble started when the DPO Gabasawa police station, CSP Sadique Abdullahi, suddenly stormed the venue with the thugs who were earlier dispelled outside the premises of the briefing. The allegedly sponsored thugs started brandishing weapons forcing all to scamper for their dear lives and inflicted injuries on some journalists who stood to protect those who were addressing the press, after they had succeeded in disrupting the briefing and destroying several property of the council such as vehicles, windows were shattered while they also cartered away midgets, phones and some other recording gadgets.
The aggrieved members of the APC however succeeded in addressing the press that they have petitioned the national chairman of their party and the chairman of the State Congress Appeals Committee over what they termed truncated process of 29th July local government, delegates congress in the state. Senator Othman Suleiman Hunkiyi, who led other aggrieved party chieftains to the briefing frowned at the way and manner the affairs of the party in the state is being run.
According to the leader of the aggrieved party chieftains and as contained in their petition copies which was made available to newsmen, “the acting state chairman and some of the stakeholders were said to have held a meeting scheduled to hold at the party secretariat at government house under the chairmanship of the state political adviser to the governor and subsequently issued a list of LG delegates purported to be the list to be submitted to the state congress committee sent to Kaduna.”
The APC chieftains alleged in their petition that “none of the guidelines was respected in the conduct of the ‘kangaroo process that produced the list for submission”.
The APC chieftains prayed the State Congress Committee and APC National leadership to declare the kangaroo process a nullity, re-appoint a very credible team of State Congress Committee for Kaduna State, convene a duty briefing of the stakeholders’ briefing at a proper venue on a date to be appointed by the National Working Committee and follow strictly all the guidelines as provided by the NWC of the party for the purpose of local government congress delegates’ elections at all the 23 local government areas of Kaduna State.
The petitions where signed by Senators Suleiman Hunkiyi, Shehu Sani and Chairman of Atar communication Alhaji Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan.
Meanwhile, Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, through a press statement issued by his spokesperson, Aruwan Samuel condemned the act perpetrated by the thugs in very strong terms. The statement said that nobody will be allowed to stifle freedom of expression. In a message to the Kaduna State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the governor said, “having been briefed on the situation, the governor expresses sympathy with the NUJ and the persons that were harassed by the hoodlums.” The governor directed that the security agencies should investigate and take necessary action against the hoodlums. The governor also directed security agencies to beef up security at the NUJ secretariat to protect lives of its members. “The media must not be hindered from carrying out their constitutional and professional obligations. The government of Kaduna State upholds the principles of free speech and respects the freedom of expression. Politics should not be a desperate game. And desperation should not be visited on journalists or any citizen.” He added that the government of Kaduna State will not tolerate any attempt to muzzle the press and innocent citizens from exercising their constitutional rights. In a similar condemnation on journalists, the national body of the aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State has petitioned the national chairman of their party and the chairman of the State Congress Appeals Committee over what they termed truncated process of 29th July local government, delegates congress in the state. A similar statement signed by the National Secretary of the NUJ, Shuaibu Usman Leman tagged “ANOTHER ASSAULT ON THE MEDIA” reads “Some desperate politicians who are bent on destroying journalism and journalists in Kaduna have continued with their dastardly acts on the media. The most recent development is frightening to the Union as it signals clearly that such attacks on the media are not going to abate any time soon.”
“Political thugs sponsored by some dangerously reckless members of a political party invaded the Press Centre, venue of a Press briefing by some APC members of the National Assembly and attacked both journalists and politicians, destroying media equipment and inflicting bodily harm on some journalists.”
“We regret to note that Kaduna is ingloriously attaining notoriety as the deadliest state for journalists in Nigeria to operate with harassment of journalists and increased repression of press freedom.”
“As professionals, whose responsibility is to monitor governance and hold government accountable to the masses, journalists now live in perpetual fear of being arrested by security operatives or attacked by faceless assailants without any just cause.”
“It is worth noting that press freedom is key to achieving credible democracy and this freedom includes the right to seek and receive information from all available sources to enable formulation of proper opinions to whomsoever one desires and to do so through whichever means is feasible to communicate. Such attacks, we believe, are meant to curtail such freedoms.”
“In the light of these unabated attacks and intimidation on Journalists, we call once more on the Police and other security agents of the state, to immediately prioritise issues of security and safety of journalists not only in Kaduna State but throughout the country as critical components of their programs”.
It will be safe to say that the attack was planned considering the short period it took for the attackers to assemble, they also came with printed banners with the inscription ‘Shehu Sani must go,’ which also confirms that they are sponsored. Our correspondent, who narrowly escaped the dagger from one of the attackers, confirmed that the guy with the dagger was heading for Senator Sani before he was intercepted by the camera man of Liberty television.
While the attack on journalists remain condemnable, it must be reiterated that journalists must not be hindered under whatever guise from doing their legitimate duty of dispensing information. It will not be out of place to demand that those who carried out the destructive attack be fished out along with their sponsors and made to face the full wrath of the law.
We regret to note that Kaduna is ingloriously attaining notoriety as the deadliest state for journalists in Nigeria to operate with harassment of journalists and increased repression of press freedom.