Brekete Assault: My Goal Is To Promote Media Accountability, Transparency – Nkanga
BBC journalist, Peter Nkanga, tells TUNDE OGUNTOLA in this interview that he only aired the assault report that exposed founder of Human Rights Radio and host of Brekete Family programme, Ahmed Isah, to promote media accountability and not because he was paid to bring him down
What is your advice to other journalists on restraint and the need to uphold ethical practice, media accountability, and justice amidst the failure of the system (state)?
Section 22 of Nigeria’s Constitution expressly gives the journalist the constitutional responsibility to hold the government (and those with power) accountable to the public. As journalists, we also need to understand that accountability demanded from others is also accountability expected from us. We are not exempted.
In your report, you described Brekete Family programme founder, Ahmed Isah, as “Nigeria’s self-styled ‘Ordinary President”. Some Nigerians on social media believe he earned the name as he has over the years resolved many complicated societal matters. Do you feel you were fair to him?
I would like to bring to the attention of anyone who wants to make a nomenclature to review the subject of discussion of this film because it is often misplaced. The attention of the public is most urgently needed to unravel what happened to the 8 boys from Nsugbe in Anambra who went missing over 20 years ago in November 2000, after Senator Alphonsus Igbeke ordered their arrest on allegations they (including a 10-year-old boy) were armed robbers. This is now more important than ever because Ahmad Isah said he was no longer interested in helping the families of the 8 missing boys. This is despite him announcing during his live programme in February 2021 that he would investigate the case to a logical conclusion. So, it is not nomenclatures or titles that should be anybody’s focus.
Do you still feel safe working in Nigeria, amidst backlash in support and against your report on social media since the video documentary was uploaded?
I need to state categorically that my life is under serious threat. I am facing harassment, cyberbullying and threats targeting me, my family, and the BBC crew because I did my job as a journalist.
My attack is not coming from the State, or Opposition, or some militant group. My attack is coming from the public that Ahmad Isah commands. I am talking about a multitude of everyday people including gatemen (mine in my residence is an avid follower of Ahmad), taxi/keke/okada drivers, market sellers, business owners, shop attendants, people from all walks of life and strata of society.
I am talking of everyday people you meet anywhere and everywhere on the road, malls, markets, offices who are his fervent adherents. They have my image, they are threatening me on Social media, and now my numbers were released to the public on Ahmad’s live programme. These people have been calling, sending SMS/WhatsApp threats to me. They have told me they know where I live, and I will die. My situation is a very serious and dangerous one.
To answer your question directly, of course I do not feel safe.
How did you feel after the report was aired?
It is important to understand the context of the report. This is not a report about Ahmed or the lady. The report is far bigger than that and that is the context that this report should be taken. I will urge everyone to watch the full movie. I feel that the documentary that BBC carried out is very balanced work which was to profile the activities of Human Rights Radio led by its founder, Ordinary Ahmed Musa. I feel that the work did justice on how the state failed in delivering justice to citizens which has led to a vacuum filled by the Ordinary President and other human rights activists in Nigeria.
With this report, I feel we have started a conversation around media accountability, justice, transparency, and holding people in power to accountability. Though the report is in a different context. But I feel we should maintain a holistic context of which the film is all about. About making sure things are done right in the system, which is justice and accountability.
Nigerians feel your report is incomplete. Have you done a follow-up on the case, particularly on the girl accused?
Have you watched the whole 27 minutes sir, who are those saying the report are those who are yet to watch the full report? The report first shows the good work of Human Rights Radio, cases of missing children and how cases like that have persisted for over 20 years. The BBC did a film and the film just came out. There are post-production, but I know the case is with the police. It is only those who have not watched the entire video and focus on the six minutes clips that would say another story, but that is not true. There is a total representation of the people’s opinion, and that’s the fact. We have brought out an instant injustice and how Human Rights Radio has been able to address injustice. We know that police and everyone is involved, our own is just do the follow-up on the case, and we just released the story and we are trying to ensure people understand the value of the story which is about enlightened how the system is flawed to the point that people are looking for alternatives to their problem.
Did Ahmed Isah tell you he won’t follow the case of the missing eight children in Anambra?
Yes, Ahmed Isah said he is not interested in the story. He told the crew he won’t go to Anambra State.
There are allegations that you were paid to do the documentary on Ahmad Isah?
Who paid me? Why will anyone say that? The BBC approached Ahmed Isah based on the vacuum in the Nigerian system, a major reason people are coming to him. And we think that he is doing a great job and that is the truth, I have worked with him personally and I know he is doing a good job. And the reason for the film is to present a balanced and objective profile of his work and he welcomed us that he doesn’t have anything to hide. I have been a journalist for 10 years now. There is no attempt to bring him down. It is not true.