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Mixed Reactions Trail Barring, Unbarring Of AIT

Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga writes on the brewing face-off between the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari and African Independent Television (AIT)

Despite the recent unbarring of the Africa Independent Television (AIT), by the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from covering activities relating to his yet to be inaugurated government, more reactions are still trailing the action. Most of the commentators condemn the action of Buhari while a handful argued that the press has no absolute freedom to do whatever it likes as regards revealing privacy of public officials. But a school of thought insisted that an individual becomes a public representative of the masses, he or she could no longer claim to be private any more.

Reacting to some APC disciples’ defense of Buhari’s AIT declaration, a respondent, James Ogunjimi, said, “The next four years will be very interesting. Some Nigerians can defend nonsense. The way it is going, even if you catch Buhari in your backyard carrying your goat, they will say he is only petting the goat’s head. If they trace billions to his account, some Nigerians will tell us it was PDP that put it there.” Nuhu Aliyu Sambo, another respondent held a different view. He said, “Buhari was right. He is human and not infallible. We will correct him if he errs and we will criticise him if he takes a wrong decision.

It will come to pass that he will surely put his detractors to shame. By God’s grace, Nigeria will grow and shine more than any other time in her history within the next four years.” On his part, a poet, Kukogho Samson said, “If Buhari did actually ban AIT, he is starting on the wrong foot. The 2000s are surely not 1980s. He should be a President, not a brute!” It would be recalled that in order to douse the condemnations of Buhari’s comment by Nigerians, the APC came out to renounce the statement made by his party’s president-elect who barred AIT from covering his activities.

Speaking through its spokesman, Lai Mohammed, the APC said that all accredited media organizations in the country, including the AIT, are constitutionally free to cover the activities of the President-elect, Buhari. Buhari had recently told his security agents not to allow the crew of the AIT to record any of his activities and broadcast it to the public. In what has been described as a damage control measure, the APC spokesman promptly extended an olive branch to Nigerians, promising that the party and the forthcoming administration of the newly elected President would not discriminate against any media organization, despite whatever roles it played during the electioneering campaign. Nonetheless, he called on all media houses to maintain great professional standards and ethics in their coverage of activities in the society. In this vein, the APC pointed out that “There is a Code of Ethics guiding the practice of journalism in Nigeria, and this demands every journalist to ensure a strict adherence to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their duties.

“There must be repercussions, within the realms of the law, for media organizations which have wantonly breached the Code of Ethics of the journalism profession and turned themselves to partisans instead of professionals. But such repercussions will not include barring any accredited media organization from covering the activities of the President-elect.” However, sounding a note of warning to Nigerians and the media on what may happen after Buhari’s swearing in, a respondent, Donald C. L-Jahara said, “That is only the beginning. Wait for what will happen after his swearing-in. We will see more of such awful behaviour of Buhari.” As different strokes are for different folks, another respondent, Eniola Mayowa, chose to toe a different point of view by saying “But what does AIT want at Buhari’s function? The station was too reckless and irresponsible. It is unfit to provide coverage for our new president-elect.” Also sounding critical of the President-elect and AIT brouhaha, Sheriff Akinpelu, a social commentator posited that, “I am just pondering, should Buhari be selective of the station to cover his events as the President of the country? I hope we are not going back to those old days.”

While commenting on the issue, Joshua Anemeje, a social commentator said, “This is my humble perspective on this recent development. We live in a society where the people’s mentality has been militarized. Historical events and experiences have incubated confrontationalism in our psyche. Have you seen a Nigerian in argument with a policeman, road safety, yellow commercial bus driver, etc.? No matter the angle you look at or look from, be it the national assembly, church, mosque, school, work, etc., it takes divine restraint to constrain a Nigerian from behaviours that defy decorum. “If we as mere mortals, exhibit dictatorial tendencies, when power is thrust upon us over a perceived weakling, what do we expect from our own equivalent of Potus? Are we not all at one time or the other proponents of the context ‘I will show you who I am’? While most democracies are evolving, ours is regressing.

“Those of us who are bashing Buhari for this anti-freedom and undemocratic macabre dance, should have also spoken in equal venom when AIT lent itself to bias partisanship. Having said that, it is our collective responsibility to lend a voice, hand or leg in demilitarizing our democracy. The voices I hear in betwixt are as venomous as those dangling the sword of Damocles. These are voices whose parlances are more like: ‘Did we not warn you?’ It is an attempt to gloat in a prophesy that has come to pass (Mbaka, T. B. Joshua, Bakare, etc).” Furthermore, a political analyst, Thaddeus Umunna, said APC’s unbarring AIT from covering Buhari’s activities means a lot. Umunna said “That shows that much will be taking place in this Buhari’s regime without him knowing… clueless.

This man will not be in-charge of things when he comes in. The hawks and cabals around him will not let him be; that is where age permits him also. What a Greek gift!” Olaniyi Ola, a journalist said, “What is Press Freedom when we are talking about ethics and standards? AIT should take responsibility for those unwholesome documentaries during the last presidential campaigns. The station, through the documentaries would have succeeded in rubbishing Buhari and his family if he had lost the election. We should learn to be fair and objective in all our dealings with one another. “Let us keep this issue in perspective by using the right language. Barred is not banned and banned is not barred. To be banned is to be institutionally sanctioned by a regulatory or constituted authority backed by law when lines have been crossed. While barred is a personal, group or institutional decision not to give access to a person, group or organisation as a result of their being avoidable nuisance when lines seemed to have been crossed and rights breached. For being a disgrace to responsible and ethical journalism, AIT deserved to be barred.”

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