By Promise Eze
A renowned journalist and rights activist, Mr. Richard Akinnola, has blasted the incoming government of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu whom he claimed will be intolerant of the free press.
Akinnola in an open letter dated April 1, 2023, written to the Director of Media of the Presidential Campaign Council of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bayo Onanuga, expressed dismay that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) slammed Channels Television with a N5 million fine, following a petition allegedly written by Onanuga over an interview by the vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.
Akinnola also vowed that Nigerians would resist any planned “insurrection” against the independent media the way they fought Abacha’s dictatorship against the media.
It would be recalled that NBC had last week slammed a fine of N5 million on Channels Television for allegedly breaking the broadcasting code in a programme with Baba-Ahmed.
The sanction came a few hours after Tinubu petitioned the station over its interview with the LP vice presidential candidate while fielding questions on a Channels Television programme, Baba-Ahmed asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, not to swear in Bola Tinubu as president.
The letter reads:
“OPEN LETTER TO BAYO ONANUGA
“My dear Bayo,
“I hope you are now happy and satisfied, that the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC) has sanctioned CHANNELS with a N5 million fine, following your petition over the Datti Ahmed’s interview on CHANNELS.
“Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dr Olu Onagoruwa ( both of blessed memories) were the best of friends for several years but that friendship was truncated when the latter decided to join the Abacha junta as the Attorney-General, churning out despicable Decrees. Their relationship ended and Gani publicly upbraided his erstwhile friend.
“You and l have been friends for several years, fought many battles together against the military, particularly against their onslaught on the free press. I therefore feel terribly pained that l have to publicly upbraid you for your recent public statements, particularly your petition against CHANNELS tv, to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Et tu, Bayo? I’m still trying to wrap my heads round your sudden 360 degrees against all you fought for under the military. You are yet to be in government and you have started exhibiting intolerance against the independent media, the same thing you fought for all your years, like Dr Onagoruwa did. I’m sure your principal, who has been a lover of free press, would be embarrassed by your position.
“I watched the interview under reference and l must say, you are VERY UNFAIR to Seun Okinbaloye, the anchor man who repeatedly cautioned Datti Ahmed for making some seemingly inciting comments, to the anger and discomfiture of Datti Ahmed. So, in all conscience, what then is the basis of your petition to the NBC? Can you compare that to your recent incendiary post against an ethnic group? Why are you making enemies for your principal, instead of friends, in a country so polarized? While your principal is preaching unity and healing, you are busy trying to make more enemies for him. Yesterday, it was ARISE, today, it is CHANNELS. Is that a foretaste of what to experience in the incoming government? So, we should be fixated on NTA and TVC, isn’t that what you are trying to tell proverbially? To say that I’m totally embarrassed by your silly conduct, would be stating it mildly.
“For eight years, despite all vitriolic attacks on the president, Femi Adesina, as Special Adviser, Media to the president, did not petition against any medium but you wey never enter, don dey censor the media. What a shame! I can expect the disaster that awaits us if you become the presidential spokesperson. Do l subscribe to unfettered press freedom? No. I believe every freedom comes with responsibility. However, when you create a perception that the incoming government would be intolerant of the free press, we need to sound the alarm bell.
“My dear Bayo, it is often said that until a man tastes power or has access to money, you can’t judge his character. That may not be totally true because one of our mutual friends, Tunji Bello, has tasted both but has been his normal self that l have known for over three decades. His decent character has not changed, in and out of government. So, could it be that your real character is just unfolding? Just because you are now at the periphery of power, you are ready to obliterate all the values and principles you held all these years. What a shame!
“TAKE NOTICE that we would fight this your planned “insurrection” against the independent media the way we, including you, fought Abacha’s dictatorship against the media.”