Although Nigeria parades many courageous editors and journalists, whether they still have the will to stand firm remains another issue, a former General Manager of the Plateau State Publishing Corporation, Jonathan Ishaku, has said.
According to him, Nigerian media must continue to demand accountability and responsibility from the Federal Government because the safety and security of citizens is in their hands.
The government, he said, must live up to its responsibilities to protect Nigerians, without favour and to ensure that they deliver social welfare to citizens in line with the relevant chapters of the constitution.
Ishaku stated this in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos, after delivering a lengthy paper titled, “Herdsmen violence: The politics of security management in a fragile state,” during a colloquium organised by the Plateau State council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in commemoration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.
He recalled how, as former Editor of The Nigerian Standard in 1985, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, popularly known as IBB, sacked him in 1985 for being very critical of his administration seven days to his wedding.
Ishaku said, “The story of my sacking by IBB was a very long one. It was a struggle between the then military government and the agitation for democracy, press freedom, journalism and human rights.
“We weren’t at fault; the military felt that we were exposing them too much and we shouldn’t have been exposing them. That was seven days before my wedding and the wedding still went ahead because we felt that we would give them too much joy to postpone it. He wanted to deny me of my wedding, but I continued with my plans.
“They felt that we shouldn’t have written what we were writing, especially editorials and news reports that were so critical of some of the atrocities of the military. They claimed to come to correct the past errors of the civilians but ended up doing worse things.
“We were not happy with IBB in our editorials, especially when IBB said he was going to restore freedom, after toppling the administration of then Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. He came, was criticised for some of his policies. IBB didn’t accept it; we wrote an editorial in support of the position being canvassed by the managing directors of some banks concerning his economic policies. Before this, IBB had already sacked those bank MDs. We affirmed their freedom to speak; IBB therefore slammed a dismissal on us.”
Ishaku, who later became Editor of The Champion Newspapers, said IBB felt that The Nigerian Standard was speaking the minds of some top military officers from the Middle Belt “who may be plotting a coup against him and who may be using the mouthpiece of the Middle Belt.”
“That was why he was very sensitive to whatever Nigerian Standard Newspapers wrote. In fact, he insulted his Chief Press Secretary, Duro Onabule, and gave a stern directive that whenever Nigerian Standard arrives, it should be one of the first newspapers he should see and read.
“That was after we wrote an editorial criticising his wife, the late Maryam Abacha, for sewing a dress which portrayed his (IBB’s) pictures. We told her that she shouldn’t model her husband for us because if Nigerians wanted her husband to continue to lead as President, it should be done through the democratic means,” he said.
He said although The Nigerian Standard was in northern Nigeria, it had a lot of influence and was being reviewed every morning on The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.