by Dare Lawal
Femi Fani-Kayode, the former aviation minister who recently resigned his membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has managed to get entangled in another media war, this time with the publicity secretary of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Lai Mohammed. Lai Mohammed is perhaps the only man in Nigeria who can reasonably compete with Fani-Kayode when it comes to their love for making media statements. So you see it’s only fitting that the two media warriors clash at some point.
But what’s the issue this time?
As we all know, Fani-Kayode (FFK) is no longer in the APC – and if FFK is not with you, he is against you.
Recently the former Olusegun Obasanjo spokesman has been in the frequent business of criticising the APC and alleging that some members of that party have ties with the terrorist sect, Boko Haram or at the least, are sympathetic to the cause of the terrorist group.
On Monday, he was a guest on Channels TV Sunrise Daily show, and there he described Boko Haram as the armed wing of the APC. He singled out Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Lai Mohammed as sympathisers of the terrorist sect.
Since then the APC through Lai Mohammed has responded, prompting Fani-Kayode to respond in kind. He described Mohammed as a “pernicious liar… a malicious and vindictive soul who is either going senile and therefore habitually forgets what he once said or who simply derives pleasure from creating even more problems for his political party than they already have.”
Mohammed fired back, saying that Fani-Kayode’s “emotional response to an earlier statement by the party failed to wash off the thick mud he splashed on himself when he returned to his vomit, repudiated everything he ever said he stood for and made himself available to be used to castigate the opposition on the altar of glaring exigency.” What Mohammed was referring to from the above, was Fani-Kayode’s return to the PDP after saying just six months ago that “the PDP has become a party that is beyond redemption and the removal of Tukur cannot change that. I say this because no sensible person will go back to a stinking carcass simply because the head of the dead animal has been cut off and thrown away. A carcass remains a carcass whether you cut off it’s head, legs or any other part of it’s body or not. Whichever way, it remains as dead as a dodo and it only awaits a formal burial. The truth is that the vultures are already feeding fat on the rotting and decaying cadavar of the PDP and whether anyone likes to hear it or not the truth is that that party can never be whole again. As I said 8 months ago it is a party that has been rejected by God and whose leaders are suffering God’s judgement for their unjust, gluttonous, wicked, foul and evil ways.”
But he is back there, s something must have changed.
The Main Issue:
Fani-Kayode claimed that when Pres. Goodluck Jonathan proscribed the Boko Haram and Ansaru terrorist sect last year, the ACN (which has now merged into the APC), condemned the proscription.
He said that “it is on record that he (Mohammed) protested about and opposed the proscription of Boko Haram by the Federal Government in various newspapers on June 10th 2013 and he described such proscription as being unconstitutional and/or extra-constitutional and wrong in various newspapers. At that time he spoke in his official capacity as the spokesman of the ACN which is a constituent part of the present-day APC and which merged with other parties a few months later to form the said APC. The same Lai Mohammed is now the spokesman of the APC and I have no reason to believe that he has purged himself of his earlier sympathies for that murderous organisation and it’s deadly activities.”
Before we look at the facts, let us just note two points:
1. The statement which Fani-Kayode is just condemning was issued by Lai Mohammed on June 10th last year. This was only eight days after FFK officially joined the APC on June 2nd. When Mohammed issued the statement, FFK did not criticise it, in fact, he retweeted new stories of the statement on his Twitter feed. He did not seem to have an issue with it then, but what do we know?
2. Since FFK left the APC, he has repeatedly criticised Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. His favourite criticism against the retired general is the claim that Buhari is sympathetic to Boko Haram. We do not know if Buhari is sympathetic to Boko Haram. What we know is that in January this year, FFK wrote a widely circulated piece in which he made a very strong demand of Pres. Goodluck Jonathan.
He said that if the president wants his fortunes and the fortunes of his party to change, as well as for peace to return to the shores of Nigeria, he must do 12 things. The third thing in that list was that “Pres. Jonathan must go and prostrate flat on the floor with his face touching the ground before seven of the most respected and distinguished men in this country and tell them that he is very sorry for the mess he has created and he must refuse to get up until they swear by the Holy Bible or Holy Koran that they have truly forgiven him for destroying our country. Those men are President Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General TY Danjuma, General Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”
Yes, you saw that right: According to the old FFK, Pres. Jonathan needs to lie prostrate before Gen. Buhari, a man who according to the new FFK sympathises with Boko Haram.
Back to the current issue. Between FFK and Lai Mohammed, who is lying as regards the press statement issued by Lai Mohammed and the ACN on June 10th, 2013.
The title of the statement as released by Lai Mohammed was: “Boko Haram, Ansaru proscription order stifles press freedom, violates Constitution – ACN”
The first thing to say about that headline is that if you look at it in isolation without reading the full statement, you might assume the ACN was opposed to the proscription of Boko Haram. Even some newspapers like Vanguard published this story, titled: “Proscribing Boko Haram, Ansaru, wrong, says ACN”
The problem apparently was bad grammar and not bad intentions. Lai Mohammed or whoever writes the statements he releases needs to go back and learn how to draft a heading.
When you go into the statement itself, it was clear that the ACN was not against the proscription, but a particular section in the proscription order which they believed could be manipulated and used against the press and the opposition.
Mohammed actually said in the statement that the proscription order “may be desirable in tackling the terrorist organisations.” He however added that “it violates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by stifling the press and tampering with the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.”
The party said that, “the Order also makes it easy for an increasingly intolerant government to clamp down on the opposition, which it sees more as an irritant than an indispensable part of democracy. It therefore called on media professional bodies to challenge the Order in court to save journalists from long jail terms simply for carrying out their constitutional duties.”
The APC recommended then that the FG could solve the problem by clarifying the “knotty and vague areas of the open-ended Order, that may end up punishing journalists and infringing on the civil liberties of the citizens more than it will curtail the activities of the sects.”
The problematic section for the ACN was Section 5 (1), which prescribes a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years ”for any person who knowingly, in any manner, directly or indirectly, solicits or renders support for the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group”.
ACN said “support”, as defined by the Order, includes ”incitement to commit a terrorist act through the Internet, or any electronic means OR THROUGH THE USE OF PRINTED MATERIALS OR THROUGH THE DISSEMINATION OF TERRORIST INFORMATION (emphasis ours).”Is this subsection not in conflict with Chapter II Section 22 of the Nigeria constitution which says ‘The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media, shall AT ALL TIMES BE FREE (emphasis ours) to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people?’”By stifling the press, is the Order not abridging a part of the fundamental human rights guaranteed every citizen under Chapter Four of the Nigerian Constitution in Section 39 (1), which states thus: ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information WITHOUT INTERFERENCE?’ (emphasis ours).
”Can journalists escape being sentenced to 20-year jail terms for publishing statements issued by the sects? Can they freely report on videos periodically posted on YouTube by Boko Haram leader Shekau? Can the media freely report the kind of massacre that took place in Baga in April without being held liable for ‘supporting’ terrorism? Can radio and television stations organize talk shows on terrorism without the discussants being held liable for ‘supporting’ terrorism?”Can the opposition criticise the government’s strategies against the terrorist sects, through its regular intervention, without being perceived as offering support to the sects? Does this Order cover the satellite broadcast channels that can be accessed in many homes across the country? Who determines when this Order has been breached? These are some of the questions that arise under the proscription Order,” the party said.
The ACN threw in one paragraph to shield itself from accusations that its protest against that section of the order was a protest in support of the terrorist group. “Let us be clear that we do not condone the activities of these sects that have killed and maimed innocent Nigerians and turned a section of the country into a battle field. Terrorism in all its ramifications is condemnable,” the party said.
So on this issue, who is not telling the truth? We have to say it is Femi Fani-Kayode. The APC statement was clear that it’s opposition to section 5 was not support for Boko Haram or Ansaru. Maybe FFK only read the Vanguard headline. Now he knows he was wrong, so let’s move on to the next media show.