Award winning journalist, Tolu Ogunlesi, who was recently appointed as Strategic Communications Adviser to Okechukwu Enelamah, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, threatened to file a lawsuit against the publishers of SIGNAL online newspaper for publishing a report, which claimed that he co-authored an Economist magazine article which described Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan as an “ineffectual buffoon.”
Ogunlesi asked the online newspaper for an apology and a retraction in a letter dated February 3, 2016 which he signed personally. He said that the report was defamatory and a failure by the online newspaper to apologise will lead to a suit against it.
The publisher of the SIGNAL, Ohimai Amaize, who himself was a spokesman to two different ministers in the previous administration, has said the paper will not pay any heed to Ogunlesi’s threat. In its response, the newspaper did not stand by its story, instead it said it was surprised that Ogunlesi was upset at the report when he had ”personally declared in his Twitter page on January 30, 2016 how he felt so flattered to be associated with The Economist.”
The paper also defended itself by quoting a comment by an unnamed person in reaction to the problematic article in which the person said ”it was a plus for Mr. Ogunlesi as it had made him even more popular, portraying him as a writer with international connections.”
“We wish to state clearly that the article in its entirety has no defamatory meaning and was not intended to defame Mr. Ogunlesi. The letter from Mr. Ogunlesi claiming he was defamed is coming as a surprise especially as he personally declared in his Twitter handle on January 30, 2016 that he felt flattered being associated with The Economist. In a similar vein, a comment posted in reaction to the article said the article was a plus for Mr. Ogunlesi as it had made him even more popular portraying him as a writer with international connections”, Ohimai Amaize said.
Amaize further said that his online publication ”will not be gagged or intimidated by government employees seeking to place limitations on the rights to free press. We will continue in the age long responsibility of the media which is to inform, educate and enlighten society following the principles of truth and fairness.”