THE International Press Centre has kicked against attempts by the government to criminalise journalism in the country, urging media professionals to fight before it is too late.
The Executive Director of the centre, Lanre Arogundade, noted that there were two major bills before the National Assembly which could cripple press freedom in Nigeria.
He identified them as the National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill and the Nigerian Press Council Act Amendment Bill.
The media learnt that the bills for amendment of the NBC Act were sponsored by Odebunmi Olusegun (APC, Oyo State and Chairman, House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values) and Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa Ibom State and Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Communication); the NPC amendment bill is sponsored by Olusegun.
Arogundade, who spoke to The PUNCH on Sunday on the telephone, said if the media refused to act on time and the amendments scaled through, media houses could become an appendage of the Federal Ministry of Information.
He said, “We have discovered that some of the amendments being proposed in the two bills are major threats to press freedom should they be passed into law. We are saying this because there is an attempt to criminalise journalism. The penalties for the alleged breach of the codes in the NBC and NPC acts are highhanded and heavy, sometimes up to N10m in the case of the NPC Act and even imprisonment for three years for any form of alleged violations.
“In the case of the NBC Act, there is a provision that the NBC can sanction a station, including fine or revocation of licence, if in the opinion of the NBC, it is in public interest. You now begin to wonder how a proposed law would give power of determining public interest to an unelected body.”
The IPC director also questioned why the National Assembly usually confirmed the board appointments of all regulatory bodies in Nigeria, except the media.
He said this was giving the Information Ministry undue control of the press.
“The NPC Act is so ridiculous that the proposed amendment is saying that a National Press Code shall be drawn up and the code will come into effect only with the approval of the Minister of Information. So, they are saying in effect that all newspapers are a department of the Ministry of Information,” he added.
He said the National Assembly must act as true representatives of Nigerians and not to serve the selfish interest of a few people.
According to him, a breach of press freedom in any form is denying the people the right to know.
A wealthy businessman with a reputation for being frugal, Peter Obi has emerged as a powerful force ahead of Nigeria’s presidential election next February, energising voters with messages of prudence and accountability that are amplified by an army of social media users.
In a country that seems to always be on the lookout for a messiah to solve its myriad problems, young social media-savvy supporters have elevated Mr Obi to sainthood and are backing his largely unknown Labour Party against two septuagenarian political heavyweights.
His name is often trending on social media on the back of numerous conversations sparked by his supporters, instantly recognisable from their display picture of his image or the white, red and green logo of his party.
These are mostly urban under-30s who refer to themselves as the “Coconut-head generation”, because they are strong-willed, independent-minded and contemptuous of older politicians who, they say, have done little for them.
Many of them, like Dayo Ekundayo from the eastern city of Owerri, were involved in the EndSars protests that forced the disbandment of a notorious police department two years ago and also morphed into calls for better government.
Now, they are deploying the same strategies that mobilized hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians and raised millions of naira within weeks for the 60-year-old who they consider an alternative to the two parties that have dominated politics since the end of military rule in 1999.
“Which Nigerian politician has ever held office and has his integrity intact? I do not see any other logical option for young people in Nigeria,” said Mr Ekundayo.
He has already been involved in a march for Mr Obi, and is providing logistics and mobilising students for the campaign as he did during the EndSars protests.
But opponents say Mr Obi is a political impostor, one of many who spring up at election time with delusions of being a third force that will wrestle power from the traditional parties.
Many supporters of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and neutral observers agree he is head and shoulders above the other candidates, but say he lacks the nationwide popularity to win the election and have warned his supporters that they risk wasting their votes.
They believe he is a distraction from the common goal of removing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from office, and could split the opposition vote.
A devout Catholic from eastern Nigeria, they point to his lack of popularity in the Muslim-dominated north, whose votes are considered critical in winning presidential elections.
And his critics question whether he truly represents a break from the corruption he routinely lambasts, pointing out that his name popped up in the leaked Pandora Papers which exposed the hidden wealth of the rich and powerful in 2021.
While he was not accused of stealing money, he failed to declare offshore accounts and assets held by family members, citing ignorance.
He was also accused of investing state funds, as governor, into a company he had dealings with. He denied any wrongdoing and points out that the value of the investment has since grown.
Mr Obi repeatedly says he is not desperate to be president, which is ironic for a man who has changed parties four times since 2002.
He dumped the PDP just days before its presidential primary in June and the party went on to choose the 75-year-old former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential flagbearer.
Critics say he pulled out of the contest because he knew his chances of winning were slim but he cited wrangling within the PDP, where he was a vice-presidential candidate in 2019, for deciding to cross over to the Labour Party.
His supporters are also convinced that he was pushed out of the PDP because he refused to bribe delegates at the party primary and have coined the phrase: “We don’t give shishi (money)” as a buzzword for his famed frugality and his prudence in managing government funds in a country with a history of wasteful expenditure by public officers.
They regard him as an unconventional politician prepared to take on the APC and PDP behemoths seen as different sides of the same coin, who they accuse of dipping their fingers into the public purse.
There is also a religious and ethnic twist to his candidacy.
In a country where roughly half the population is Christian, his supporters hope that this will bolster his chances of winning, as after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari they would not want another Muslim – the APC’s Bola Tinubu, 70, or the PDP’s Mr Abubakar – to take office.
Some also support Mr Obi because of his ethnic background. Igbos make up the country’s third largest ethnic group, but Nigeria has had only one Igbo leader, largely ceremonial, since it freed itself from British colonial rule in 1960.
Many Igbos accuse successive Nigerian governments of marginalising them and hope that Mr Obi will rise to power so that the south-east, where most of them live, would see greater development and so counter the pull of secession groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob).
A philosophy graduate, he worked in his family’s retail businesses before going on to make his own money, importing everything from salad cream to beauty products, and baked beans to champagne, while also owning a brewery and holding major shares in three commercial banks.
You can normally recognise a Nigerian billionaire from a mile off but Mr Obi is thrifty and wears it as a mark of pride.
He is quick to point out that he owns just two pairs of black shoes from midmarket British chain Marks and Spencer, prefers a $200 suit from Stein Mart to a $4,000 Tom Ford suit, and always insists on carrying his own luggage, rather than paying someone else to do it for him.
Even his children are not spared his frugality. His 30-year-old son was denied a car, he said, while his other child is a happy primary school teacher – a rarity in a country where a politician’s name often opens doors to more lucrative jobs.
Despite the financial controversy, his tenure as governor of Anambra state has become a reference point for his presidential campaign.
His supporters point out that he invested heavily in education and paid salaries on time – the simple things that most Nigerian state governors tend to neglect.
He also left huge savings in state coffers at the end of his two four-year tenures, another rarity.
But Frances Ogbonnaya, a university student in Anambra state when Mr Obi was governor, is surprised by the praises being sung in his name, describing his tenure as unremarkable.
“Who saves money in the face of hunger? Who saves money in the face of a lack of facilities?” she asked rhetorically.
But it is his reputation for frugality and sound management that has attracted a horde of supporters, known as OBIdients.
Some have been accused of cyberbullying and labelling anyone who does not vote for him in next year’s election an enemy of the state.
He responded with a tweet calling on his supporters to “imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship”, but it has done little to calm them down.
They are quick to show anyone who tells them that elections aren’t won on Twitter, the crowds at offices of Nigeria’s electoral body where they have been flooding to register as first-time voters.
But this is not the same as actually turning out to vote on election day.
With months to the election, there is no denying the momentum building behind Mr Obi but cynics also point to the lack of a nationwide party structure to support the view that, while possible, an Obi presidency remains highly improbable.
He retorts that his structure is “the 100 million Nigerians that live in poverty [and] the 35 million Nigerians who don’t know where their next meal will come from”.
If half of those turn out to vote him on election day, it might very well be all that he needs.
Sprinter Blessing Okagbare has been given an additional one-year ban for doping violations on top of her existing 10-year suspension, a decision that rules Nigeria out of the sprint relay at the world championships.
The Athletics Integrity Unit charged the 33-year-old with “evading sample collection, and tampering or attempted tampering with the doping control process”.
In February, Okagbare was given her original ban for “multiple breaches of anti-doping rules”.
She was suspended during last year’s Tokyo Olympics after failing a drug test.
Six days after she had evaded sample collection on June 13, 2021, she competed in the relay event at Nigeria’s Olympic trials, helping her team to qualify for the world championships.
Those results have now been disqualified due to Okagbare’s involvement and Nigeria has therefore lost its potential qualification place in the women’s 4x100m relay at the world championships in Oregon in July.
“Over the years, we have repeatedly seen how one person’s actions adversely affect team-mates who have trained hard and worked honestly for their results,” AIU head Brett Clothier said in a statement.
“In this instance, Nigeria has lost an important qualification spot. Those are the rules and we will not compromise on integrity.”
Okagbare, the 2008 Olympic long jump silver medallist, won her 100m heat in Tokyo last year, but she was thrown out of the Games after the AIU said she had tested positive for a human growth hormone following an out-of-competition test.
As a result of the case, Texas therapist Eric Lira, who supplied performance-enhancing drugs to Okagbare, became the first person charged under a new US anti-doping law.
The case is the first time charges have been brought under the Rodchenkov Act — a law introduced in the United States in 2020 in the wake of Russia’s state-backed doping scandal.
“Three deadly plagues I have always despised: Donald Trump, COVID-19, and Muhammadu Buhari.” —Anthony Obi Ogbo
I am not a sadist, but all through my life, there have been three deadly plagues I have always despised: Donald Trump, COVID-19, and Muhammadu Buhari. So in 2017, I spent seven days fasting and praying, asking God directly to take away the life of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. I knew that was the right thing to do, and I will explain why along the line.
Buhari came in as president in early 2015, all mean and angry. Most surprisingly, his ignorance and total lack of competence to lead such a complex economy were exposed less than one year into his term in office. He started by using his executive powers to victimize regions he accused of not voting for him; he then went after the opposition with unfounded allegations of embezzlement. He created animosity among tribes and religions and totally ignored all the election promises he had made. He was so dumb to matters of governance that, under his watch, his economic team plagiarized a budget. The budget he presented turned out to be a carbon copy of the one made by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.
Unemployment was growing and spreading like a California wildfire, and insecurity grew out of hand as Boko Haram terrorists outnumbered the national army. Buhari exonerated thousands of apprehended Boko Haram and ISIS terrorists and recruited them into the Nigeran Army—a move that has currently crippled the country’s security intelligence. Indeed, I knew the country was headed toward total anarchy if something was not quickly done to stop this man. Impeachment was off the table, especially with the Nigerian lawmakers who are stakeholders and partakers of a fraudulent administrative structure. So, as a concerned Nigerian citizen who was equally affected by Buhari’s stupidity, I had to do something.
Impeachment was off the table, especially with the Nigerian lawmakers who are stakeholders and partakers of a fraudulent administrative structure.
He was very sick at the time and was a sorry tenant in an obscure hospital in London. He was emaciated to the bone and looked like a cornfield scarecrow; it was obvious that his life was grinding closer to a final rest. Rumors of his death had clouded social media with unsubstantiated news and analysis, and his camp was not just communicating; rather, they babbled with watery explanations about his ailment, and at some point, they claimed he was just on vacation. This was when I had to do the right thing to save millions of lives put in harm’s way through Buhari’s reckless and tyrannical governance.
I gathered my all-time spiritual warfare, including Psalms 109:8–15. Fasting for seven days was a little challenging because I had to appease my addiction to Ethiopian Sidamo coffee. It’s a wet-processed Ethiopian espresso known for its complex flavor and rich acidity.
I resumed my prayer request invoking Psalms 109:8, that his days would be few and that another man (Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, I guess) would take his place of leadership. I meant every word. I chanted verses 8–15 severally in a loud voice and ended by asking God squarely to kill this man by granting him everlasting rest from his sick bed. I did this every day with six-hour fasting. If I may confess, I fell short on the fasting part and often accidentally violated the process with my routine coffee and granola bar addictions. I asked God for forgiveness each time I mistakenly broke the fasting. I ended my prayer-and-fasting event with the same theme—kill this man and set Nigeria free.
I thought my prayers had worked for a moment, but then I could not figure out why God did not grant my request.
Exactly three days after my prayer revival, when I was already celebrating victory, the news of Buhari’s return from his medical trip radiated through the airwaves and on social media. I saw him on the video, and he looked healthier and stronger, walking without support, shaking hands, and talking. I felt like a yahoo-scam victim, then realized I did this all by myself. I thought my prayers had worked for a moment, but then I could not figure out why God did not grant my request. Could it be the coffee and granola bars that often interrupted the fasting moments? I have no clue.
Before you judge my actions, it may interest you to know that Buhari is not just an ordinary man. He is a rare creature who is never happy but whose sadness is dependent on making the lives of those he does not like miserable. In my book on how he bastardized his executive mandate, I described him as the most dangerous killer bee: one that would perch wheezing on the scrotum for a destructive sting. Punch it and smash the manhood; leave it, and he would sting one to death.
He was groomed in an uncultivated military confraternity where a constitutional system and civil liberties are taboo. All his life, as a privileged Fulani breed, he has lived through a system where mediocrity outruns excellence; this explains why, under this ugly culture, a man who has no proof of a high school certificate could rise beyond the law, his country, and the entire masses.
Currently, Buhari has about eight months left in his eight-year hellish regime. And please note that I have no regrets about my kill-Buhari prayer actions and would do it again against any leader that threatens my communal interest with ignorance of mandate, meanness, and idiocy.