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Bello’s Loyalists vs Journalists; A Dictatorial Regeneration Against Media in Kogi State

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Delineating the exploitative actions Nigeria media practitioners encounter daily to a particular setting is out of context. It is a general concern. And if I must be frank about this, it started from the military era. For instance, an act of 1967 prohibiting Newspapers from circulation, public officers’ protection against false publication decree no 11 of 1976, Newspapers registration Decree of 1993, etc, were all military dictatorial consequences.

However, the renaissance of Democracy in 1999 actually regenerated sanguinity for media practices, with chapter 4 section 39 of the Nigeria constitution (as amended) excavating its freedom. Since then, what ensued seems in the affirmative especially, in the decentralization of professional practices. But in a nutshell, it is not so. Not many had come to terms with the aforementioned clause of Nigeria’s constitution in view of media roles in ensuring a substantial democratic space in the Nation’s affairs of governance. Some public officers and those in the position of authority feel media is a threat to their political overreach. Hence, the area of critical reporting and public opinion had been underperformed, with media personnel been subjected to constant harassment and all forms of human abuses.

Well, the edge for this post is the frequent cases of tirade against the media since the inception of Yahaya Bello’s administration in Kogi State. Though I am not surprised that they are turning out this way, it is time the stakeholders take precautionary measures against the state government’s illegitimate attitudes in this regard.

Recalled that, on Monday, 28 of August 2017, Segun Salami of channels TV was battered by security operatives attached to the state Government’s house. Segun was allegedly beaten up because he pointed finger at security personnel while conversing with his colleague. Barely two months after, Wale Odunsi, GCFRNG editor was attacked by security officials at the entrance of state government house precisely, on 11th of October. Wale was beaten because the officials claimed he was not part of the selected journalists and online publishers invited by the state government for a press briefing on Yahaya Bello’s new direction policies and implementations. It also came at the height of civil servants lamentations over non-payment of salaries after the so-called verification exercise.

On Sunday 18th of February 2018, a daily independent newspaper’s correspondence Julius Atabor was brutalized by hoodlums suspected to be the government’s killer squad in Omala LG area of the state. The journalist was ambushed at the NUJ press center in Lokoja at exactly 7:15 pm where he was told after beaten that they were sent to kill him over some inimical reports.

On Monday the 8th of July 2019, the governor’s loyalists including the state APC chairman, Abdullahi Bello who stormed the National secretariat of the party in Abuja to disrupt plans to protest indirect primaries proposed by the National Working Committee threatened to deal with journalists should they cover any activities. His words; “You cannot cover anything here, and if you do, I will deal with you. We were also told that some of the journalists had their phones ceased in the process.

The list goes on and on, even critics had had their fair share of the Government’s tirade. His gangs of social media monitors are also another menace of the century, as social media account of renown critics are been hacked and the owners trailed and nailed.

Shockingly, he is leveraging on the same media for his second term as several brandishing falsifications had emerged online in his favor. His pay per tirade agents are the experts in this regard. You see, what everyone seems not to understand about Yahaya Bello’s government is, they are out for the doom, and if due care is not taken, we would not wake up until the worst is done. I have said this repeatedly, each time I look around the world and genuine leaders’ effort to ensure a better society and a true democracy, I weep for my dear state. Because those we gallivant around are some self-seeking pretenders whose conscience had been lured by greed and lucre. If you like, suggest the best path, its inconsequential so long it devoid personal interest.

 Yahaya has no respect for democracy, he has no regard for the society he care-takes, and even the people are his less priority. Was he not told on the role of media during and after independent? How can a government constrict the democracy we are working so hard to deepen? I tell you, the future of media practice in Nigeria is in dilemma, with everyone staging a fight against its practitioners and getting away with it is abysmal. Imagine, a mere party chairman asking journalists to desist from covering an event, perhaps in order to orchestrate their ill-conceived mission. Where in the world has it happened?

Every now and then, this government will disgrace our most reputable Kogi state. Why should Bello’s loyalists conceive the ideas of disrupting the protest in the first place, and why is he advocating for indirect primaries as a one-time governor of the state? Is there nothing to show for his four years stewardship? Why does he want to emerge the party’s flag bearer through the back door?

There is no shameful moment other than this that a man who had plunged the state abyss is so fierce about returning to power. And the people who had endured the brunt of his incapacitation are now dancing for him. Kogites, we are the architect of our own problems, that is the story for another day.

Be that as it may, it is time to call Yahaya Bello and co to order, the idea of if you talk you die must stop. Information dissemination and constructive criticism must be allowed to thrive, irrespective of whose ox is gored.

– John Paul
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