The attention of our Editorial Board has been drawn to a publication by the Nigerian Presidency on its website (www.statehouse.gov.ng) threatening our President and Executive Editor, Ms. Aziza Uko.
The publication titled, President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and El Rufai Share Mutual Respect (September 17, 2015) and authored by Mr. Laolu Akande is the Presidency’s official response to a story published by our newspaper, The Trent, titled, Osinbajo Insulted By El Rufai, Walks Out On President Buhari (September 16, 2015).
Our report, which exposes to the Nigerian people the hidden power dynamics in Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency certainly did not win us friends in this secretive government. We are, however, disappointed that Mr. Laolu Akande, a spokesman of Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo would resort to putting out an unprofessional character assassination piece in defense of his bosses in Aso Rock.
Laolu Akande: A Presidential Spokesman or Hitman?
We expect a higher level of public relations practice from Mr. Akande. If he had any contribution to make to the story, which was written by our political editor, reaching our Editorial Board through the various channels published on our website to lodge a formal complaint would have been an obvious step.
Rather, Akande, who is also a cleric, decided to polish up an error-ridden ad hominem article, drafted by an uninformed quack, and attempt to pass off such a disgraceful compilation of lies, insults, and innuendo as some kind of government press release.
The threatening publication has been removed from the government website following a massive 24-hour backlash from Nigerians on social media who condemned the Buhari government’s attack on a private citizen and attempts to intimidate the press.
FG Threats Against The Trent
We are not taking this intimidation by the Nigerian government against our newspaper, our journalists, and our Executive Editor, Ms. Uko lightly. This open threat follows a disturbing pattern in the few months of Buhari’s presidency. It is just one more, in a series of bullying, and threats of arrest targeted at our journalists and Ms. Uko from minions of the government and Nigeria’s Secret Police.
The Nigerian public, the international community, democratic governments around the world, and human rights organisations have been placed on notice with regards to these strong-arm tactics.
President Buhari and his government need to be placed under close observation even as top-ranking officials are mooting the idea of a clampdown on individual and press freedoms by censoring social media in Nigeria. Such an undemocratic move, would amount to a despotic approach to governance by this regime.
Already, the Nigerian government is operating a secretive high-tech surveillance programme which it uses to spy on its citizens, tapping their phones, and hacking their email and social media accounts at will. These tyrannical operations, carried out in the name of “fighting Boko Haram”, are alien to a free and democratic society.
The only thing Ms. Uko has done to deserve this vengeful attack from Buhari’s Presidency is to get an education, acquire valuable skills building a career in media and communications, and eventually use her life savings to start a business offering her services to legitimate organisations. In the process, she has provided employment to young Nigerians. She is being attacked because she has the audacity to succeed in the online media space, where others have failed.
We Stand By Our Story
The Trent’s report, which understandably has ruffled feathers in the Presidency, was written by Mr. Ephraim Adiele, a young Nigerian with a combination of talent, tenacity, and brilliance – a rare and valuable mix needed to succeed as a journalist, anywhere. We are proud to have him on our editorial team.
In the light of failed attempts by Mr. Akande and his agents to discredit our story, we wish to reaffirm our position as a newspaper.
In putting together this report, our journalist spoke with multiple first-hand sources close to the Presidency. Unlike Mr. Akande, he was careful to delineate fact from opinion. Our fact-check team took painstaking care to reconfirm the details of the story and verify the sources. Just before we took the final decision to publish the report, we made a strategic editorial decision to leave out some details in order to protect our sources and, of course, save our country from further embarrassment.
We stand by our story. The events and exchanges between the players in the report all happened as communicated to us during our investigations. We believe our sources to be credible.
It is unfortunate that our editorial integrity is being questioned by Laolu Akande, a man who clearly lacks the character to stick to the facts, or the courage to respond to our reporters’ enquiries, or the presence of mind to accurately state our Executive Editor’s name. Twice, Akande, has been disingenuous to the Nigerian people about events in Aso Rock. His unprofessional response to our story has demonstrated the intent of the Buhari government to continue to manipulate the Nigerian public through misinformation, intimidation of the press, and character assassination.
As a newspaper, we have the responsibility to respect the wishes of our sources, who spoke with our journalist at grave risk to their lives. Specifically, in this instance, they expressed worry over the tyrannical methods of the Buhari regime. Their fears, and the fact that a government press statement could include an open threat to a journalist, are a manifestation of the dictatorial tendencies of the Buhari government.
This episode provides important leads to what the Nigerian press should expect, going forward, from the Buhari-led Aso Rock.
What The Trent Stands For
When we set up The Trent, less than two years ago, we committed to upholding the highest standards of editorial integrity; these principles and standards which are clearly spelt out in our Editorial Policy guides our people and processes at all levels.
While, our Board does not interfere in the day-to-day running of our newspaper, our team of Editors take every possible step to ensure that we deliver to our readers accurate and high quality news and information. Keeping with global best practice, only our editorial staff have control over the editorial process. At no time do we permit non-editorial staff, for example, the Board of our parent company, or external groups to influence our editorial decisions.
This story is about what happened in the Buhari government and nothing else. It has nothing to do with any former President or any client of Ziza Group – past or present.
We launched The Trent in December 2013, with the resolve to playing a crucial role in shaping a free and progressive society by shining the spotlight on our political, business, social, and judicial systems; to highlight injustice and corruption; and to give a voice to the unheard, the oppressed, and forgotten of our society.
In 20 months, The Trent has risen to become one of the most influential online newspapers in Nigeria. This is not by happenstance. Our rise is a result of careful planning, creative thinking, sustained brand management, and the ancient principles of hard work, dedication, and a whole lot of heart.
The Trent is independent, and we are in the business of reporting news and not hiding or distorting it. We are committed to keeping our promise to our readers. They can be rest assured that we cannot be bought by special interest groups.
The Editorial Board of The Trent
September 21, 2015
Aziza Uko Executive Editor, The Trent