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Re: Journalism, power and Mu’azu Magaji Dansarauniya

I read with disbelief the Monday Column on the back page of Daily Trust by Suleiman A. Suleiman with the above caption in which he rubbished…

I read with disbelief the Monday Column on the back page of Daily Trust by Suleiman A. Suleiman with the above caption in which he rubbished ethical issues in the journalism profession and faulted individuals to cherish their fundamental rights whether they are in a position of power or not.

I am writing this rejoinder to the piece for the fact that, firstly, the writer attempted to equate seeking justice from infringement on fundamental rights with abuse of power, and secondly, identifying defamation of character as a serious matter, which he ended up downplaying in the case of a person in position of power. 

Let me make it clear that just as the writer put down, Magaji’s arrest by the police had nothing to do with his featuring on Daily Politics, neither had it anything to do with Dansarauniya being a critic of Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, nor has he any kind of political skirmish with the governor.

As a politician serving his second and last tenure in office, Ganduje has critics just as he has supporters. Even if the writer sees Magaji as one, how many of his political foes has Ganduje influenced their arrest? That is why I do not see how Magaji is a thorn in the flesh of Ganduje. In fact, Kano enjoys the freest environment for the expression of opinion in the media, both mainstream and social media platforms.

The governor took the case to the court of law to seek justice on the alleged posting on the social media by Magaji which is considered a breach of peace, intentional insult and defamation of his character. The governor’s legal team identified the picture allegedly posted by Magaji as portraying Ganduje as an immoral and ungodly man in an extra-marital affair with a strange woman whose face appeared in the picture and widely circulated by the suspect (Magaji) on several social media platforms.

I do not see anything wrong in what the governor has done. In fact, it is the right thing to do by any law-abiding citizen. Posting the picture of an individual in such kind of situation is not in any way criticism if at all it is what the writer was trying to suggest, but it is a punishable crime under Nigeria’s Penal Code.

Evidence abound on how highly placed individuals seek redress in the court of law from cases of intentional insult and defamation of character, including of course, President Muhammadu Buhari, who the writer said did not bother about people he knew could not stand up to him in any way. 

I give examples: in Kano, a former governor, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, had a legal battle with Engr Hamisu Lambu (late) who published and circulated a poster depicting the governor as having extra-marital affair with one of his wives before they got married. He confessed to the crime and made it known that his intention was to dent the image of the governor who was then contesting for re-election.

There was also a working journalist in Kano who was dragged to court by the former governor for publishing a story on a similar case of extra-marital affair.

Also, the Katsina State Police Command arrested a 75-year-old man, Lawal Abdullahi, popularly called Izala, and one Bahajeje Abu for “insulting” President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State on the social media. The action is considered a “grave” offence in the Nigerian constitution, especially under the Penal Code.

Another man, who identified himself as Usman Mohammed, was arrested and charged to court for “insulting” President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State.

I do not understand how Ganduje should be an exception. After all, Magaji is not a nonentity. By virtue of his position, he ought to have known the gravity of his action. 

For how long are we going to allow this kind of thing to continue to be denting the image of our noble profession?

If the writer feels that the Magaji he identified  a “weaker opponent” has the right to make such portrayal, why does he think Ganduje does not have the right to protect his image; whether as an individual or as a public servant?

Magaji has been using the free passage of all trash offered by the accessible social media to circulate such garbage and going scot-free.

Another thing is how the writer attempted to liken the issue with our noble profession. This is very much unfortunate. Magaji is not, after all, a journalist. And even if he is, it is unprofessional to support him smear the image of anyone. As a journalist, I have never expected that the writer could encourage the violation of the code and ethics of the journalism profession, particularly now that with the advent of social media, all manners of people are professing to be journalists. 

Let the writer put his feet in the shoes of Ganduje. How would he feel in the face of such act of slanting? How do you think your family would react to it? Ganduje has a family: wife, sons, daughters, grandchildren, relatives, friends, supporters and a reputation to protect. It is not a matter of holding position of power, it is a case of protecting his hard earned image.

By Muhammad Garba,  the commissioner for information, Kano state

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