Nigerian Tribune, Olakunle Taiwo And A Cocktail of Falsehoods

…By Ilesanmi Omabomi

Olakunle Timothy Taiwo, the Nigerian Tribune journalist involved in the fabricated interview of constitutional law lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, today published what he called his account of the story on the platform of Sahara Reporters. After going through his story, one cannot but come to the conclusion that he is further insulting Nigerians who are already quite upset about the level of decadence that Nigerian Tribune and its journalist stooped to in an irresponsible attempt to paint the Buhari government and his anti-corruption war with a bad brush.

Make no mistake about it. Every Nigerian, corporate bodies and journalists have an inalienable right to criticize the Buhari government and its policies and I will do everything to defend that freedom even if the accusations are based on erroneous facts or analysis. Having said that for a newspaper that gained its reputation by engaging in critical analysis of government policies and for many years was a prop-people and leading anti-government voice, criticizing the Buhari government would not have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the history of the newspaper. The problem is that the Nigerian Tribune of yester years is no longer the Nigerian Tribune of today. Since aligning itself with the late General Abacha’s tyrannical regime and lately the corruption infested successive PDP governments, the newspaper became anti-people and pro-government until the Goodluck Jonathan regime was ignominiously booted out of office. Since then the newspaper has become the launching pad for anti-Buhari rockets. Again, I must stress that there is nothing wrong with being anti-Buhari. After all, the president is a human being, fallible and incapable of pleasing everyone.

Mr. Taiwo would want his readers to believe that the alleged interview of Prof. Itse Sagay was a mistake resulting from dialing an incorrect number. However, there are a couple of problems with that narrative. The first problem is the unusual co-incidence of dialing a wrong number he thought belonged to Prof. Sagay and the preparedness of the person on the other end of the call not only to pretend to be Prof. Sagay but to be fully prepared to address the issues the journalist wanted to discuss, including legal issues. You wonder if his boss who gave him the number was going through a directory for lawyers to get the telephone number.

The second issue with Mr. Taiwo’s narrative is his and the Nigerian Tribune’s failure or refusal to release the audio recording of the interview. Giving the brouhaha, ridicule and shame that this incident has brought upon the journalist and the newspaper one would expect that the first piece of evidence that will be released in support of their narrative will be the audio recording. My take on this aspect of the issue is that if an audio recording exists the voice of the person is probably that of a person or a member of the opposition that can be easily identified. Otherwise, what is the purpose of protecting the audio recording of an impostor who is threatening to bring down the roof on the little reputation left of a once illustrious and pro-people newspaper?

The third issue is that we are in 2015 and behind almost every telephone number in Nigeria lies an identity except for the lines MTN is protecting for the kidnappers and members of Boko Haram (lol just joking). On a serious note what the journalist and Tribune newspaper would want us believe happened bothers on criminality. Why then has the matter not been reported to the police for investigation? Why have they not released the full telephone number? Why have they not contacted the telephone operators in the country to help identify the person behind the telephone number? I believe that if the telephone number is released Nigerians with the requisite expertise and access will take it upon themselves to identify the owner of the telephone number in a very short time. Again, my take on this aspect of the matter is that there is either no telephone number to be released because the whole interview was cooked up or it belongs to somebody they want to protect.

For Mr. Taiwo who lost his job a day or two after getting married, the least offence I can accuse him of is that he allowed himself to be used although he can also be accused of being a part of the conspiracy that brought forth the whole mess. Assuming that he was used, my advise to him is to spill the beans by admitting his true role in the whole mess, apologize to his readers, and hang out Tribune and his bosses out to dry. His reputation and career are on the line.

This incident happening at a time when Nigerians are still struggling to understand the shenanigans of Nduka Obaigbena of Thisday Newspaper and the role he and other newspapers played in Col. Sambo Dasuki’s criminal spending spree puts Nigerian journalists and newspapers on the defensive. From brown envelope journalism to fabricated interviews, a profession that has resorted to supporting or buttressing the credibility of its stories with “there are indications” without sources has descended to a new low. It has abdicated its responsibility to the citizens and country by becoming part of the news, instead of reporting the news. The Nigerian Tribune should bow its head in shame and for a moment imagine what the late sage Obafemi Awolowo would have thought of its conduct.


-Ilesanmi Omabomi


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