Home ART & ENTERTAINMENT My Harrowing Experience With My Employer, The Nation, By Augustine Ehikioya

My Harrowing Experience With My Employer, The Nation, By Augustine Ehikioya

What appeared like a rumour last Monday concerning seizure of my Presidential Villa tag is not rumour, but true. Let me first apologize to my colleagues who had shown concern by calling me or messaging me when they got the hint. I had denied it to all of them by claiming I was on working leave and out of Abuja. But there is a reason, explained below, why I had to deny it prior to this message.

My office, Vintage Press, publisher of The Nation Newspaper, had directed me to do a picturesque piece on the Villa, sort of describing the houses and everything in the Villa. I had resisted and explained to them that it may have security implications especially as the Presidential Villa is considered to be a security zone. But I was told to do the report and that there won’t be any problem from the authorities as long as I avoid mentioning the security posts and the number of security personnel on duty and other security issues. I did exactly that. The piece, I was also told, will not embarrass the government, but will make an interesting reading material for Nigerians, at least to know where their President, under a democratic setting, is operating from.

Before I continue recounting my recent experience let me go back to few months back: My former Abuja Bureau Chief, Mr. Yomi Odunuga, who had covered the Presidential Villa in the past, had did everything in the past to let my newspaper management understand that writing such report could breach the security of the Villa. But with his exit from the newspaper, the pressure was on that my reports, especially my Tuesdays weekly write up ‘From the Villa’ was not adding value to the newspaper. So, I was told to buckle up otherwise I would be redeployed from the Villa if I fail to do the ‘good’ reports because I didn’t want my tag to be seized by government authorities. Severally, Yusuf Alli, during Editorial meetings, had even explained that I should not be scared of doing the reports because the publisher of The Nation Newspaper, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, must be consulted by the government before my tag could be seized. But every is adding up now, and showing that all the threats and deceptions were part of a grand plot to get me out of the Villa or The Nation Newspaper at all cost. They had been waiting patiently to see me miss a story from the Villa so that they can easily sack me. But God didn’t allow them succeed through that means. I have no doubt in my mind that everyone of them involved in the scheming and conspiracy that led to the bad name they gave me in the Presidential Villa and the seizure of the Villa tag, despite my dedication to duty over the years, will be paid back in their own coin in due course, because the battle is of the Lord.

Back to my predicament; the story that led to the tag seizure. With the mounting pressure from the office and somehow wedged between the devil and the deep blue sea, I wrote the report. To still discourage the editors from publishing it, I put the following message boldly in bracket on top of the report: Editor, please look at this critically and remove any part that could breach the security of the State House. Their song to State House correspondents at every opportunity is that the Presidential Villa is a security zone. But The Nation disregarded the written and verbal warnings and went ahead to publish it. Its first part, entitled ‘Inside Aso Rock Villa (1)’ was published on Friday 1st of November, 2019.

I could not approach the Villa on that Friday. My tag was however seized by security men at the Villa after taking my statement on the matter on Monday 4th of November, 2019. In the statement, I explained clearly that the idea of the report came from The Nation Headquarters in Lagos and I was made to write the piece despite explaining that it could breach the security of the Presidential Villa.

On the same day the tag was seized, the media office in the Villa had promised to intervene on the matter when the Chief Security Officer returns to Nigeria from London where the President paid a private visit. But I was warned that the only condition the media office will intervene is for me or my office to keep the issue of my tag seizure from the media. My office and I did exactly that from when my tag was seized till now. This is why I did everything to deny it when some concerned members called me over the issue.

A lot of twists and drama started to play out from last Monday over the matter. On Wednesday, I was told by a top official in the Presidency that the security didn’t see things the same way the media office perceived the matter. In essence, my Presidential Villa tag will remain seized. I was also told that The Nation Newspaper headquarters in Lagos have been informed about the Villa decision on my issue since last Monday and should be in better position to brief me.

But when I got in touch on Monday with the Daily Editor of The Nation Newspaper, Mr. Adesina Adeniyi, who is based in Lagos, he told me the management was still waiting for intervention promised by the Villa media office on the matter.

When I called him on Thursday afternoon, he refused to pick my calls and neither did he call back (This was happening for the first time since I knew him on the job). I repeated the call four hours later and when he picked, he told me that the Villa media office will get back to The Nation  management the following day, which is Friday.

On Friday, I put a call through to him around 9pm, he didn’t pick.

He also declined to pick the several calls I made to his two lines on Saturday. None of the calls were returned.

As the matter was becoming not only high level gang up, but a hide-and-seek game and the more you look, the less you see, I then dug further in the Presidency, where I was reliably informed that a letter was written to The Nation management last Monday asking it to send a new name to replace me in the Villa.

It’s so sad that after dedication and loyalty to duty, The Nation Newspaper did not only schemed to put me in trouble with the government, they followed it up with series of deception just to achieve their goals. Did they forget that Almighty God, the owner of heaven and earth, is watching them and will answer them at the appointed time. What pained me most was not leaving the Villa, but the way and scheming method adopted by the evil forces in The Nation. A simple letter redeploying me from the Villa would have been appreciated than this inhumane method adopted by The Nation management. It is better I go to the streets and be clearing rubbish bins for a living than to continue working for such organization.

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What happened to me this morning in my house where I have been living in the past nine years made me to ponder if they have also gone spiritual. My wife and children had taken their bath in their bathroom, dressed up and went to Church to meet up with the workers’ meeting that normally precedes the main church service. After typing this recent predicament in the Villa on my laptop, I decided to take my bath in my own separate bathroom around 9.30am in order to meet up with the church service. As I opened the bathroom door to first excrete (as Fela called it ‘shit’) before taking my bath, what I saw in the water closet surprised me to my marrow. The bathroom was dark and I managed to switch on the light. Initially, I thought what I saw was a big black curly rubber. On a second look, it turned out to be a giant snake. Its head and tail were caught up in the pipe that links the closet to the service chamber outside the toilet. I almost ran out of my compound naked but returned and locked the bathroom door firmly and tied my towel. I then went outside the compound and sent for one of my neighbours, Malam Gambo. When he came and I explained everything to him, he took a big stick and we returned to the bathroom door. But I told him to wait as I went outside to the generator set area to carry the six litres keg of petrol and some packets of salt. When I returned to the bathroom door, we opened it and poured the six litres of petrol on it as it remained in the same position we left it. By the time we opened six sachets of salt and poured it inside the closet, the snake had moved further into the pipe heading to the chamber. I then covered the closet and placed one bucket filled with water on it. We then decided to go and pour the remaining packets of salts into the water closet in the other bathroom, which is about twenty feet away from my bathroom. On getting there, we saw a big dead rat on the floor. Malam Gambo picked it up and said it came out from the water closet and died from the impact of the petrol and salt we poured on the snake in the closet in the other bathroom. He was certain that the big snake in the pipe or toilet chamber will not survive the effect of the petrol and salt. So I thanked him and he left as I later took my bath outside in my compound before rushing to meet up with the remaining church service. I don’t believe that the devil and its agents can prevail over me spiritually, but I kept wondering why the snake on a day I decided to open up on the injustice meted out on me by The Nation. Was it meant to silent me forever or was it just a natural occurrence. Only God in heaven can answer that. But I always believe that only His Will will be done in my life and family, and not the will of witches, wizards, principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. Their counsel and plans against me will never stand, in Jesus mighty name.

Again, The Nation Newspaper is doing everything to compete with The Punch Newspaper, but they are not ready to do the needful. The Punch Newspaper is ever ready, for instance, to spend its last strength and resources to support any staff doing what it believes in. Comparing this with my recent predicament, The Nation Newspaper, on the other hand, have just wasted and sacrificed me like a worthless pawn in a Chess game, especially for a report idea which originated from the headquarters and forced on me. The Punch Newspaper is rare and will continue to be the newspaper to beat, in all ramifications, for many years to come.

Above all these, I give Almighty God the glory and honour that I’m leaving the Villa in one piece and my family members safe, because somebody had whispered to me in the wake of this issue that I would have been picked up and dealt with mercilessly if not for the relationship between the President and the publisher of my newspaper and the quick intervention of the Villa media office.

Despite my explanation in my statement to security men in the Villa that the idea of the report originated from Lagos and it was forced down on me, I still ended up being used as the sacrificial lamb. Did The Nation management gave a false and different explanation to Villa security just to nail me? Is the Villa security now satisfied that the report was only a scheme to get me out of the Villa or there is still more than meet the eyes now by the originators.

I also hope that the withdrawal of my accreditation tag didn’t mean they are still very angry with me after explaining how the report came about. My prayer and hope is that they should now allow the matter to end with the seizure of my Presidential Villa tag because it will be very difficult to disconnect the matter from any ugly incident that may happen to me and my family members directly or indirectly from now onward, including assassination, accident, robbery, fire incident, kidnapping, unknown soldier attack, etc.

Dear colleagues, I’m not saying you should write a story from this my predicament or not to write. The decision is yours, but I hope it will also not risk your Presidential Villa tag when you decide to write. This my recent experience in the Villa, I feel should just be a lesson for new members to learn from for their coverage of the Presidential Villa.

At this point, we have to part ways for this relationship we started since 2013. I hereby ask for forgiveness from those I might have genuinely offended, knowingly or unknowingly. (Of course, this does not cover those that felt offended due to enforcement of one sanction or the other against them in the course of serving the State House Press Corps as Financial Secretary because I may not behave differently if our path cross again in similar circumstances at any level, as I always believe in discipline, just and fairness to everyone in any union or association or the society).

It is well.

Augustine Ehikioya.

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