A Lagos based newspaper, The PUNCH, yesterday, December 11, went gaga with anger. It’s the type of anger that led it to open its mouth too wide, cursing and swearing for the President and everything and everybody that is connected to him. It’s the anger that made it lose all sense of control, destroying everything and anything in its front. PUNCH forgot that for everything it saw wrong with others, many things are wrong with it…that launching sadistic insult on our collective President (whether they voted for him in the 2019 election or not), no matter the compelling reason, is a sign of weakness of character, a sign of weakness of mind and faith, and above all, the high point of indiscipline in the way it presented its anger.
Having said all that, what is the PUNCH’s grouse?
Simple: that President Muhammadu Buhari in particular and his government or what it chose to call ‘regime’ in general, has been insensitive to the rule of law as well as human rights, a throwback, according to it, to his military era.
The anger of the newspaper obviously stemmed from the situation surrounding the arrest, detention, and re-arrest of SaharaReporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore. All other points raised in that vexed editorial were built carefully around Sowore’s issue.
The newspaper began, after sounded out that it would thenceforth be addressing President Muhammadu Buhari as Major General (retd), by saying that the entire country (Nigeria) and a global audience are rightly scandalized by the unfolding saga over Omoyele Sowore and the unruliness of the SSS and the government. It added: “but it is only a pattern, a reflection of the serial disregard of the Buhari regime for human rights and it’s battering of other arms of government and our democratic institutions.”
It went on: “PUNCH views this tendency and its recent escalation with serious concern, knowing as the great thinker, Edmund Burke, said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
“Nigeria had trod a path, a veritable obstacle course, where repression, especially under military jackboots, was a malignant presence and this attracted heroic resistance by ordinary people, civil society groups and the press. But Nigerians have lately become lethargic, divided by ethnic and sectarian sentiments and weakened by widespread poverty brought on by a rapacious political class and bad governance.
“PUNCH will not adopt the self-defeating attitude of many Nigerians looking the other way after each violation of rights and attacks on the citizens, the courts, the press, and civil society, including self-determination groups lawfully exercising their inalienable rights to peaceful dissent. This regime’s actions and assaults on the courts, disobedience of court orders and arbitrary detention of citizens reflect its true character of the martial culture. Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) ran a ham-fisted military junta in 1984/85 and old habits obviously run deep. Until he and his repressive regime purge themselves of their martial tendency, therefore, PUNCH will not be a party to falsely adorning it with a democratic robe, hence our decision to label it for what it is – an autocratic military-style regime run by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
“Sowore’s travails are symptomatic: having ignored court orders granting him bail, the SSS, after much pressure following 125 days in captivity, released him only to stage a GESTAPO-style raid on the court where the journalist was standing trial. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim el-Zakzakky and his wife have spent over three years in detention in violation of court orders granting them bail and ordering their release. A former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been held in detention since 2015 in defiance of several court orders, including one by the ECOWAS appellate court that declared his continued incarceration illegal. Under Buhari, the SSS has become a monstrous and repressive secret police, acting often with impunity. Buhari bears responsibility for the state of repression because, as president, he can stop it today.”
Reading down the lines of The PUNCH editorial, we, in Greenbarge Reporters, and good people around the world, were miffed by not only one-sided reasoning of a newspaper that is supposed to be a national medium, but its blatant blindness to the matters as they are. The editorial relied heavily on hearsay, market-side gossip, and total ignorance as if it is an Ireland on itself.
To start with, PUNCH did not situate the circumstance that led to the arrest of Sowore in its proper context; indeed, it even refused for the sake of the purpose it set out to pursue, to touch it at all. In one word, if PUCH must know or be forced to know, it was the fact that Sowore was mobilizing Nigerians across the country or part of it, for a revolution against democratically elected President Muhammadu Buhari, whom Sowore contested with under a political platform and in a democratic setting.
But when he was released on the order of the court, he was still boasting that he would carry on with the revolution, with his body language, and his motley crowd of supporters, including the PUNCH itself, were hailing him. Is PUNCH not educated enough on the implication of REVOLUTION?
Sowore, like the leader of Proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and that of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) or Shiites, Ibrahim El-Zakzaki, was unrepentant. Even before he was properly released, he had violated one or two conditions of the bail.
For a quick reminder, the same situation happened in the case of Nnamdi Kanu, who after he was released on bail, broke all the bail conditions, ran away to his British home and now constitutes security and personal threat to Nigeria and top government functionaries or Nigerians that are visiting other countries in the world.
It is quite obvious that PUNCH is myopic, with very narrow concept of security system, even within the area it operates. In order word, PUNCH has no capacity to know and understand the security implications of allowing Sowore to go out there, join forces with Nnamdi Kanu to be tormenting Nigerians simply because they, like PUNCH don’t like Buhari and or his government. In other words, the world view of PUNCH on what constitutes security threat is very narrow, and cannot use that narrow world view to lampoon Buhari.
By inferring that President Buhari could have stopped the security operatives from arresting Sowore or his like, PUNCH is saying that the President should interfere in the operations of his security people whom he appointed to properly look after the security and peace of the country. Indeed, it is like PUNCH saying that its owner should be stopping editor from publishing news items in the newspaper, even though the issue of security is more complex.
It would amount to indicting security operatives if the same person who appoints them to do the work, as provided in the constitution, would continue to direct who should be arrested and who should be released.
If PUNCH is fair-minded and wants to play journalism by its rules, he would not have jumped into conclusion, using unconfirmed legal points as its alibi.
The PUNCH had succeeded in playing the highest form of hatred for President Buhari. The editorial, lacking in ‘balance’ of facts involved, had betrayed the odorous emotion of its owner or the editorial board or both. Such emotion is steeped in myopism, for, as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu had said in his reaction, Nigeria had witnessed those that can be described as worst leaders, including the one that shut down PUNCH offices and sent the employees into job market; the one that massacred Odi and Zaki Biam villagers and so on, but PUNCH did not give them names.
It is unfortunate that the noble journalism is being invaded now by the type of editorial board members The PUNCH is riddled with. This was the profession which used to be the last resort in search of objectivity, fairness, HUMILITY in raging national crisis, even if the journalists felt so bad. But, this is the profession that the like of PUNCH editorial board members are turning into open opposition political group and, ‘bread-and-butter platform.
We in Greenbarge Reporters believe strongly that, though, The PUNCH, like other news media and even all Nigerians, have constitutional rights to say whatever they want to say, but in this case, it had not only misfired but ran headlong into the gutter. We believe strongly that The PUNCH, in exercising its freedom of expression, had crossed the bar and stepped violently on the right of President Muhammadu Buhari.
After all, we feel that anger should not result in throwing away the baby with the bathtoob. We believe that there should be some level of morality in anger; a modicum of dignity in anger.
The PUNCH has carelessly and professionally lost all that, and more.