The Punch newspaper has demanded an unreserved apology from the Presidency, following what it described as the embarrassment caused the media outfit by the “humiliation” of its state house correspondent, Olalekan Adetayo, who was briefly expelled from the Presidential Villa on Monday before he was later recalled.
Adetayo was expelled in connection with a report and an article he authored titled: “Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari’s poor health”, and “Seat of power’s event centres going into extinction”; articles which the Chief Security Officer to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Abubakar, said were “sponsored” and “ill-motivated”.
But in an editorial published by the Punch newspaper on Tuesday, the CSO, who reportedly ordered the expulsion, was accused of conducting “a bizarre, one-sided summary trial”.
“Abubakar was the complainant, prosecutor and the judge. The defendants were The PUNCH and its State House Correspondent, Olalekan Adetayo, whom Abubakar accused of writing a ‘sponsored story’ and penning an ill-motivated opinion article on the President’s health,” the Punch editorial read.
The newspaper said Adetayo tried to explain to the CSO that the said stories were done in the ordinary course of his duties, and without any ulterior motive, but Abubakar would have none of it.
The statement further read: “Abubakar’s harassment and humiliation of our reporter are unwarranted, unjustified and, therefore, condemnable.
“His reckless display of power is an abuse of his office and an affront to our newspaper” as well as an affront to the “freedom of the press and the inalienable right of every Nigerian citizen to the freedom of expression.”
The punch noted that its reporter, Adetayo, will not attend a planned meeting at the state house on Tuesday and will neither “subject himself to yet another Kangaroo trial.”
“What Abubakar (Buhari’s CSO) deserves is a stinging reprimand from his superiors, heavy censure from his principal and the outrage of all right thinking members of the society,” the newspaper noted.
The statement also pointed out that Abubakar had at one time acted outside his responsibility by convening a meeting of journalists in the State House “where he sought to teach State House correspondents how to slant, spin and scribble stories on the President and the Presidency.”
“Our demands are simple: a full and unqualified apology from Abubakar and the presidency, and the unconditional restoration of the reportorial access and privileges withdrawn from our reporter. The apology should be addressed to our reporter and our newspaper.”
“In this dispensation, vindictive and overbearing security operatives, like Abubakar, ought to bear three things in mind as they carry out their duties. One, Nigeria is a democracy, the martial antecedents of its current president notwithstanding. Two; those who hold positions of authority do so at the pleasure of the public. Three, public servants, no matter how influential, are mere tenants in the corridors of power.”