We are writing to call the public's attention to the disturbingly unethical practices of Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher and chairman of Abuja-based LEADERSHIP newspaper.
Since November 2011, we have been victims of Mr. Nda-Isaiah's blackmail. As you will see shortly, he has committed grave ethical infractions that strike at the very core of the integrity of the journalism profession. We feel obligated to state the facts because we are concerned that Mr. Nda-Isaiah's brand of journalism will expose the entire profession to ridicule.
The LEADERSHIP publisher has decided on a deliberate editorial policy to fabricate barefaced lies against us, to ridicule our institutions, to pillory our achievements, and to maliciously libel our functionaries all because we refused to yield to his unceasing demand for advertisement patronage. For the past few weeks, he has invested enormous editorial energies to malign and tell outright lies against the government and people of Yobe State--and it is likely that he will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
In the space of one week, LEADERSHIP wrote an editorial titled "Yobe And The Murder of Korean Doctors" (LEADERSHIP Wednesday 13th February 2013) where it tendentiously accused the Yobe State governor of being responsible for the regrettably cold-blooded murder of three Korean doctors in our state (about which the security agencies with the support of the state government are working tirelessly to unravel). We wrote a rejoinder (Daily Trust, Blueprint, People's Daily and Nation Friday 15th February 2013) calling attention to the untruth of the editorial's claims and pointing out the many inaccuracies that informed its conclusions. A few days after our rejoinder, Mr. Nda-Isaiah again dedicated his personal column, under the title "Yobe Governor Should Be Held Responsible for This" (LEADERSHIP Monday18th February 2013), to hurl coarse invectives at us and to repeat the same false statements against us. He called the Yobe State governor a "sadist" and his media adviser a "thuggish underling," among other unsavoury insults. That is clearly beyond the pale.
He also claimed that the Yobe State governor and his deputy live permanently in Abuja and only 'pay day-time visits' to Damaturu and that the Yobe State House of Assembly operates from Kano instead of the state capital. These are far from the truth.
We want to state for the record that the Yobe State governor, his deputy, and other principal officers of the state government live and have always lived in the state capital. They had never left the state capital in the past nor will they do so in the future because of the security challenges that face the state; challenges that have fortunately subsided considerably in the past few months due to the efforts of the state government and the security agencies and the support and prayers of ordinary citizens. In addition, at no time did the Yobe State House of Assembly relocate to or operate from Kano. Nor will such a time ever come Insha Allah. All this exist only in the imagination of Mr. Nda-Isaiah and his LEADERSHIP.
The LEADERSHIP publisher also said that Governor Gaidam, his deputy, all state legislators and all functionaries of the state government had abandoned the state and travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. This is also patently untrue. Governor Gaidam and his deputy have not attended the Hajj last year. They stayed back to attend to the security challenges which were at their worst at the time. Most other senior government officials also stayed away. In any case, it is none of the LEADERSHIP publisher's business had these officials decided to carry out their religious obligation.
So, why is Mr. Nda- Isaiah so fixated on Yobe State and its officials? Well, it is because we have had occasions to spurn his entreaties for advertisement patronage, and he seems unwilling to accept the fact that it is absolutely our decision to choose which media to patronize with our advertisements.
As a state government, we do place advertisement in the media from time to time. We do so because we think it is the best way to record our achievements and inform our people at home and elsewhere about our programmes, projects and policies. In doing this, we are guided by the imperatives of availability of funds and the reach and relevance of the media we patronize. We have in the past had occasion to place advertisements in LEADERSHIP when we thought it was appropriate to do so.
For instance, in late 2008, the Yobe state government paid ten million naira to LEADERSHIP to publish special supplements on the state. This followed Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah's visit to Damaturu where he met our late governor, Senator Mamman Ali. But the project did not even go half-way when the late governor passed on. LEADERSHIP stopped the supplements following Governor Mamman Ali's death and to date there is no explanation as to why this was so or what happened to the balance of the money they collected.
This, however, did not stop us from placing adverts in the paper whenever we saw the need to do so.
But on almost all occasions we have had reason not to patronize the paper; we never fail to receive harassing calls from Mr. Nda-Isaiah or some members of his staff.
In August 2011, because of the exigency of funds and the specificity of our outreach goals, for instance, we placed an advertorial on a new salary table for government workers in the Daily Trust and People's Daily. But as soon as the adverts appeared, Mr. Nda-Isaiah called personally and expressed outrage that we excluded his paper.
Not long after this incident, we also had occasion to place adverts in newspapers that didn't initially include LEADERSHIP. This was an eight-page pull-out on projects that Governor Gaidam had approved for local governments. As soon as the adverts came out, Mr. Nda-Isaiah's personal assistant called on his behalf to ask why LEADERSHIP did not get the adverts. We told the assistant that, as always, we would patronize them when and if our resources and publicity needs dictated. We thought this was a straightforward business transaction where supply was dictated by demand. We didn't know we had struck a raw nerve.
Just two days after this encounter, LEADERSHIP started a scurrilous campaign of purposefully packaged disinformation and libel against the governor, government, and people of Yobe State. The first in the series of this editorial campaign of smear was a sponsored article titled "Yobe's State of Paralysis" where the paper published all manner of falsehood against us. LEADERSHIP followed it up three days later with a front page comment titled "A Word for Yobe's Functional Functionaries" where the same smear campaign was sustained against us.
Since then, LEADERSHIP has made a career of publishing downright falsehoods and mendacious propaganda against the government and people of Yobe State. But we chose to ignore the paper because we believed we had more urgent issues of statecraft to attend to than to respond to every hate-filled untruth written against us.
For instance, the LEADERSHIP publisher had strained himself at every opportunity to suggest that Yobe is a 'failed state'. Actually this is not a term applied to a unit of a country in development and scholarly circles. It is only applicable to a nation-state according to the Fund for Peace. Even so, there are countless people in Yobe today who can testify to the numerous social services that the Gaidam administration is providing and also attest to the lies in Sam Nda-Isaiah's statements - the same people he'd derisively asked to relocate from Yobe.
But Mr. Nda-Isaiah's choice of the unfortunate death of three Korean doctors to fight an old battle has compelled us to take the trouble of letting the public know the truth and how he has selectively targeted us. For instance, Chinese, Indians, and other nationals working in government institutions or on government contracts were unfortunately and condemnably killed, kidnapped or abducted in other states but the LEADERSHIP publisher has not used his column to accuse the governors of those states of being personally responsible for such deaths or kidnap or write of them with the same hatred that he writes about the person and office of our governor.
As a government, we recognize the media's responsibility to alert us to our duties. That is why, as a policy, we do not regard all negative stories about our administration as declarations of hostility or as a slight on our persons. Some negative stories can be constructive and redemptive. But there is a world of difference between critical journalism and blackmail journalism. It is blackmail journalism when a publisher abuses the privilege of his medium to traduce and manufacture lies against people simply because they refused to place adverts in his or her news medium.
Of course we recognize the importance of advertisement to the survival of the news media. As a government accountable to God and the people, we spread our adverts as best we can within the resources available and the possibilities of local consumption. There are many national dailies which are happy to receive adverts from us but would never resort to blackmail if they did not. The relationship between advertiser and medium must necessarily be based on trust, not blackmail, coercion or extortion.
With the foregoing, we believe the people of Yobe State and Nigerians who have followed the bizarre and unbelievable saga between LEADERSHIP and the Yobe state government are now better informed about the context in which the newspaper picks and targets the state government and its officials in an unfair and unprofessional manner.
We therefore ask the public to discountenance any future insults or campaign of disinformation against the Yobe government or its officials that LEADERSHIP may engage in. Anyone who sees such libelous material from the newspaper should recall the above historical background and know that there is more to what the newspaper writes than meets the eye.
Bego writes from Government House Damaturu.