The Nigeria Union of Journalists on Thursday threw its weight behind the editorial of The PUNCH Newspapers entitled, “Buhari’s lawlessness: Our stand, saying it was not done in bad faith.
The newspaper had condemned the alleged violation of human rights by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), including the invasion of a courtroom to re-arrest the publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore, by operatives of the Department of State Services.
Also, the General Secretary of the frontline pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition, Chief Ayo Opadokun, said Buhari had failed to transform from a military dictator to a democrat.
The NUJ in a statement by its National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, said, “The media must be allowed to carry out such responsibilities by insisting on good governance.
“The NUJ believes the front page comment of Punch of Wednesday, December 11, 2019, which assessed President Muhammadu Buhari and his leadership style was not done in bad faith, but should rather be seen as an attempt to hold government accountable as enshrined in chapter 2, section 22 of the Nigerian constitution.
“While some may not necessarily support the choice of language used in the editorial, we are quick to note that this should not be enough excuse to accuse Punch of harboring ulterior motives.
“It is our contention that the media must be allowed to carry out such responsibilities by insisting on good governance which includes among others, rule of law, transparency, equity and inclusiveness, and accountability. Anything short of these may not augur well for our democracy.”
Opadokun, who spoke on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily program on Thursday, noted that the re-arrest of Sowore in court in Gestapo manner was reminiscent of the regime of the late maximum ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Opadokun stated, “We have human rights abuses in very embarrassing dimensions. What one never expected to be happening today is happening. I thought having laid down our lives, lost blood, liberty and even helped restore democracy in Nigeria; we thought these things would never happen again in Nigeria particularly this one of Sowore.
“It is a great embarrassment. It makes one look so unfortunate. Having wasted his time, wasted his life opportunity to serve the Nigerian people. Yet, those who captured the power and were never part of the struggle who never knew where the shoe pinched, are messing up the entire system. It is unfortunate.”
The NADECO chieftain commended Punch for its editorial which was published on December 11, 2019.
He recalled that Punch was among the few newspapers that fought against military dictatorship and stayed in the trenches with activists during the June 12 struggle.
Responding to a claim by an All Progressives Congress chieftain and fellow guest at the program, Segun Oshinuga, that Punch was aggrieved over the victory of Buhari in the last election, Opadokun said, “I give kudos, I give credit very expressively to the Nigerian media.
“They fought a satanic battle. The Nigerian media ought to be celebrated because of all the struggles we suffered, if they were not reported and if they did not suffer the same…they went into guerrilla journalism even to report the activities of the pro-democracy groups.
“Punch, that he is now abusing, and others went into guerrilla journalism to report the military dictatorship that we had. So, these kinds of characters are not speaking for government but for their pocket.”
However, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, disagreed with the labeling of the retired Major General as a dictator.
Bello spoke with State House Correspondents in Abuja after a meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Responding to a question, he said, “Mr. President is the most democratic President I have ever seen.
“This is the first time we are seeing a former military Head of State that is so democratic to the extent of allowing things happening in his home front to be democratized, not to talk of things happening in the country.
“Whoever is tagging him to be a dictator, I think that person wishes to be a dictator himself, not Mr. President.”
But the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, in a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said Punch editorial was a confirmation of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s stand on the alleged high-handedness of the Buhari regime.
The statement partly read, “On December 11, 2019, Punch newspaper took a tough and admirable editorial position against what it called ‘autocracy and military-style repression’ and ‘insufferable contempt for the rule of law’ of the cabal that is ruling in the name of Buhari. We commend Punch for this courageous act.”