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Ajimobi, Ayefele, and a country’s return to gag laws

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Ayefele, AjimobiTHERE are far too many things wrong with the Oyo State Government’s decision to demolish the Music House of delectable musician and artiste, Yinka Ayefele. Governor Isiaka Ajimobi was not well-advised on this issue at all. While Ayefele holds the Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Culture, and Tourism, Toye Arulogun, responsible for the demolition in that the said commissioner allegedly misinformed, misadvised, and possibly piled pressure on Ajimobi to give the nod for this action, I, however, hold Mr. “Constituted Authority” himself responsible for the despicable act. The buck stops on Ajimobi’s desk as the “Executive Governor,” which is how many of these power-drunk “servants” of the people but who have turned themselves into overlords, love to be called. I am familiar enough with the seat of power to know that many of these “His Excellency” neither accept advice from aides nor brook opposition or divergent views.

In fact, the first survival instinct and promotion strategy of many in the corridors of power is to study the template of the “Oga at the top” and key into it. Our leaders usually love to hear only their own voices; they are too full of themselves and are salaciously opinionated. Your “prayers” are answered (that is, your files are signed) when you massage their ego, like the Biblical king Herod who, when he had spoken, the court jesters around him exclaimed “the voice of god and not of man”. God’s judgment was instant; there are many who complain it is no longer so in our own time.

With this demolition, Ajimobi cannot but be described as callous. It is an act of wickedness. Interestingly, on my last trip through Ibadan to Ile-Ife, I had been impressed by Ajimobi’s work on the Old Ife-Ibadan road and had thought to write something positive about it once I found the pig – but see how he has now ruined it all! If truly Arulogun has a hand in the controversial demolition, he bears in the blame. I hope my friends and brothers, Yomi Layinka and Bolaji Tunji, two profound, cerebral, and thorough-bred professionals around Ajimobi, had no hand in this self-inflicted catastrophe.

For one, the physical condition of Ayefele should evoke sympathy, pity, and understanding. But sad that Ajimobi chose to behave like another APC leader, in fact, its brand new chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who told that widow “Go and die! Widow my foot!!” In that Ajimobi was quoted as trivialising, even mocking Ayefele’s physical condition, he committed sacrilege. We all are familiar with how this young man became confined to the wheelchair. Yet, he has, by dint of hard work and perseverance, developed himself to a status of stardom locally and internationally. By all standards, Ayefele is a brand and role model, a status achieved at great personal cost. He is an achiever and a plus to Ibadan and Oyo State, even though I understand he hails from Ekiti. Ayefele is, indeed, the pride of the Yoruba race and does not deserve the harsh and hard treatment Ajimobi chose to mete on him.

For sure, Ayefele’s Music House has been in controversy for some time. I have passed in front of it many times and can confirm that the location appears somewhat awkward. But it has always been there and is older than Ajimobi’s government. Some authorities must have given it approval. We should find out who and why. This is Nigeria and we know how such things happen. The name, status, and condition of Ayefele could have done the trick. We also know that our people cut corners and can go beyond what approval or building plans permit. I once was involved in one, when my superiors piled pressure on me as one of the trustees of a church to sign an affidavit that we were building a “Mission House” when, indeed, what we were building was a church. That could have been the case in Ayefele’s Music House controversy if the explanations of both parties are carefully considered. Ayefele said he has the necessary approvals but Arulogun countered that the approvals were for an office complex and not a radio station. That being the case, demolition is not the answer. Compel Ayefele to revert to the original purpose of the building or drag him to court if he fails to comply; not resort to self-help, especially since Ayefele is in court. Destroying the “res” of the matter or presenting the court with a “fait accompli” by demolishing the property in question is clear and untainted evidence of bad motives. Lack of respect for due process, taking the law into their own hands, and treating the court, which is the last hope of the common man, with levity have become the hallmark of the APC administration all over.

More than this, the Ajimobi action reeks of malice and bad belle. It was punishment meted on Ayefele because he holds divergent political views and opinions contrary to Ajimobi’s. The evidence is there in the statements credited to the governor, which he has not denied, as well as in the failed efforts at moderating Ayefele’s radio station’s stance by Arulogun, which Arulogun himself has not denied. Therefore, the demolition has more to do with political intolerance and a despicable attempt to gag the press than the enforcement of any building plan. Ayefele has been punished by the Oyo State Government for choosing to hold contrary views and for not kow-towing to the APC government. His rights to freely hold views and opinions and disseminate information without let or hindrance have been viciously abridged, assaulted, assailed, and arrested by Gov. Ajimobi, acting in concert with others.

Ayefele must seek redress in court and, when the time comes, the court must impose exemplary punishment on the Oyo State Government, its servants, and agents involved in the demolition. In the interim, public opinion, which has decidedly been against Ajimobi, must not relent or relax. With his action, Ajimobi has “wo ile agbon,” as our people would say, and must contend with hordes of hornets. “Eni gba’diye otosi, o gbe t’alaroye.” If in doubt, revisit the biblical Prophet Nathan’s parable to King David.

The ongoing trial of Premium Times reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, by the APC Federal Government for refusing to declare his source of information takes us back many decades. The current IGP is something else; this country is unfortunate to have him. Incidentally, it was during the first coming of President Muhammadu Buhari as vile military dictator in 1984 that two Nigerian journalists, The Guardian’s Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, went to jail rather than disclose the source of their information. Reasonable people thought that had settled the matter but we now have been rudely awakened to the fact that not so with this APC government and some of its archaic and unreasoning top goons.

With the Freedom of Information Act signed into law by the PDP/President Goodluck Jonathan administration, conscionable Nigerians had also thought the issue of access to information and the sanctity of a reporter’s source had been taken beyond the realm of dispute. Sadly, not so with APC! In the National Assembly, a law to muzzle the press, Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Bill 2018, rapidly passed the second reading. In Ekiti state after the July 14 governorship election, the state radio and television stations as well as an upcoming private radio station belonging to personalities other than those of APC, were shut down and remain shut; well beyond the statutorily allowed threshold. These are clear danger signals which do not portend well for our renascent democracy. (This article was first published in my “Treasures” column in the New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, 22 August, 2018 at page 14).

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Satguru Maharaj Ji surprises me

Founder of the Ibadan-based One Love Family church or whatever, Satguru Maharaj Ji (real name Mohammed Ajirobatan Ibrahim, born 1938), surprised me with his recent treatise on press freedom. He appeared to know what Gov. Isiaka Ajimobi (FCA) and the IGP (Mr. Transmission Transmitted) found difficult to grasp. Many would have thought Satguru a charlatan but hear the “Professor of Mass Communications”: The time has come for all well-meaning (emphasise “well-meaning” please) Nigerians to raise concern on various attempts both by the executive and legislature in muzzling press freedom such that journalists will be under unnecessary pressure to discharge the duty expected of them.

Nigeria cannot afford to go back to the military era where press freedom was nothing but a luxury” Whose military era was that? Of course, Buhari’s more than anyone else. With this profundity, Satguru shares the same podium with distinguished Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), author of the American Declaration of Independence, active participant in the American Revolution, Governor of Virginian, Member of Congress, Minister to France, Secretary of State (under first American President George Washington, and, finally, third President of the United States (1801 – 1809). Hear Jefferson: The people are the only censors of their governors and even their errors will tend to keep those to the true principles of their institutions. To punish those errors too severely (is Gov. Ajimobi listening?) would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty.

The way to prevent those irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs (that is the import of the Freedom of Information Act, which they refuse to comply with here) through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter…” The same Jefferson went on to say “When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe” Anyone not familiar with Jefferson’s history would think him a darling of the media; on the contrary, he had a tempestuous relationship with the media, a very bad press, as they say.

The same Jefferson said “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper” He also said “I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one in a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it” Fertile as opposed to puerile minds; great men as opposed to small men make the right distinction between public interest and the common good as opposed to personal likes and dislikes, nebulous “orders from above” and the desire to ingratiate the powers-that-be for pecuniary and other selfish gains. Highly-educated but profoundly illiterate Idi Amin Dadas still parading this country’s corridors of power should visit Satguru’s ashram on the outskirts of Ibadan along the Lagos – Ibadan expressway and drink from the guru’s fountain of knowledge. Thumps up, Satguru! Thumps down, Ajimobi, IGP et al!

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