Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has dismissed the publisher of LEADERSHIP Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, as a conman hiding under the umbrella of journalism to extort money from, and blackmail Nigerians who refuse to advertise with him.

Mr. Gaidam, who made the claim in a strongly-worded protest letter he caused to be circulated around the country and published in several dailies today, threatened to take action against Nda-Isaiah if he continues in his unethical practices.

“He has committed grave ethical infractions that strike at the very core of the integrity of journalism,” the governor said of the publisher, adding that Nda-Isaiah’s brand of journalism will expose the profession to ridicule.  “The publisher has decided on a deliberate editorial policy to fabricate lies against us, ridicule our institutions, pillory our achievements and maliciously libel our functionaries all because we refused to yield to his unceasing demand for advertisement patronage. Recently, he has invested enormous editorial energies to malign and lie against the government and people of Yobe state - he is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

The governor cited an incident this month in which the newspaper published an editorial attacking the State government, followed by a personal comment in Mrs. Nda-Isaiah’s column that he attributed to his having refused to place advertisements in Leadership.

Mr. Gaidam also offered a 2008 example of conflict between the government and Leadership concerning a N10 million payment to the newspaper for the publication of special supplements.  

“This followed Nda-Isaiah’s visit to Damaturu where he met our late governor, Senator Mamman Ali,” the governor’s complaint said.  “But the project did not even go half-way when the governor passed on. Leadership stopped the supplements following Governor Mamman Ali’s death and to date there is no explanation on this or a refund of the balance of the money 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 Nda-Isaiah or some members of his staff.”

He said his government recognizes the media’s responsibility to alert it to its duties, which is why it does not regard all negative stories about his administration as a declaration of hostility or as a slight on individuals.

The governor further said: “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.”

Having made his case, Mr. Gaidam urged the public to discountenance any future insults or campaign of disinformation against the Yobe government or its officials that Leadership may engage in, as there is more to what the newspaper writes than meets the eye.
 

Excerpts from Governor Gaidam’s Letter:
“We are writing to call 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 Nda-Isaiah’s blackmail. He has committed grave ethical infractions that strike at the very core of the integrity of journalism. We feel obligated to state the facts because we are concerned that Nda-Isaiah’s brand of journalism will expose the profession to ridicule.The publisher has decided on a deliberate editorial policy to fabricate lies against us, ridicule our institutions, pillory our achievements and maliciously libel our functionaries all because we refused to yield to his unceasing demand for advertisement patronage. Recently, he has invested enormous editorial energies to malign and lie against the government and people of Yobe state - he is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“In one week, Leadership wrote an editorial titled “Yobe and the Murder of Korean Doctors” on February 13, 2013 where it tendentiously accused 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 (in Daily Trust, Blueprint, People’s Daily and The Nation on February 15, 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, Nda-Isaiah again dedicated his personal column, under the title “Yobe Governor Should Be Held Responsible for This” (February 18, 2013), to hurl coarse invectives and repeat the same false statements against us. He called the governor a “sadist” and his media adviser a “thuggish underling,” among other unsavoury insults. That is clearly beyond the pale.

“So, why is 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 patronise 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, Yobe state government paid ten million naira to Leadership to publish special supplements on the state. This followed 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 governor passed on. Leadership stopped the supplements following Governor Mamman Ali’s death and to date there is no explanation on this or a refund of the balance of the money 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 Nda-Isaiah or some members of his staff.

“As a government, we recognise 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 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 recognise 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 libellous 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.”
 

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