My attention has been drawn, once again, to an article first published by SaharaReporters back on February 15, 2010. Under the title ‘How Governor Geidam, SSG Mismanaged Yobe State’s N80 billion in 10 Months’, the article, signed by SaharaReporters itself, will probably pass as the lowest possible nadir of the junkiest form of unprofessional journalism.
Without attributing to sources that can be verified – and without the slightest pretension to complying with even the most rudimentary dictates of journalistic writing – the article began and ended with making the wildest and sweeping allegations against several named individuals.
The allegations largely bordered on graft and breach of trust by Yobe government officials and several billions of naira were claimed to have been stolen within just ten months from former Governor Mamman Ali’s death in February 2009.
For reasons that I will state shortly, I happened to be one of those individuals named and accused in the SaharaReporters article. But since I couldn’t possibly be accused of taking those billions from the public purse, my own inclusion in the list was of a different, perhaps more sinister kind.
But first, who could have been behind the very article itself? Since SaharaReporters is an online news site published in faraway New York, it is clear that an individual or some individuals who live here in the country supplied the information to, or perhaps even wrote the article for, the news website apparently to settle personal and (or) political scores. Who could be that person or those individuals?
When late Governor Mamman Ali lived, there was at least one news publication that had made writing the most unprintable things about him and his personal and family life a daily obsession. It reached such a level that all those politically opposed to the late governor made the publication their default source for news and information since they knew they would be fed with exactly the kind of negative information they wanted about the Mamman Ali administration.
As Director of Press to the late governor, I watched with incredulity as the newspaper wrote and made baseless and completely infantile allegations not just against the governor but against everyone in the government who was prominent. I had made it clear to the late governor from the get-go, however, that I would not join issues with the newspaper because as far as I was concerned, this was not a newspaper in any known professional sense. I told him this was an art paper-packaged material choreographed by someone without the faintest understanding of journalism as a science; someone who would clearly continue to use it to his personal ends in an environment bereft of the common sense and regulations needed to rein in irresponsible journalism.
As time went by, I came to understand, at least partially, why the publication was sworn against the late governor. Former Senator Alkali Jajere, who at the beginning of the Mamman Ali administration was media coordinator for the governor before I was appointed Director of Press, once told me that when Mamman Ali was sworn-into office, the publication carried several unapproved congratulatory messages for the governor’s electoral victory and later came around to ask for the messages to be paid for. I was told that the late governor was angry and refused to use hundreds of thousands of naira of the people’s money to pay for the advertorials that he did not ask to be placed in the first place.
But more than refusing to pay for those advertorials, what Mamman Ali actually did was to send the signal, early on, that he would not allow himself to be blackmailed in the same manner that former Bukar Abba Ibrahim administration officials were repeatedly blackmailed by the same publication.
This clearly set the stage for the ‘war’ that would follow. As Director of Press Affairs, I keyed into the late governor’s determination not to be blackmailed. As a trained journalist, I knew that responsible journalism never had and will never have anything to do with blackmail. At least in the literature and in my 20-year post-graduation experience in journalism practice, I know of no circumstance where a trained, responsible journalist would ‘scoop’ a lie about an individual and walk up to that person (or send a text message) to ask for specific amounts of money to be paid in return for the lie not to be published in a newspaper. But that’s exactly what the publication in question was doing.
So, going forward, I stood up to the challenge, and stood my ground never to allow the administration, for which I was chief image maker, to be blackmailed or swindled. I knew I was ruffling feathers. If all you had in the world was making millions of naira through the art of newspaper blackmail, you would stop at nothing to settle ‘scores’ with anyone who tried to prevent you from making the kill you did through blackmail! Simple.
That was how I was dragged into the equation – the politicians in the government were regularly attacked and their personal reputations soiled, and I was attacked along with them because I was perceived as capable of blocking the effect that the attack on them was calculated to have, namely forcing them to pay ‘ransom’ money to the publication.
This went on until Governor Mamman Ali died. When Governor Gaidam took over, the publication’s frustrations with me went into overdrive, seeing that he has retained me as his director of press affairs. Here was a chance to begin making a kill again (as the publication did during the Bukar Abba era) but here was a Bego who, calling himself a director of press, was hell-bent on blocking the chance!
This is the background to the SaharaReporters’ article. For, ten months after Governor Ali died, with all the political rivalry and court cases going on, there was fertile ground for the kind of allegations made in the article. They served the purposes of political sponsors, and they aimed to settle personal scores as well.
Incidentally, the publisher and I knew each other from years back. He knew me as someone who is very personally invested in his self-worth and reputation. He knew my take on religion and my moral suasions. He knew that the only thing he could do to smear my reputation, for preventing him from making the money he used to make through blackmail, was not to say that I stole those billions or that I siphoned money through phoney contracts. He knew no one would ever believe him. The only thing he could do was to associate me with a morally reprehensible act that could easily draw the public’s opprobrium. This was how he levelled the accusation of sodomy against me.
Wa ‘iyaz billah.
In the SaharaReporters’ article which I believed he authored, he said I was ‘caught pants down’ with a local journalist at the State Hotel in Damaturu. He didn’t say who caught me pants down when exactly I was caught pants down, who saw it when I was caught pants down or even who the local journalist was. It was just a sweeping, irrational allegation.
So let me say this straight away. And I have said it when the article was first published back in 2010. The allegation of sodomy levelled against me was totally false and mischievous. There was not a shred, not even an atom’s weight of truth in it.
There is no one in Damaturu or in Yobe State or across the country who has ever associated me with a thing like that. I am a responsible believer in Islam which has forbidden sodomy. I have a happy and stable family and a career that I worked so hard to build. I believe that my actions, as the actions of all human beings on earth, will be subject to being probed on the Day of Judgment. I am steeply ensconced in the fear of the Day of Judgment so anyone who has ever known me, including the person who made the allegation (if he will ever speak the truth), will tell you that I do not engage in the Bigger sins (or Kaba’ira).
There is a reason that six years ago when the SaharaReporters’ article was first published, I decided to largely ignore it. I thought the allegation against me was so grievous but also so spiritual. The allegation tried to hit at the core of my person. Its intent was clearly to tar me forever, even though it has woefully failed to achieve that effect.
Who could have resolved and judged on such a weighty issue but Allah (SWT)? So, I turned to Him. I said to Allah (SWT) in my prayers that since he knew I am entirely innocent of the allegation against me, He should recompense for me. I did a Tawassul with a Hadith of the Holy Prophet, which said that there is no veil between Allah (SWT) and the supplication of one who has been oppressed (mazlum) and therefore asked God to requite for me.
I believe the requital will come, whether here on earth or in the hereafter. And I will neither forgive nor forget the person who made the allegation. I will continue to say ‘Allah ya-isa’ as long as I breathe. And when I stand in the presence of God on the Day of Resurrection, I will beseech His Names to judge between the person and me in question.
I also take solace in the fact that I am not the first and possibly will not be the last person to be falsely and wrongly accused of weighty moral infractions. Even holy personalities were sometimes falsely and wrongly accused in history. The story of Sayyadatuna A’isha (RA), the wife of the Holy Prophet (SAW) when she was left behind during an expedition and was led to safety by a believer and Good Samaritan, is a case in point. She was wrongly and falsely accused, but Allah (SWT) stood powerfully for her.
Finally, here is the reason why I am saying all this now. I am saying this now because although the SaharaReporters’ article was published back in 2010 when many people didn’t have Facebook accounts, someone somehow excavated the article and shared it on his Facebook page just a few days ago. And then it was shared again by a few others. If the person who did this also did it with the intention to spread the lie, I ask Allah (SWT) to do to him what I have asked to be done against the person who initiated the allegation in the first place.
While I await Allah (SWT)’s decree, which will certainly come to pass, I want to say to all friends who are worried by the SaharaReporters’ article that I am fine; I remain unbowed, and I am not diminished in the least by an accusation that people have already dismissed as false and baseless.
I only laid out these facts to set the record straight. I do not have the time to get in a mud fight with professional libellers again. So, I won’t respond to any further provocation on this issue.
It remains my commitment to the career path I have chosen that while I serve as the spokesman for the Yobe State Governor, I will not allow a news medium to blackmail him. They may call me names, those blackmailers and their ilk. But they can’t take away from my professionalism and my passion and energy for the job or from my determination to doing what I believe is right in the course of my work. Period!