It is usually difficult to find the right words to properly convey your depth of gratitude when you feel overwhelmed by public support and love.
But I am simply coming back to say ‘Thank You’ to every one of you, who asked for my release from incarceration. I mean every one of you. Matter-of-factly, if you didn't do what you did, I would have been kept longer in Afokang Prison in Calabar.
Since August 22, 2019, a phenomenon hitherto unknown to the socio-political landscape of Cross River State slowly grew into what the whole world paused, reflected on and acted upon.
The name ‘Agba Jalingo’ became synonymous with a lot of trends that have shaped democracies the world over, and in particular, press freedom.
The next 179 days proved to be more dramatic and intense for me as it was a curve for learning, and painfully too, that the gains made since Nigeria’s return to democracy for the fourth republic were quickly thrown out a cup sized window, in a manner too ridiculous to glorify with thoughts of, or try to be more explicit with words.
But, this message is not to cast thoughts to that dark stain in our collective memories as it will be a terrible move to recall insults to our intelligence, the actions and inactions of those whom we presumed leaders but found out and regrettably so, were little aspiring napoleons (with a small ‘n’) who robed themselves as philosophical elites to rise to positions of authority.
This message is to say ‘Thank You’ to all, who saw through the faćade, manipulations and circumvention of our justice system and knew that we were being dragged into the abyss oft termed ‘banana republic’ after painfully crawling away from it.
From those who never knew the name to the media, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, unions, ministers in the temple of justice, corporations, influencers and individuals who through their thoughts, prayers, discourse, reportage, memos, actions, inactions, statements, physical meet and greets as well as electronic clicks, from the four walls of my physical prison to the world, asked questions about my ordeal, the phrase ‘Thank You’ does not encompass my ‘Gratitude’ for your decisions to ask questions, seek actions among others which led to the historic court order of Thursday, February 13, 2020 which eventually manifested on Monday, February 17, 2020.
I have seen plenty of what ‘You’ did for me while I was away and there is more I am yet to see. There is also plenty I may never see but for all that you did, I will always be grateful and mindful of. I will always remember that the little work that I have chosen to do means a lot to so many people out there and I should always be responsible.
I really wish I could name you all, but you are too numerous to be named in this short thank you note. I am grateful to God I came out without hurt. There is no turning back on our mission to continue to ask government at all levels questions. That is not contestable. That is the work we all have to do and that is what we will continue to do moving forward.
I want to take this special moment and salute my colleagues in the media, not because they did more than the rest but because they ceased the moment of my incarceration and further sent a clear message to power that we as journalists must be allowed to do our work without fetters.
From all over Nigeria and across the world, I have read and watched how the media rose up in unison to resist obtrusive encroachment into our space and I thought that was really worth a mention.
Every free society has a journalist and the concept of a free press is embedded in the philosophy that classifies the media as the fourth estate of the realm. This is my pledge to fight to protect that, hold our leaders accountable and promote efforts that can grow our ailing democracy and prevent this slide into anarchy occasioned by the actions of a privileged few.
To those who keep asking why we take steps to effect positive change in our homes, streets, communities and the world, the answer is simple: we live everyday but die only once, why not make life easier for the next human being?
We will not slow on our efforts to ensure we achieve a truly egalitarian society despite the threats of those whose response to intellectual debates is their base instincts to self-preserve by attacking, and shamelessly so.
Once again, ‘Thank You’ everyone... ‘Thank You’ once more and a further ‘Thank You’.