Friday, April 18, 2014

Nasir El-Rufai quits THISDAY after clash with Obaigbena

Published:

Nasir El-Rufai

A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir El-Rufai, and Lagos-based newspaper, THISDAY, have parted ways, with Mr. El-Rufai announcing to his fans on Facebook that his column, El-Rufai on Friday, will no longer appear in the paper.

“My Friday Column, El-Rufai on Friday will no longer appear on the Back Page of Thisday,” Mr. El-Rufai said in an update Thursday night. “It will continue to be on the Back Page of People’s Daily and on other web-based platforms. Thanks to all those that have read and encouraged me to write the column.”

When contacted, the former minister wouldn’t comment on his disagreement with the paper. He only referred our reporter to his Facebook post on the matter.

But insiders in THISDAY said the development was the climax of a fierce standoff between Mr. El-Rufai and Nduka Obaigbena, the paper’s publisher.

Although the column is known more for its prime position on the backpage of THISDAY, Mr. El-Rufai also syndicates it in other news platforms, including PREMIUM TIMES.

But in the past weeks, we learnt, Mr. Obaigbena began pressing Mr. El-Rufai to stop syndicating his columns in other media.

“Our publisher said it is either he writes exclusively for THISDAY or nothing, and El-Rufai said he won’t write exclusively for us because of the wide reach he was getting by syndicating it,” a top official of the paper said.

When Mr. Obaigbena couldn’t get Mr. El-Rufai to back down, he reportedly enlisted top editors of the paper close to the former minister, to broach the matter with him.

Mr. El-Rufai stuck to his guns. And in anger, Mr. Obaigbena instructed Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, editor of the paper to stop running the former minister’s column in the paper.

It is not clear why Mr. Obaigbena wanted the column exclusively for his paper when he is not paying for it.

But one of his officials said the publisher had come under tremendous pressure from the administration to stop running the column, which is especially critical of government.

“We knew El-Rufai won’t agree to write exclusively for us,” a THISDAY insider said. “That condition was set to anger him and chase him away. Our publisher had wanted to chase him away a long time ago. He was under pressure from government.”

Mr. Obaigbena could not be reached for comments. Calls to his mobile telephone failed to connect.

The former minister began writing the column after he was requested by Mr. Obaigbena to do so.

The column, which appeared on the influential backpage of the paper, became an instant hit with Nigerians. It was deeply analytical and especially critical of the administration.

The former minister was once arrested after he analysed the government’s security spending in one of his columns.

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