A frustrated Jimoh Ibrahim, who courted condemnations after announcing a suspension of popular newsmagazine, Newswatch, took to raining curses on those criticizing his action at a function he hosted on Wednesday.
Those in attendance said Mr. Ibrahim, who holds a majority share in the troubled magazine and owns the National Mirror newspaper, lost his cool even while he was preaching from the Bible at the 9th anniversary of his group, Global Fleet, at its corporate headquarters in Marina, Lagos.
He said he should be praised for his action rather than criticized, for his anger against the distressed company was mild.
Comparing his fury with God’s anger with the Biblical children of Israel, in which the almighty breathed down fire on a stubborn and disobedient people, he said in his case, he had withheld fire.
“He told us that he was even more lenient, that when God got angry, with the Israelites, he unleashed fire on them,” one of those at the session said.
The episode came as the flip side of a controversial decision that has riled other shareholders of the company and readers.
Pioneer owners of the magazine and former Editors, Messrs Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade, on Thursday called for a reversal of the suspension and warned they might take further actions.
“These decisions break the spirit and letter of the understanding and agreement we had with Mr. Ibrahim concerning the future of our beloved Newswatch,” they said in a statement.
“We believe the decisions to be illegal and clearly counter-productive. We ask Mr. Ibrahim to rescind them in the interest of the company, its staff, the advertising community and the reading public.
In his sermon, Mr. Ibrahim quoted several passages of the scriptures to support his decision to suspend Newswatch.
He said as a considerate man, he was not unleashing fire but simply suspending the magazine. He then ended the sermon with curses on those he said were his enemies.
The abuses contained innuendoes directed at the Nigeria Union of Journalist and the other shareholders of Newswatch who have been on his neck to honour the terms of agreement they signed in the sales purchase agreement.
He reportedly cursed their families, their children and even friends.
Then, he assured the staff, who had been forced to attend the function, that he would clear their outstanding arrears by Friday next week.
Unfortunately for the maltreated staff, Thursday and Friday next week are public holidays.
Some of the staff say it was not coincidental.
“Indeed, it rhymed with the billionaire’s well-known ploys of evading payment of salaries to staff when due,” a staff with another of Mr. Ibrahim’s businesses said.
“On some occasions, he would give cheques that have alterations. Another cunning way is to simply travel out while staff anxiously hope and pray for his arrival,” she added.
Mr Ibrahim could not be reached for comments. He did not respond to telephone calls and a text message to him on Friday morning.