How ‘Sagay’ interview ruined my honeymoon — Olakunle Taiwo,Tribune reporter who conducted controversial interview

Sagay Itse [Photo: sagay-family.com]

I got married on Saturday, December 19, 2015 and with my wife, I looked forward to beautiful days of honeymoon. But if that was a dream, it never came to pass. An interview I conducted with someone I had related with in recent time as Professor Itse Sagay ruined everything.

How did it start? Sometimes last year, there was a need to seek the views of constitutional lawyers in one of my reports. My boss, Kunle Oderemi, who heads the politics desk, asked me to seek Professor Itse Sagay’s views also. I asked him to give me his phone number. I collected his phone, searched and dialed 0802313**** and I asked ‘Hello sir, am I on to Professor Itse Sagay?’ ‘I am Olakunle Taiwo from Nigerian Tribune’ and the person replied ‘Yes, what can I do for you?’ and I continued: ‘I would like to seek your views on some issues as a legal expert’, he responded: ‘Can you please send me a text, because I am busy?’. I replied ‘Okay sir.’

I sent him a text but he didn’t reply then I never called back until the middle of this year that I was transferred to Sunday Tribune. I started calling the number back around August/September and I would ask for his reactions and on several occasions, he replied on Whatsapp and once as a text message. In fact, the number was the first I called when the matriarch of the Awolowo dynasty passed on. The news of Mama Awolowo’s death came to the owner of the number as a shock. Then I asked for his reaction and he did nothing more or less.

A few days ago, I called the number again and asked that I would like to have an elaborate interview with the man on the legal implications of the Kogi governorship election, why key institutions are corrupt, the president’s anti-graft crusade, among other national issues. And he asked if I could come to Lagos or do a phone interview. I said since we planned to publish it quickly I would prefer to conduct it on phone. But the interview could not be conducted that day. It was conducted the following day around 3:30 pm. The interview was published on December 20, 2015, a day after my wedding.

I received a call from my Editor, Sina Oladeinde, that Professor Sagay had disclaimed the interview. I was stunned, surprised but calm, because I had the audio recordings of the interview spanning 46minutes 16 seconds. I was calm because apart from my conscience being very clear on the matter, I knew I had also related on phone with this respectable Nigerian, seeing him as a mentor, especially when I discovered that despite his age, he was so ICT savvy, communicating not just with sms, but interestingly on Whatsapp. He was even one of the key invitees to my wedding. He not only wished me well but promised to be at the event. I felt on top of the world. I was so happy to the extent that I instructed the event planners to create a special seat for the presidential adviser on anti-corruption war. But he did not come.

The audio recordings of the interview was/is in my phone and so, I played it for my editor to hear and be convinced that I didn’t concoct the interview. But I saw some signs of disturbance in my editor’s countenance after listening to a few minutes of the interview. He said he was not sure that was Sagay’s voice. He asked for the number again. I gave him. Then he called Mr Oderemi (on whose phone I copied the number in the first instance last year) to also forward Sagay’s number to him. Oderemi supplied the number- 0802313****- and I did not immediately see trouble until we compared the two numbers and discovered I had made a mistake while writing out the number in the first instance and I had all along been calling the wrong number-0802313****-, and speaking with the wrong person, instead of Professor Itse Sagay. I almost collapsed at the lobby of the hotel which was hosting my honeymoon. What have I done to myself, my career, my bosses, my employers, my company that feeds my family, God!? I felt like asking the ground to open up and swallow me. My wife of two days was in the room oblivious of the damage that had been done to our honeymoon. With me, the honeymoon was over in just two days!

But I have read so many reports online (including on Saharareporters) accusing me of concocting an interview with Professor Sagay. I did not set out to do that. I did not do that. I was careless. I could be accused of naivety, taking things for granted. I could be accused of not being alert enough as I should. I plead guilty to all. What I am innocent of is criminal intent in conducting a fake interview.

I joined journalism with an ambition to go far. I never knew there were deadly potholes on my way to realizing my career dream. I hope and pray that this cup shall pass…While accepting responsibility for the error, I state with all sense of responsibility that it was not intentional, not deliberate. In my almost two years in journalism, I have worked hard to build a future in the profession and serve my country, through my employers, truthfully and diligently.

I apologise to Professor Itse Sagay most especially.

But there are lessons to be learnt in all these. I have learnt mine in a very bitter way. I urge my colleagues everywhere to learn from my case.


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  • SB

    This guy is a liar. After collecting so much from the PDP to enjoy his honey moon and his wife, he thought that things are still the same the way they were during GEJ regime. It did not occur to him that we are in a change regime. He was carried away with the rolling of dollars into his pocket, enough to pay his hotel bills and with a reasonable left over. God help Nigeria.

    • Labarans

      The writer is not a lier… I quite sympathise. Definitely he will get a better offer sometimes and somewhere else. I only hope his wife will understand and support him at this critical moment if his life. I read Tribune regularly and proud of their Editorial Team. Their immediate retraction and apology to Professor Osagay is also commendable

      • Alex

        .I think the security and other related agencies should take charge and confirm the veracity of what Mr. Taiwo the young and careless journalist is claiming that it wasn’t intentional. This can be achieved in collaboration with the network provider of his cell phone to fathom the following: 1) Get and review all the conversations he had ever made as regards to scheduling for the interview starting from last year till the interview date. 2) If the impersonator registered his Sim Card—-it now becomes the best way of nabbing him and somehow vindicating poor Taiwo and 3) That would simply clear every doubts as everything seems very confusing and much vague at the moment. God bless Nigeria.

      • Jon Lawrence

        One year long mistake? Typical Nigerians nothing shock you people any more. A mistake of inviting to your wedding, someone you never met in your life for once? Mistake, really?

    • Benny

      What an insipid comment! In your warped mind, everything is politics. The guy made an honest mistake and there are evidences according to him to show that it was an honest mistake but in your holier than thou mind, he should be castrated fir his mistakes. Remove the log in your eyes before inching to assist me with the speck in my eyes.

      • Jon Lawrence

        Define honest for me and add mistake to it. He is no journalist. Who knows how he got the job in the first place? Who knows how many more qualified people that were bypassed for him to get this job because he knows someone who knows someone?

    • whales1212

      Don’t be that mean sir,how are you so sure of this? I think we should sympathise with him,he’s defo feeling down,fair enough he deserves it but don’t add to his trouble saying what you ain’t sure of.

      • Jon Lawrence

        In sane societies where ethics, standard and integrity is taken very seriously, he should never work in that profession again, including his editor. If a doctor make his sort of so called mistake, it could result in someone’s death and that doctor is instantly struck off from practicing medicine forever.

        • whales1212

          I agree with you completely. Unfortunately, this is naija for that matter. But it will be wrong for anyone to suggest he got bribe to ruin his future, the editor should have been fired too.

          • Jon Lawrence

            Integrity, good ethics and standard is not only when money exchanged hand. Its about a culture where quality matters. Where every detail matters. Journalism involved quality in respect to what you dish out to people. Lives can be lost, reputation can be shred to pieces because of this sort of journalism. Do you remember the size of News of the world in the UK? Where are they now? They have to fold because of this sort of junk journalism and still paying millions to their victims.
            Saying it was a mistake or apology does not make it alright. He committed a fraud and in law, ignorant or mistake has never been a defence. How can you be a professional and make the same mistake for a whole one year? If I make simiilar mistake in my field I will be instantly strucked out by the British medical council and my license revoked and never to practice again.

          • whales1212

            You’re right but hmm,it a little bit or extremely unfair to compare UK to this “our animal farm” where anything goes.However, mistakes and bad judgement can be made anywhere and you actually used a good example, news of the world scandal.

  • Labarans

    The writer is not a lier… I quite sympathise. Definitely he will get a better offer sometimes and somewhere else. I only hope his wife will understand and support him at this critical moment if his life. I read Tribune regularly and proud of their Editorial Team. Their immediate retraction and apology to Professor Osagay is also commendable

  • Maitama Tambari

    Typical exuberant Nigerian journalist caught in the act. You should have accepted the receiver’s arrangement for on face to face interview may be you could have been an investigative journalist not an arm chair journalist concocting lies as news. Thanks Professor Sagay. It shows that many paid PDP reporters are still lying low to concoct false news against the Administration of PMB. God works in a wonderful way.

    • Wise Head

      How uncharitable can you be? Why not give people benefit of the doubt?

  • Bright Henry

    All I can say is sorry dude. Be more careful next time.

  • Diran Odeyemi

    I am still curious to know who actually responded to those questions on phone. I am still wondering how the person was able to answer questions relating to the political position of Professor Sagay. The personality that faked Prof Sagay must be exposed to convince us about this “honest mistake” The damage is too much, it is about the reputation of a respected media that was built over the years as well as the image of Prof at Law, Itsey Sagay. More clarification pls. Diran Odeyemi

  • whales1212

    Accepted the young journalist made a mistake, does it mean no one edits or read stuff in that organisation before publishing it? And no one could for a second think something is wrong? I don’t know sagay in person,but by virtue of the way he speaks, he wouldn’t have used some of the language? So no one did all that? I think the senior guy or the boss should be sacked too,this young man made a big blunder because those who put him there don’t know what they’re doing either.

  • Wise Head

    The police should get to the root of this matter. That airtel number is duly registered with all the details and picture of the fellow who gave the interview in the airtel system. The police should unmask the impostor. We really need to know who is behind all this? There have been also suspicions that Prof Sagay’s committee has remained redundant and relegated for quite sometime now, and Buhari has been prosecuting his anti-graft crusade with little or no regard to the law, and in a way that casts some dirt on the integrity of the members of his advisory body on anti-corruption. So, could this have bred some resentment anywhere? Who could confidently act Prof Sagay this long in this info-tech age, and give such a no-holds barred interview without any fear of being caught? That’s why this matter should not just die quietly like that. The TRIBUNE owes it to Nigerians to get to the root of this matter and splash the picture and details of the impostor on its front page. There appears to be something we are not being told in this matter. Every cloud in this matter must be completely cleared.

    • Niyi Akinlabu

      Ode! PDPig.

  • Omooba Adekunle Orafidiya

    This reporter is a liar. There’s more to this than meets the eye. Tribune has no integrity left!!!

  • Niyi Akinlabu

    I won’t take this ‘cock and bull’ sh*t an being worth anything until the ‘mistaken’ Sagay’s number is fully published, the full audio of that interview released, and Tribune itself gives an official account of what transpired.

  • Abdulazeez Oyibo

    With desperate criminals everywhere, a phone interview with a legal luminary is tantamount to suicide

  • Rod

    You are a liar. The same person you have communicated with for qute some numbers of times for over a year and also invited for your marriage ceremony using the same number suddenly became a wrong person. Someone you called and he answered in the affirmative without saying you are calling a wrong number and no news that the person duped you in the course of the about one year communication with him
    Please go back to school to learn how to lie

  • BABUYANMA

    Keep your head up Mr. Taiwo. Its sad how to see how evil some people are in destroying others’ life

  • 1MASK01

    Honest belief is not enough, it must be honest belief on ‘reasonable grounds’. Your story/explanations is really hard to believe. As a journalist who have been conducting interview am sure you do start questions with something like ‘Prof Sagay what’s your view on….’ and you meant the wrong person kept answering that he is the Prof?

  • ayo

    Honestly speaking this guy is just a typically example of what half baked education can do to a person,society and nation. The hollow crap given to yorubas in the name of free education had undermined the progress and prosperity of our nation given the facts that yorubas with this faulty education system are the ones dominating our bureaucracy as a result of the unfortunate fall out of the civil war.this incidence if it is true as being reported by premium times ,shows the highest level of irresponsibilities ,acute laziness of bones ,marrow, soul and body which have become a terrible land mark of the bewitched Judas race.the media industry in Nigeria is overwhelmed with this half baked characters and it is the major reasons why nigerias march for greatness is in limbo.what a pity.

    • Bayo Ola

      You are very sick. You are a shameless Biafraud blogging on the sly with Yoruba identity yet berating the same Yoruba people. What has this article by the boy got to do with his being Yoruba? May Ogun, the god of iron wash our roads with your blood. Oloriburuku

      • ayo

        You can rant and curse from here to Saudi Arabia or Iran,your curse can only kill Abiola ,awolowo and scorpion. Yoruba curse Na blessing in disguise. I know you guys wella and even married to one of you.

        • naijaProgress

          lol. You yourself be curse. You sound very useless.

  • 2marshal2

    The journalist is young and inexperienced and so Mr Taiwo Olakunle should be forgiven for being human and not above mistakes.

  • NoSpinEd

    Mr Taiwo, You must track down the alleged impostor. That is the only sane way to have closure. Why did he pretend to be Professor Itse Sagay? What had he to gain? You have his telephone number: 0802313****.

  • Dominic Jaja

    Dear Mr. Taiwo and The Tribune, I will advise you get to the root of this scandal by involving the Police in identifying this impostor and making him pay for this crime.
    This will be the only way to restore your organization’s reputation.
    Best wishes.

  • Timothy

    Well we all make mistakes. In fact we are where we are today because someone did not do the right thing or what he ought to have done. That is why we are in this mess today. But like all mistakes they are either a lesson or a stepping stone to greater heights.