I have watched with bemusement an online medium which is fast becoming a synonym for dis-information and mis-information rolling out an agenda seeking to discredit me.
For the sake of my partners and the many people who support my work in many ways and the young journalists that I mentor, I have decided to put the record straight.
I do NOT currently own a property in Kaduna, although I was born there and spent, at different times, parts of my life there.
Like every Nigerian I have a legitimate right to apply for land and property anywhere in Nigeria in line with laid down rules and regulations which are open and transparent.
I decided, at the beginning of this year, to apply to the Kaduna State government for either land or a property as part of their much advertised sale of public assets.
I made two applications in my name, one application was for land and one for a property. . I followed due process and using laid down procedure for my applications. I did not use a proxy, company or a pseudonym as my application was completely above board. I had no need to hide my identity.
My application for a property was approved and I was issued a letter.
The allocated property was worth almost N25 million and I was expected to pay within two weeks, an amount I was unable to put up on short notice in the light of my financial commitment to my current media business.
I borrowed 10 percent of the amount and paid it to the government with the hope of funding the balance via a mortgage or loan before the expiry of the deadline. I was unable to secure the loan before the deadline and was compelled to write to the Kaduna State government seeking an extension.
Although I am yet to receive a formal response to my letter informal feedback suggests that it is unlikely to be approved as it is against policy and I am told it is likely my deposit has been forfeited.
My real hope for getting a home in Kaduna, the place I was born, now rested with my second application for land which was subsequently approved. I got a modest piece of land. The payment for that was more affordable. After paying, I was made aware of the strigent condition that requires that the land be developed within six months to one year as it is part of an accelerated development programme or it would be forfeited. If I am unable to come up with the funds to build this land, it will amount to a total of three times that my applications have been approved but in which I have lost money deposited due to my inability to pay the outstanding amounts required.
These are the facts of this matter but those interested in discrediting me have an agenda and so facts don’t matter to them.
The work I do is not popular. Powerful people are not used to being held accountable and especially not publicly and so it is not uncommon for those who ask the difficult questions to become targets of smear campaigns.
That I also refuse to be quiet about dangers of identity politics and the dangerous path Nigeria is threading also means I have made enemies of agents of destablization. I know fully the risk I took when I started on this path. To do journalism properly is to court danger.
The journey I started as a young producer at the BBC in 1992, first as part time staff and subsequently as a full time staff, will not end because people don’t like the hard questions I ask and the uncomfortable conversations I anchor.
For the sake of those who don’t know my history, it is perhaps important to recap my background . After 14 years at the BBC where I produced some of the leading programmes on Africa (like Focus on Africa and Network Africa), interviewed newsmakers across the continent and reported from places like South Africa, the United Nations and Eritrea during the war with Ethiopia, I returned to Nigeria.
Not long after, I was head hunted as Managing Editor by Pulitzer winning Journalist Dele Olojede to run NEXT Newspapers. We broke the mould, we did investigative reporting the like of which had not been seen in Nigeria in a long while. I was Managing Editor and then Editor, leading a news room of bright, dedicated, honest and courageous reporters many of whom I personally mentored and who till tomorrow lead the industry in Nigeria.
In that time, I was hauled in by both the DSS and the police as a result of our work. I am glad to say we didnt buckle. As for the number of times people attempted to bribe us to kill a story, it is difficult to put a number. Our work at NEXT is part of Nigeria’s public record.
Even after NEXT wrapped up, I was determined to find a way to do the kind of journalism which I believe is critical to nation building so working with a partner, we created the critically acclaimed Straight Talk, a TV programme in which I asked hard questions of powerful people and had the sort of conversations that make people uncomfortable.
Again those programmes are in the public domain and stand as testimony to my work.
In the last 14 years since moving back to Nigeria, I have done work designed to hold power accountable, provide Nigerians with information that will enable them make informed choices about their lives and those who lead them and promote nation building in line with democratic processes and ideals. I have used my time to teach and mentor younger journalists on not just the skills required to do this important work, but on the need for professionalism, for nuance , balance and the honesty and courage to declare conflict where it exists and to always work with facts, not half truths, not innuendo and certainly not to become paid hacks who do hatchet jobs for unscrupulous powerful people who don’t like being held accountable.
It is not the sort of journalism that endears you to people who are normally so powerful, many cower in their presence.
So this smear campaign is designed to do one thing, put a question mark on my credibility with the intention of shutting me up so my work comes to a grinding halt. It is likely this won’t be the last attempt.
However, I know the majority of Nigerians will see through these shenanigans.
Let me reassure everyone, that my work, will not stop. It will not cease. I will continue to ask the hard questions and have the difficult conversations while being so unashamedly pro Nigeria that I will also continue to challenge champions of ethnic politics which have done nothing but polarize us, making it impossible for us to unite and fight bad governance and a system that has let the majority of our people down.
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