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Luka, El-Rufai, NUJ and Vanguard Newspapers

*My take on the needless controversy

From Ismail Omipidan

I am familiar with attitude of some of us on Facebook. Please before you condemn or abuse me, kindly take your time to read in full my submissions. Take me up on any of the issues, I will be willing to provide further and better details on the controversy between Luka, El-Rufai, NUJ and the Vanguard newspaper.

I have been compelled to speak out on this matter. But before I proceed, let me from the onset apologise to persons that may feel offended by some of the revelations I will be making because I will be mentioning names and I have not gotten their permission to so do. I am making these interventions because most commentators on the matter are either making comments out of ignorance or sheer sentiment.

And because I know that all these hues and cries may not help Luka ‘s case, I will also be revealing what I think in my own view could help his case. I don’t believe in washing our dirty linens in public, but this is a moment of truth, and Islam enjoins us to speak the truth even if it is against oneself. And as a former NUJ leader in Kaduna for six years, I owe it a duty to make my own public contribution to this matter for the sake of posterity.

Luka is a friend. I knew him from Abuja. But he met me in Kaduna, even though he is from Kaduna State. Long before El-Rufai became governor, Luka had always run into trouble with the state government, owing to his handling of matters relating to Southern Kaduna. Ahmed Maiyaki, immediate past Special Adviser on Media in the state, who served a PDP government is a living witness to this, ditto all reasonable  Journalists in Kaduna.

Before El-Rufai’s emergence, the Southern Kaduna youths were clearly divided in their support for the APC and the PDP. Sadly, our colleagues who are Journalists from the area, were not left out in this division. As a matter of fact, Luka, without taking a leave of absence, issued statements duly signed by him, in his real names on behalf of Danjuma La’ah, a senatorial candidate of the PDP for Southern Kaduna during the electioneering and shortly after. For me, this is professionally wrong.

I called his attention to it. But one thing with  Luka is that he hardly sees anything wrong in whatever he does. Now,  because of the role he played prior to the emergence of El-Rufai, the government and its supporters from Southern Kaduna, see Luka as enemy number one. A fact, Luka himself is aware of.

Ordinarily, once you know you are target, you need to apply extreme caution in your dealings with those who are afer you.  Did Luka take any precaution ? I will say no. Before the story that finally nailed him, he committed several gaffes , but I had to personally intervene on his behalf. And because I know him, I hardly bring details of my interventions to his knowledge.

Again, before I left for Lagos, in November last year, on my own I elected to intervene between Southern Kaduna Journalists and the state government. Some Online Journalists too were part of that parley. John Femi Adi, my chair, Midat Kakuri ,  Sunday Isuwa and Amos Tauna can bear witness. Why did I do that?

When I was running for the chairmanship of the Kaduna NUJ, some of our colleagues tried to run me down and blackmail me.  They went as far as telling some of El-Rufai’s friends and aides that I was seeking the position to fight the government. I reached out to some of them, but one of them a former banker , who is very close to El-Rufai appears not convinced with my position. At least, that was my reading of his responses to the issues raised.

However, some were convinced. And I promised this group that whether I win or not, I will strive to help improve on Journalists/Government relationship in the state. Therefore, the meeting was in fulfilment of my promise.

At the said meeting, Luka queried my locus standi to call for the meeting. He asked why their grievances with the deputy governor, who is from their area, should be my concern? I regurgitated the explanations about my electioneering.

After the meeting, I met Olumuyiwa Adekeye, El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Media and Strategy and Samaila Aruwan, Senior Special Assistant on Media. We agreed on a way forward. And the relationship between them and Luka especially, improved after that my last intervention. I can’t really figure out what went wrong again afterwards. But from my interactions with colleagues from Southern Kaduna, I sensed that beyond the issue of professional relationship with Aruwan , there are other underbelly matters that have nothing to do with journalism but which are purely political  issues and sentiments.

How Luka found himself in this mess. Like I said earlier, Luka , knowing that he was a target, ought to have applied extreme caution in the discharge of his duties. For instance, his years of experience should have told him, Mass Communictions is not one of the courses offered in the College of Education. He ought not to have filed that story in the first instance. Did he apologise after realising he goofed? I have no record that he did. Because he misled his paper. The claim that he sent the story by 5pm has been denied by some of his editors who are my friends. They said he filed the story late in the night around 9pm or so. For now, it remains his words against theirs.

How to get Luka out. I must confess that the government’s handling of the matter was high handed. But rather than appeal to sentiments on the Social Media which may take us no where, we must take practical steps to get him out. On my own, I have been making personal efforts to get him out. Emmanuel Ado, Chimezie Enyiocha Enyiocha and Femi Adi are all aware.

In the last effort, I met with a very senior government official who has El-Rufai’s ears. I pleaded with him with Ka’aba the Holy Mosque in Makkah and the fast I had on the day. He gave me his words.  He said Luka should apologise through  his various Social Media Platforms, and he would see El-Rufai over the matter and we find a way round the case. I communicated this to Luka’s friends to reach him and get back to me. It is close to two months now, I haven’t heard from them.

But if we want to go legal, then let’s commit ourselves to mobilising resources with a view to appealing the ruling of the court. The choice is ours to make.

Let me also make it clear that Vanguard did not abandon Luka. The management only took the decision to transfer him out of Kaduna, while trying to settle the matter. But in protest, Luka resigned. Pray, how is that Vanguard’s fault?

Again, on day of his arraignment, he challenged the decision to arraign him alone without joining his employers. No employer will listen to such a submission and clap for such a person especially when the person  is no longer on their employment. Let me not bore you further with details. The bottom line is , seek information before castigating any party on this matter. I rest my case for now.

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