*With this kind of journalism, we are a nation in ruins
From Abdullahi Haruna
The magical disappearance, reappearance and clandestine reinstatement and promotion of a fugitive ex-Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina has recently generated an unprecedented uproar within the social and conventional media enclaves.
In fact, the pandemonium created a triangular conundrum of some sort. At one end of the triangle is the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami. At the other ends are Mrs. Winfred Oyo-Ita and Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), the Head of Service of the Federation and Minister of Interior, respectively.
In the last couple of weeks, the Nigerian media arena has been drenched with accusations and counter accusations on who reinstated the Abdulrasheed Maina to public service. It has been a seemingly interminable jostling between truth and falsehood; a combat between those who believe in the rule of law and those who believe in the jungle justice. The outcome of the fight has however revealed that indeed whenever there is a combat between truth and falsehood, the former will always emerge victorious.
Beyond the social media frenzy and superficial mass hysteria on the saga, can we take a low sit and begin to look at the scenario with open lens of scrutiny? If the recent sing-song coming from Abdulrasheed Maina is anything to go by, then there is much to be heard in this Pandora Box of soap. What does Malami stands to gain from ensuring Maina’s reinstatement into the civil service?
And why should Maina turn around to bite his benefactor by exposing Malami’s role in his reinstatement? Unless otherwise, it is naturally impossible for this to happen – I smell calculated rob in here. Is the corruption fighting back? Is Malami caught in the crossfire of the trigger and bullets of the hunter and the hunted?
From the noise generated by the Maina’s reinstatement and promotion, it is obvious that within the media circles, there are three categories of individuals. First, are those who are ignorant of their environment and the hidden agenda of sponsored media reports. This group masticate every media content without recourse to logic and commonsense. To them, reality is what media write and talk about.
Secondly, there are those who feign ignorance of the political landscape by hiding behind media reports to foist their agenda on the gullible members of the public. These are the most dangerous because their penchant for falsehood and propaganda is legendary, second to none.The third category are those who understand the fact that beyond sponsored media reports, are certain truths media sponsors strive to hide from the members of the public.
This category knows that although media are free to apportion blame, to declare anyone guilty even without being tried by a competent court, it is only the law that has the capacity to dole out punishment on its offenders. Common sense should tell us that the court does not prostrate to media verdict.
For those who have been following media narratives, it is glaring that journalists have not been fair to the Attorney General of the Federation, as many gratuitously lampooned him based on the superficial facts at their disposal. Some even inundated members of the public with outright lies, flagrant blackmail and warped reportage in their desperate bid to give dog a bad name and hang it. Many even queried why the Attorney General would make attempt to attend to Maina’s request.
As the Minister of Justice and a man saddled with the responsibility of deepening democratic culture by adhering to the principles rule of law, fairness and justice, it is Malami’s responsibility to listen to all, irrespective of differences in political and ideological postures. Criminals, no matter how hardened, have right to fair hearing and seek redress. Hence, one should not be surprised that Maina approached the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation seeking for reinstatement.
It will be recalled that the Federal High Court in Abuja on 27th March, 2013 vacated the arrest warrant issued by the Senate against Maina, but it was not too clear if the court also directed that he be returned to continue his duties as the head of Pension Reform Task Team. As an intelligent and meticulous lawyer, Malami knows that the difference between media guilt and legal guilt is not the same as six and half a dozen.
As the number one apostle of the law of the land and an advocate of due process, he also knows that the President Buhari’s change mantra is not set out to destroy democratic process; it rather enriches, protects and consolidates it. Fair hearing is an important component of democracy.
The purported letter allegedly issued from the Attorney General’s Office, was a tampered letter, as the minister of justice has since denied issuing any letter for Maina’s reinstatement. Malami, on 23rd November, 2017, during the investigative hearing session of the Ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives investigating the disappearance, reappearance, reinstatement and promotion of the fugitive former Chairman on Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) admitted that on 13th February, 2017, he received a letter of complaint on Maina’s illegal dismissal from Restoration Chamber, but as at 5th October, 2017, Maina’s request for reinstatement was, indeed, “a work in progress”.
How does this now translate to Maina’s reinstatement?Moreover, does the Attorney General of the Federation have the right to reinstate a sacked public servant? According to Rule 04102 of the Public Service Rules, “the power to dismiss and to exercise disciplinary control over officers in the Federal Civil Service is vested in the FCSC.” Can the Attorney General of the Federation be so naive to the extent of arrogating himself the power that ought to have been exercised by someone else?
Today, Malami has been exonerated; his transducers – those who are committed to truncating the ferocious war against corruption, championed by the fearless and courageous President, have been shamed, embarrassed and humiliated owing to the recent testimonies and revelations by the parties involved. But that should not be the end. We may be angry with the system, but it behoves on us to always query situation and scrutinize intentions before passing judgement.
Not every media headline should set agenda for us. For Malami to wait this long before stating the role of his office in Maina’s case is taking political correctness too far. It is that consideration to be humane at the detriment of the law that leads to this kind of embarrassing scenario. People must be made to be punished for their misdemeanour. A nation whose journalists do not go deep into fact finding is a nation in ruins.
What we do in this part of the world is judgemental journalism where people pass moral judgement and leaving out legal facts. Our media men must go beyond reporting happenings to digging out the real facts.The magical Maina has succeeded in using the media to his full advantage by robbing the media men of their dignity! Which responsible media make case for a criminal?
Abdullahi O Haruna is a social media Influencer based in Abuja.