Still On The AIT Ban | Independent Newspapers Limited
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COLUMNIST, The Roundtable

Still On The AIT Ban

Posted: May 6, 2015 at 12:34 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

It was bound to happen sooner or later, considering that there are still many individuals and groups who stubbornly refuse to concede the reality that there must be an end to litigation in any dispute and an end to electioneering in any political contest. These are the ones who have buried their noses in the mud like sniffer dogs hoping to unearth any evidence – no matter how flimsy it may be – that will demonize the President-in-waiting.

That opportunity came with the barring of the African Independent Television, AIT, from covering the activities of President-elect Muhammadu Buhari. Bearing in mind that the obnoxious anti-Press Decree No. 4 was promulgated when Buhari was military Head of State, the purported ban was a PR blunder and quite rightly sparked off a press storm.

The indispensability of a free media was aptly captured by the famous quote of the 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” But the fact must be kept in mind that Jefferson never envisaged government ownership of newspaper organizations, as he was later to posit that, “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; .inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehood and errors”!

What Jefferson is saying in effect – and which has become accepted as a universal truth is – that to whom men entrust much, they will require and demand all the more. While the Press remains the undisputed watchdog of the society – and recognized as the Fourth Realm – it must strictly adhere to the professional Code of Ethics. Once a media organization chooses, for example, to become a propaganda platform for any particular political party, it immediately forfeits its moral authority and professional objectivity. That’s why our elders say that dirty hands can never mould clean pounded yam.

Truth be told, the malodorous stench emitted by the much-criticized AIT documentaries on Buhari and his family members during the run-up to the 2015 elections is still very thick in the air. It is an open secret that High Chief Raymond Dokpesi is a longstanding card-carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He has a right to support any political party and contestant of his choosing – although he has consistently misfired – but his decision to throw all caution to the wind and transform a highly popular AIT into a PDP megaphone must be condemned.

It is pathetic that Dokpesi – and his co-travelers – can still claim that “…the historical information about the President-elect (in the documentaries) that were ran were factually correct (and) nothing was done to defame him or impinge on his character or integrity.” The grim reality is that the documentaries weren’t intended to highlight any truths but simply fabricated to provoke and incite targeted families and ethnic nationalities in the South against Buhari.

As opposed to the claim that Buhari expelled Ghanaians from Nigeria, the truth is that it was his predecessor who actually implemented “Ghana Must Go.” Gloria Okon was said to have disappeared under Buhari’s administration when the truth is that she vanished into thin air under his successor’s regime. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s iconic mother was said to have died after “Kalakuta Republic” was ransacked by ‘unknown soldiers’ under the Buhari administration when the truth (that word again!) is that the tragic event occurred under the Olusegun Obasanjo military regime.

My sense of outrage led me to draft an unused essay in which I advised APC that its ‘revenge’ is best served cold by going the Mazi Mbonu Ojike way (aka “Mr. Boycott all boycottables”) i.e. urging its members and supporters to not only stop watching AIT programmes but to also boycott the products and services of any company that chooses to place commercial adverts with the media outfit. Such a move would have hurt the proprietors where it most mattered – in their pockets!

Buhari and the APC have since fortunately disassociated themselves from the purported ban so we can all live happily ever after, or at least until self-appointed sniffer dogs conjure up another emotive interlude!