9 min read

Aisha Badeji

There has been outrage in the Nigerian social media space over the outburst of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode in a viral video.

In the viral video, Fani-Kayode was seen calling a Daily Trust correspondent, Eyo Charles “stupid” during a press conference in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.

Fani-Kayode’s reaction to the journalist’s question, which he described as a “stupid question”, has generated fierce criticism from Nigerians on social media, with many berating the former minister.

However, other people defended his behaviour, while adding that the journalist was rude and the question was insulting.

According to reports, Charles had asked him who bankrolled his recent tours of some southern states.

The visibly furious former minister had said, “I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man. What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher? Please don’t insult me here. I don’t want to take any questions from this man.

“I could see from your face before you got here; how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to? Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.”

Meanwhile, the management of Media Trust Limited, publishers of Daily Trust newspapers condemned the attack on its journalist.

The Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief of Media Trust Limited, Naziru Mikailu Abubakar, in a statement on Tuesday, said, “We condemn the reprehensible actions of Femi Fani-Kayode, who in a video clip now gone viral, verbally assaulted – repeatedly – our reporter, Eyo Charles in the course of doing his job.

“The video clip also released on one of the ex-ministers social media accounts was conveniently edited to exclude the question asked by Charles, totally devoid of mischief, simply sought clarification and information, like good journalism, should. Said editing paved the way for a social media lynch mob to rain expletives on our reporter, labelling him as ‘rude’.

“This could not be further away from the truth, and we stand by Charles, and commend him for his calmness during the ordeal. Daily Trust reporters are responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices.”

It is the constitutional right of journalists to hold leaders accountable- NUJ

The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) has slammed Fani-Kayode for verbally assaulting Charles.

The union’s National President, Chris Isiguzo in a statement on Tuesday, described the assault as “unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible.”

He added, “It is instructive to remind the likes of Fani -Kayode that it is the constitutional right of Journalists to monitor and keep a check on people and institutions in power.

“By delving into politics and holding political office, Fani- Kayode is very conversant with the watchdog role of the media.  For him to have embarked on assessment of projects in some states, even though we are yet to be told under what platform he is doing so, it is proper for the media to hold him to account for his actions and decisions.”

On its part, the International Press Centre described the attack as “repulsive and unacceptable.”

In a statement released by the Communications Officer of the organisation, Olutoyin Ayoade, the Executive Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade “viewed this development as repulsive and unacceptable since there was nothing wrong with journalist Eyo Charles wanting to know if the tour was an independent initiative or a sponsored one.

“The former minister had the option of not answering the question and the abuses were totally out of place in the context of the event,” the statement read in part.

In a twist of events, Fani-Kayode, on Wednesday, withdrew the “stupid” word he used on the reporter, Eyo Charles.

His statement released in a series of tweets read, “I met with my advisors till late last night and I wish to say the following. I hereby withdraw the word “stupid” which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar.

“I have many friends in the media who I offended by losing my cool and using such words. I hereby express my regrets for doing so.

“I do however wish to state categorically that no threat of physical harm was ever made to the journalist in question and neither did I send anyone to threaten him. Anyone that says otherwise is lying and I challenge them to bring the proof.

“I would never seek to physically harm a journalist. For the last 30 years I have defended and worked with journalists and fought for the right of freedom of expression.

“I am also very close to many in that profession. I would be the last to seek to disparage those that are honorable and noble within its ranks.”

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