Barely a few months to the 2019 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in Kaduna state has commenced moves to pacify journalists in the state, confessing that it had made mistakes in the past.
Since Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufa’i assumed leadership at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the official seat of power in the state, relationship between the state government and journalists in the state had been frosty, often times leading to altercations and court actions.
This had climaxed when some journalists were jailed, allegedly on the orders of the state government and, or its agents for publishing reports perceived as offensive to the authorities.
A case in point was the incarceration of Mr. Luka Binniyat, described as an ace reporter who had to leave the employ of Vanguard Media when the APC-led government in the state deployed its legal arsenal against him.
Similarly, Mr. Gabriel Idibia, brother to award winning music star, Tuface Idibia, was dragged to court by the state governor for allegedly , been inquisitive on how the governor declared his assets as demanded by law.
Idibia, reports have said, was still in court while lawyers from his media organization, Pilot, and their counterparts on the side of the government had continued to flex their intellectual muscles in court over the matter.
Another journalist, Jacob Onjewu Dickson had also been to prison for allegedly, publishing stories that were against the interest of the state government.
These contentious issues had made both the National Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Kaduna State Council of the NUJ to intervene by sending mails to the state governor which sought for the freedom of their embattled members.
These, coupled with series of interface with the concerned authorities and pressure from individuals and groups that were concerned about the well-being of journalists in the state, led to the eventual release of the journalists, but with stringent bail conditions.
This, among others, could be why the two journalists were celebrated and honored by the NUJ in Abuja recently, at an event on freedom of journalists.
Furthermore, unlike El-Rufai’s predecessors who had often times, paid visits to the NUJ Secretariat in Kaduna where they kept the paraphernalia of office aside and exchange pleasantries with all journalists, it was alleged that the incumbent governor only visited the journalists during his campaign but had not stepped his foot on the NUJ Secretariat Kaduna since then.
He was also accused of not addressing the entire journalists within the period, either in the Government House or at any location deem fit by the authorities, the way past governors of the state had been doing.
Rather, it was a usual sight seeing groups discussing in hush tones within the NUJ complex that only a select few journalists were been considered by the governor and his media handlers.
Perhaps, it could be a move to clear these seeming misunderstanding and rekindle the relationship that propelled the state government to send the Counsellor to Governor El-Rufa’i on Media and Communication, Alhaji Saidu Adamu, on a reconciliatory mission to the NUJ.
“Governor El-Rufai is learning, he is bound to make mistakes and through that we make amendment and that is what is happening in Kaduna State and Nigeria.”
“It is normal to have issues among ourselves especially in a state and when amendment is made, that is the only way the state will grow.”
“It is very important that we collaborate with you journalists and that is why l have come to interact with you and also appeal to you that l want you to be part of us. What has happened has happened.”
“I want to have a new course with you, to chart a new role, to work in collaboration with you. I want you to assist us because we need you more than you need us. We should chart a new way of how you will promote the activities of the state government. We will continue going round with you to see what the governor is doing.”
“We know we have a lot of challenges in the state, we will not allow it until something happen before going to the press, we should try to work together,” Adamu had said.
He explained further that Mallam Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai was a human being like any other person, so he could make mistakes.
“I am here to appeal to you to ask you to be a little bit patient with the government and to work with you to project the activities of this government.”
“I see you as important hands needed to move the state forward. Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai has his left and right and so we should join hands together to move the state forward,” he said.
To many journalists, it was a welcome development and since they have a responsibility to the state and nation, reporting Kaduna in an atmosphere of peace and cordiality with the authorities, would not only foster development but would portray the state in good light.
However, critics and keen observers of development among the duo, had queried this rapprochement by the state government, insisting that there were more questions than answers now that the general election is around the corner.
Could it be another case of the proverbial “use and dump” or a sincere courtship to nurture a politico-media romance that could stand the test of time?
As the months roll by towards the 2019 elections, many would keep their fingers crossed. But truly, as someone had said, journalists in Kaduna had never have it so bad, since the return of democracy in 1999.
Ibrahim, the Sardauna of Hayin Banki Kaduna and the immediate past Northern Bureau Chief of the Nigerian Tribune, sent this piece from Abuja. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com