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Obaigbena Debunks ‘Lies’ Of Tinubu PCC, Likens Onanuga, Alake To Nazi’s ‘Chief Propagandist’

Obaigbena, in a statement signed by his chief of staff, Fauziya Mohammed, described as “lies and fake news” claims made against him by Onanuga and Alake in the wake of an editorial published by the THISDAY/ARISE Tv, where the organizations’ board of editors accused the APC presidential campaign council of attempting to bully free press and silence the media over their insistence that the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, partakes in debates and town halls like other presidential candidates have been doing.

In the editorial, the editors also called on the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to investigate allegations of drug trafficking levelled against Tinubu.

But responding, the APC PCC, in a joint statement by Onanuga and Alake, questioned Obaigbena’s “temerity to pretend to be a guardian of public morality in contemporary Nigerian media practice.”

The Tinubu campaign also leveled a series of allegations against the publisher, including accusations of “irresponsible business practice” and that he “collected substantial sums of money from the military junta to campaign against the June 12, 1993 elections” presumedly won by the late MKO Abiola.

But Obaigbena, while addressing the allegations on Wednesday, noted that journalists are not opponents in the 2023 elections, adding that the media will not succumb to “bullying tactics, blackmail and fake news” as the nation prepares for the forthcoming polls.

On the claim that he campaigned against Abiola’s June 12 victory, the publisher said “Before and after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, Abiola and Obaigbena were friends and remained friends till the end.

“Abiola was broad-minded enough to understand that Obaigbena, like his other friends in NRC (on whose platform Obaigbena was a senatorial candidate), were competitors for power. But that competition ended when Abacha took power and all true democrats moved against military rule. Indeed, Abiola’s last public appearance was an Obaigbena event at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on June 8,1994 where he took the Abacha government to the cleaners while demanding his mandate.”

The publisher also responded to the APC PCC’s claim that as President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), he was “detained for weeks and made to refund N600 million by the EFCC, which was part of the diverted funds for arms purchase for the Nigerian military under Jonathan.”

He recalled that executives of all newspapers (The Nation owned by Bola Tinubu inclusive) were invited by the EFCC to clarify “compensations” paid to them by the Goodluck Jonathan administration from funds earmarked for the country’s purchase of arms.

Obaigbena’ clarified that he was not detained as he signed no bail bond, “contrary to the fake news of Bayo Onanuga and Dele Alake.”

He said, “What were the facts of the EFCC invitation? For about two weeks security agents carried out raids of circulation vehicles of media houses, in the guise of searching for arms, disrupting their operations, resulting in losses of millions of naira in advert and newspaper sales. The Nation newspaper (owned by Bola Ahmed Tinubu) was perhaps the most affected, a situation they interpreted as being targeted as an opposition newspaper. The NPAN called a meeting of media owners and other stakeholders and decided to challenge the Jonathan government in a class action in court. President Goodluck Jonathan, however, invited newspaper owners to a meeting, which Bayo Onanuga attended in State House Marina, Lagos and committed to pay compensation for the losses.

“All affected newspapers were requested to submit their claims within a given deadline; 13 newspapers sent in their applications within the deadline, with The Nation filing a N200 million claim. However, Jonathan sought media owners understanding to pay N10m each and N130m was released to the NPAN by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) for that purpose. The NPAN issued N9m cheque each to the 13 newspapers that met the application deadline, the media owners having collectively decided that the association make the payment less N1m each to run NPAN affairs. The Buhari government, however, took over and requested a refund ostensibly because the payment came from the arms fund, something the media owners were in no position to know, a priori.

“All the media houses that had collected their payment cheques refunded them to the NPAN which paid the refund. It is patently untrue and fake news that some media houses didn’t get the payment NPAN collected on their behalf; cheques were issued for pickup at the Secretariat and some newspapers had not picked up their cheques before the Buhari government requested a refund.

“Like the N130m for newspapers, the N500 million THISDAY refunded was compensation the Jonathan administration paid THISDAY for the Boko Haram bombing of the newspaper’s elegant Abuja office. The Jonathan administration paid compensation for, and/or rebuilt properties bombed by Boko Haram terrorists in Abuja, The United Nations and THISDAY inclusive. Again, when the Buhari administration requested refund, it was fully made. The property remains un-rebuilt.”

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