Muhammadu Buhari does not like the media any more than he did in 1983 when he muzzled the press with two draconian decrees. His junta jailed journalists and shut down critical media houses. Four years as a self-confessed reformed autocrat, he’s not doing any better. Under him, journalists have been threatened, both officially and surreptitiously. His overbearing influence has led to critical columnists being shut down and others forced to tone down their criticism.
In one recent instance, a journalist was slammed with sedition and kept in jail without trial for two solid years. After his release, he has been hounded, beaten and kidnapped because he won a case of human rights abuse against this pseudo-democratic junta. In his mind, Muhammadu Buhari would have wished he had a No Buhari-bashing Commission, NBC to muzzle the print and online media. Last year, soldiers blatantly arrested editors of this media stable and shut down our operations at their own whims until Buhari reportedly intervened. There is no press freedom in Naija.
Given the above summary, it is not difficult to see why this regime struggles to explain its irrational action in shutting down DAAR Communications, owners of Raypower FM and AIT. Under this regime, the electronic media has had it incredibly worse. While preventing government agencies from advertising on critical media, government, through the NBC heckles and harasses radio and television stations. With a mandate that allows it to be the investigator, the prosecutor and executioner, the NBC levies fines as it deems fit, controls who get invited to live shows, issues strident warnings and suspends radio and television stations indefinitely.
Professionally this is no free ambiance to operate. Worse is how a government that makes it impossible for new businesses to thrive, overtaxes the few left and now whimsically closes them down.
If the Modibbo Kawu-led NBC is hyperactive, under the headship of a ‘progressive’ Marxist-Leninist critic, it is because they are acting their master’s script. As a government appointee nobody should expect Kawu to do less. Buhari loves those who incur the distrust or disdain of the public. He recently scored his retired cabinet of indolent yes-people as the best in a statement that makes one to pity the commander-in-chief. Having boxed himself into an imaginary island of integrity, he is recycling his survival kits.
But with the latest onslaught on DAAR Communications, you get the classic case of messing in the mouth and adding salt. A salty mess in the mouth instils the desire to spit and to swallow at the same time. How does one condemn NBC’s action over DAAR when the management of that outfit uses professional subterfuge to cover its managerial and moral dereliction?
As the pioneer proprietor of an independent radio station, DAAR has come a long way both with the struggle and with infamy. A substantial chunk of its workers, dead and alive are owed years of salary arrears. Other private media houses appeared to have kept their head above waters in spite of official strangulation, but DAAR has not seen the road to economic redemption. It reminds one of how it once hoodwinked the public into making contributions to bail it out of a dilemma. Following on the heels of that in 2007 it opened its shares to the public. Those who bought into those shares have not received a dime as dividend. Chairman Dokpesi needs to learn how to run a business. It’ll be a shame if he goes down in history as the Naija pretend Ted Turner who ran a burst.
Politics is the soul of human existence. But at times, it is good to know where one’s strength lies. In our primitive society, to learn not to mix politics with business is sometimes the key to survival. Dokpesi’s meddling with politics has not benefitted his media empire. His gamble with professionalism and partisan politics has not paid dividends either. Broadcasting a scathing documentary on Buhari on the eve of the 2015 presidential elections was poor calculation against a man who does not believe in forgiveness.
Buhari does not know the meaning of forgiveness as the ordeal of Sambo Dasuki shows. Even in his pretend anti-corruption fight, the only time Buhari forgives is where he sees political capital. Here is a president who explained his nepotistic appointments with how people voted, something he repeated recently when he expressed sadness at losing elections in the FCT.
Given these antecedents, only Sai Babarians would believe that the shutdown of DAAR activities has nothing to do with Dokpesi’s dabble into opposition politics. Not only is Raypower and AIT taken off air, its premises have been militarized meaning it couldn’t even use its own equipment for production. It is foolish to dare Buhari in his second term because he has no more political capital to gain.
Mr. Dokpesi does not deserve our pity, but the staff, dead and alive, who clung to vain hope that someday their salary and entitlements would be paid deserve our pity. A politically stubborn Dokpesi is unlikely to decamp to the APC to have his sins wiped clean and so, his crumbling media empire might be shut down for a long time to come. This is a sad season for media freedom in our country and another open move to intimidate the press.
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