The Rivers State Government has responded to a verbal attack on the Governor, Nyesom Wike by veteran journalist, Reuben Abati.
A statement signed by the governor’s media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, described Abati’s tirade on live TV as “irresponsible, scurrilous and infantile.”
The full statement read: “On July 29,2022, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, on his arrival from Spain had addressed journalists at the Port Harcourt International Airport on recent happenings in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The governor, observed and regretted that some journalists like Dr. Reuben Abati, had made some uninformed assertions on happenings in the PDP and did not bother to check the facts. His remarks were innocuous. Excerpt of the interaction of Governor Wike is captured thus; “People like Reuben Abati, former Press Secretary to the President, sometimes, when you read or hear what he said, you begin to wonder where are we heading to. No more investigative journalism – people just stayed somewhere, concoct stories, all kind of things they want to say.”
That observation was made to reference comments on a recent interview that was conducted by Abati and Tundun Abiola, who co-hosted Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Governor Wike pointed to some of those comments on that programme and said, ” See the statements he made. So many lies were told and then you say I should not react to some of those issues? That will not be fair.”
At best, such is the unarguable position of Governor Wike, unapologetically, and we would have left it at that without dignifying Abati, a mystified self-satisfied public commentator with any response about his public outburst on the 1st August,2022 while on Arise Television, Arise News.
Abati, buoyed by self-importance and in his characteristic penchant for bellicosity, recklessly jettisoned journalism ethics which demanded that he comports himself in public or while performing his duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of the profession. Rather, he delighted in maligning Governor Wike.
Any discerning mind will agree that Abati’s outburst and unbridled derogatory commentary on Governor Wike can best be described as irresponsible, scurrilous and infantile. And we do have moral obligation to put things right by setting the records straight. We do so with the same conviction that Governor Wike spoke of, which he made clear at his interaction with journalists and stated that, “I can’t continue to remain silent. Nigerians must know what happened, Nigerians must know who are those that love them. Nigerians must know whether we are serious about leadership of this country.”
It does appear that Abati seemed to be so self involved, and driven by ‘a-should-be-known’ vested interest about the inner happenings in PDP, otherwise, why fume about the resolve of governor Wike on what he would be unveiling in the coming days. There are often two sides to a story and if Abati is not interested about the other and balancing side to what he believes to have known already, it shall be construed that truth does not matter to him.
Every journalist worth his salt pushed to secure it, as demanded professionally, to access it and to balance the view points. If Abati is averse to such, then on what truth does he practice his journalism?
The sacredness of facts is embedded in the truth that is adjudged as absolute, eternal and eschatological. It is a conscience path that the media must continue to tread and be guided while playing out their roles, a duty that places on journalists a moral duty to steer clear from inputting their sentiments into information in order not to broaden the harm done by misinformation.
Abati had claimed to have been a journalist since 1985. Such boasting of the sojourn of his professional practice, he thinks, puts him on such pedestal to say Governor does not have the capacity and intellect to teach him journalism. The best of journalism, he knows, were not taught to him in the classroom. He garnered from daily experiences as he discharges his duties. Events and persons he had met and encountered had impacted more on such knowledge base he prides in. No matter how one despises the teacher, the lessons taught, inculcated by the teacher are often eternal.
Does length of service make one hard to err? So, is Abati infallible? Can he be wrong? Of course, he can and has been so observed. But does he know it when he is wrong professionally and be humbled enough to accept correction? That is where the cloud keeps thick darkness. His rantings on Monday 1st August 2022 on his Arise TV morning programme show him to have displayed how intolerable he could be when his errors are pointed at, and to him.
It is this bitterness that has manifested because he failed to have realised that decency should be his watch word, particularly, when he is on live television. The privilege to anchor a television programme cannot be a licence to malign a person of the governor’s status.
In his zest to impress some extraneous influences, Abati merely discredited journalism ethics which prohibits him, in any manner, to ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of his political conviction, not even the office of a state governor. Rather than puffing in arrogance and indulging in unwarranted combativeness, Abati, ought to have realised that journalists engaged in television and radio media practice ought to show higher adherence to ethical practices and tolerance.
Indeed, what investigative journalism does is to search out the truth from the subtext of falsehood to achieve the needed correction. It is for this that Governor Wike wondered about the absence of factual substance sieved from investigative journalism efforts in some, if not all of the comments made by Abati. His commentaries therefrom, arising from that Arise TV interaction, were obviously tilted, showed of him, who is a distant fellow to the inner happenings among politicians within the PDP, as if he were an active participator. It suggested a taking of sides. His comments were short of a well searched out positions.
Abati might want to claim he merely expressed his freedom of speech as enshrined in the country’s Constitution, but he must bear in mind, as a journalist, that he has responsibility to refrain from using stinging and pungent language that cast cloud on a person’s credibility. Freedom of expression does not license a journalist, no matter how highly placed, even inadvertently, to insult the Governor of Rivers State.
Perhaps, one needs to inform Abati to learn to value positions and opinions of other people according to their merits. To this end, it may interest him to know that before joining active politics, Governor Wike, already had two degrees in Political Administration and Law, respectively. Hence, the governor’s intellectual acumen cannot be questioned by him.
Governor Wike was Chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State between 1999 and 2007. During this period, he served as Deputy President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, in 2004 and was later elected the President of ALGON. He was also an African representative in the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
Don’t you think this post will be helpful to somebody else? Please share it to others via the social media button below Thanks for reading. Do well to drop your question in the comment box, we will be glad to hear from you.