Who Is Bank Rolling You?
Bekeme Masade-Olowola (Host): Hello my people. I hope you are doing well. This is Bekeme and you are listening to The Good Citizen Radio show. The show as you know is brought to you by none other than CSR -in-Action, the forerunner for advocacy and consultancy around good citizenship amongst individuals and institutions and it is funded by ACT foundation aka Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation, which funds organisations like ours as we continue to push the frontiers for good citizenship and easier lives for Nigerians.
This week, we are going to have to move away from our core topic of discussion for the past two weeks metering out the challenges that Nigerians are facing. We are going to bring you a new perspective this week. But there has been a very topical issue that has been on the lips and top butter for most Nigerians. It is about Femi Fani Kayode and his tirade against a journalist in Calabar, where he went on a tour of the south south. Now, we do not know why this tour has happened or is happening, but we do know that Mr. Femi Fani Kayode ended up at a press conference where a journalist asked him who was bankrolling his tour and all hell broke loose, literally.
Discussing this topic with us is Mr. Deji Haastrup, who was once a core corporate executive, but is now retired and spends his time reading and researching the subject of the influence of fake news, conspiracy theories, propaganda and false narrative in contemporary politics.
Bekeme: Welcome to the show Mr. Haastrup
Haastrup: Thank you very much. It is a great pleasure to be on your show.
Bekeme: So, you have said that you have a keen interest on the influence of fake news, conspiracy theories, propaganda and false narratives in contemporary politics. And this week, we have all been taken over by the story about Femi Fani Kayode, popularly known as FFK, who began a tour of purportedly PDP states in July and ended up in cross River State last week, it’s capital Calabar where, after the tour, he had an organized press conference and was asked questions by journalists. Firstly, what do you make of this tour of a politician who is not in office I have researched the matter and I cannot understand the reasoning behind it.
Haastrup: I myself do not know any reason for a private citizen to undergo such a tour as Mr. Fani Kayode is doing, but we live in a free country and everyone has a right to move about as freely as they choose and at any rate, he probably was invited by the governor of the state or the states that he might be visiting. So, I am not particularly disturbed by the fact that he chooses to spend his time looking at projects. That is a choice that every citizen can make.
Bekeme: Right so, I asked this question because I wonder what he was trying to get out of it. You must have watched or listen to his tirade Mr. Haastrup what do you make of it? Why do you think he was so mad at been used by the journalist of daily trust who was bankrolling him?
Haastrup: We say that it is important to understand the role of journalism in society. Yeah, there is a reason why journalists are referred to as the fourth estate of the realm. In other words, you have the legislators, you have the Judiciary, and you have the executive, arms of government. Those are the three estate of the realm; the fourth estate is the journalist. It is his role, a very critical role, indeed, to be the ears and the eyes of the public. It is very crucial to the success of any democracy. The journalist acts on behalf of the citizens, which is his role to keep the public servants, political actors, even private citizens accountable to those who have elected them, who have specific expectations of them. In fact, the journalist can be like the protector of the consumer, consumer protector, so, he has a critical role to play. He has every right to ask the questions. I mean, the questions that were raised by the reporter is relevant. who is sponsoring this, who is bankrolling this? A very straightforward question. Why are you doing this as a private citizen who is responsible for sponsoring, it is not the place of the person being interviewed to teach the reporter how to ask that question. That is his space, it is be cleansed of the person being interviewed to determine how best to respond to the question. He has the right to say, I am not going to answer that question. I do not consider that question. What he does not have is the right to abuse and insult the reporter. It was really, I was really taken aback by what I saw, i felt Sorry that a person who has accomplished as much as Mr. Fani Kayode has would behave in the way that he has behaved. It is very strange, at a point when you expect the best of people in public service, he has behaved so badly. How can you ask ‘Do you know who I am? is this supposed to intimidate the reporter? or what?
It is galling. It really does not matter who the former public servant thinks he is. It does not concern the reporter and he did not ask him who he thinks he is? he she simply attach themselves to the questions that were posed to him. But let me tell you one other thing, what annoys me the most apart from this unexpected behaviour of Mr. Fani Kayode, was the response by those who were in the room I suppose his insult was shocking and they were not able to respond immediately. But then I had people apologizing, they were not apologizing to reporter, they were apologizing to the one who has insulted the reporter. This is unbelievable. I could not believe it when I was watching. how could you then be apologizing to someone who was taking it upon himself not to answer a reporter’s question, but to go ahead and insult an abuse the reporter?
Bekeme: I even saw one of them standing there by the door. Saying, you see yourself, you see your life, I told you. And I was very shocked.
Haastrup: yes, but this is important, it is good that the video has gone viral. It helps the ordinary citizen to understand the state of things in our society, where reporters are not allowed to do their jobs properly, and reporters behave as if they themselves do not know what their role is in society. Everything is totally wrong with this viral video I can say.
Bekeme: I agree very strongly. I mean, he knew that he was on live TV. And he still said, I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? bankrolling who like you said, do you know who I am talking to? What type of insulting question is that? I mean, what is insulting about being asked the question even presidential campaigns are bankroll.
Haastrup: That is the one that I do not understand. If you say that you do not like the language that he used, that is not your place. I mean, the reporter is to ask the questions, you are to respond. You have every right to say, I do not like the tone of this question, I will not respond to it. And that is fair, what you want to do is to insult and abuse a reporter for doing his job, you cannot do that. And at any rate he asked valid questions who is bankrolling this? Any right thinking and fair-minded Nigerian would ask the same question. Why would a private citizen go around inspecting public projects it is either out of some altruistic sentiments which no one understands, and the reporter has roles to question. Why are you doing this? who is responsible for funding this? Those are those are the reasons why you are a reporter I think that certain people think that reporter and the public relations manager have the same job. So, when they get questioned and they think that this question is too pulling, they think this man is supposed to be laundering my image why is he asking me this question?
Bekeme: This is a problem. This is a big problem.
Haastrup: The reporter is not supposed to ask you those questions that you like that you love, as he is supposed to ask on behalf of the public who have no access to you, those questions that the public would normally like to ask you, if they had the opportunity. And he would be staining in that role and that duty to the public if you did not ask him questions. If he only asked you the question that he wants him to ask, then then that is a problem that we have with the Fani Kayode incident. It is really gulling. It should not be accepted. I am happy, I am truly very happy that the Nigerian Union of Journalist stood by him and that his Newspaper was very quick to stand by him. It should never ever be accepted from anyone to ridicule a journalist for doing his job.
Bekeme: I think even worse was the fact that you what you mentioned earlier that the journalists kept on apologizing the same person who asked the question I stood there with his head bowed. I was really ashamed and sorry for him at the same time. And then he wrote a piece about having snuck out. In his own work, he sneaked out when nobody was looking. I mean, I would have thought that journalists should be able to pull their heads up with pride because of the very critical role that they play in society. And I think that it speaks to accountability in this case, because, you know, if you are an independent entity that you ought to be Do you really think that they should be making all of these apologies. Now, what is even more galling to use your word is the fact that in his posturing, as calling is the fact that in his posturing the ex-minister does not really provide us any real reason for his anger or vituperation, he just basically says an ex minister and the lawyer, I did not know that ex ministers and lawyers had stashes of cash. So, because you are an ex minister, does that mean that you should have so much money at your disposal that you can actually travel from state to state without anybody contributing to it? I just I did not find that funny at all. And then he went, and issued at first, he was reticent. And then he, he said he would not apologize. And then he issued a half-baked apology, in my opinion, that only apologize to senior members of his profession and then he alludes to the fact that this did not come from him. It was because he met with his advisors and the only thing he was saying was basically that he withdrew the use of the words ‘Stupid’ and that he has many friends, which we are assuming are high ranking friends in the media, who he thinks he offended? And as a former journalist yourself, do you find this apology acceptable?
Haastrup: At all that that is not an apology. It is making an excuse for bad behaviour. Does not sound contract justice yet, and I seem that perhaps it is because he still does not appreciate the role of the journalist. He thinks, sadly, by the use of the words, do you know who I am? He thinks probably that he has a status that is above that of the reporter.
You know, it is. So I think it is now up to the journalists now, to seize the moment attached their authority of their role, their crucial role in a democracy that i started with. Journalism is supposed to be that good work of the society called the society to hold those in authority accountable on behalf of the people and journalists must see themselves not being in a personal role, but see themselves in some way as a public servant, serving the interests of the public. it is therefore the role of those who have an opportunity to be interviewed by reporters to consider it a privilege to have this opportunity to air their position as responsible citizens. If Fani Kayode believes that what he is doing is the work of a reporter then should show proper contrition and apologize appropriately and not ever do this kind of a thing again, and as I said, Those who are apologizing to him are the ones who are enabling this kind of behaviour by politicians and public servants and I hope that the society can learn from this. In fact, I was watching the other day a video clip of Nelson Mandela, he had just been released from prison and he was he was carrying out a tour in the United States of America and was addressing reporters. There was a journalist who thought he was going to ask a question that will embarrass him. I think the question was about why Nelson Mandela had supported people like Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, who have very terrible human rights record and then he ended his question by saying are they the type of people that you would like to rule South Africa? The whole, the whole assembly went quiet because everyone felt it was a serious matter. He did not abuse the person who asked the question. He simply right ahead an answered the best way he wanted to, and he was applauded, the whole place erupted into applause. If you are certain of your position, if you are sure that what you are doing is in the best interest of the public, they should never resort to abuse and insult, you should simply answer the question. And I suspect that it was a strategy calculated tactical part of Mr. Fani Kayode to pretend to be angry and throw some tantrums in other to divert attention from the question that was being asked. It is a sure tactic if you do not have an answer to the question to now abuse or take on
Bekeme: more like if you do not want to give the answer to a question the answer to a question
Haastrup: exactly! It maybe he feels very uncomfortable to reveal this source of the funding for the inspection tour or he thinks that by answering that question he believes he has exposed them. There must be a reason why he decided the best way to respond to legitimate and valid questions by reporter is to abuse and insult the reporter. it is terrible. Any time i think of this, they just get my blood boiling.
Bekeme: I can imagine. So, I mean, it would have been enlightening for all of us. If FFK could have told us truly how he was funding this in recent times, I don’t think that he has a price of anything that he act legitimate thing that he does to make money. So, it really should have really been enlightening for us to know how this entire thing was being in quote, ‘bankrolled’. Now let us look at the journalists. You talked about their critical role and accountability. And I mentioned earlier the fact that one of the journalists actually stood there and continue to put down his colleague who already felt ashamed by the time that was, you know, going against him. Now. first of all, there has been criticism of the journalists use of the word ‘bankroll’ because it is pretty informal all right? And the assumption is that during press conferences you are to use formal language. And then he did write up his own version of what happened the journalist that is, and it was filled with all sorts of grammatical inaccuracy. And I found it a bit hard to follow up to understand what actually happened. And then the National Union of journalists also released content that many people found to be substandard. What do you think of the state of journalism? Why is it first of all, why is it that journalists don not seem to understand their role? Secondly, what do you think about the crop of journalists that we have today that would not only accept that kind of behaviour, but that would release unacceptable At least world class if you look at it from the point of World Class expectations that we release such an acceptable material.
Haastrup: To be candid, you have touched very tender nerve. As far as I am concerned, these issue that you have raised concerns virtually every profession in Nigeria. standards have terribly fallen. If you compare the reporter’s journalists of today, the journalists of old, you would, you will see that that is actually very little to compare. There are only a few practicing journalists today that you could compare with most of the old. As a matter of fact, if you remember, those People who took over from the British after Nigeria gained independence were actually the Journalists. they were Zik of Africa, Nnamdi Azikiwe He started life as a journalist, they were, Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose Newspaper is still the oldest surviving Newspaper in this country. Journalism used to be regarded as the foundation. This was a very well-respected profession was a profession that you aspired to if you want it to lead your country. Now, what you find these days is sorry that I said that earlier. There are reporters who cannot string words together two three sentences that will be intelligible to the average reader. Those are not reporter but then, this affliction affects every facet of our society. You have lawyers who can’t write briefs, you have graduates, I have interviewed graduates for positions and quite seriously you are not sure that the certificates that are dished out are actually worked for because some of them have the facility for the language that you would only expect from junior secondary school students. The standards have fallen, and you cannot expect if you look at that video, then you will see that she himself was accusing reporters of brown envelopes. While the television cameras were still rolling, he was accusing reporters of collecting brown envelopes.
Bekeme: And no nothing was done about that. Nothing.
Haastrup: No, not at all. And so, these are issues that the profession has to address. The fact that professionalism has fallen, the fact that the confidence of the reporter has fallen so badly and part of it is not just the fault of the reporter. There are many reporters who do not get paid in time. Some of them have to supplement their salaries, and they do all kinds of things to just keep going.
Bekeme: final question and back to Femi Fani Kayode. He attacks multiple things. And he attacks his mental capacity. He calls him stupid. His age, he calls him a young man, his position called him hungry, the poverty mentality one who takes brown envelopes. And this is not the first time he has called a journalist stupid; another piece of information news was released recently. Were sometime early this year, he was saying this to another journalist. I think it was on Ben TV saying that he must be very, very stupid for having said something, of course that one was very pained, but was not allowed to respond appropriately. He has shown himself on TV on social media where he is done to be quite intolerant. Do you think people really get the leadership which they deserve? And how do you think Nigeria can purge itself as such?
Haastrup: It is up to us all of us really. And I am sure that this whole debate that we are having now, and I am sure in other places, similar debate is going on would help people to ask themselves the right question. Is this the kind of society we want? Are these the kind of people that you want to refer to as our leaders? What are the minimum standards are require of our reporters? I mean, it is very galling to listen to that tape. I mean, at first, I could not bring myself to listen to the whole tape. But I had to eventually, because he used very bad language. And I am sure he himself would not be proud of what he has done when he goes back to listen to what he did. I hope so for his sake. But at any rate, it is up to the reporter to decide if this is the kind of person that they would want to continue to cover. I mean, if they imagine that he cannot be rude to report as if he is not going to answer their question, there is no points to covering him at all. And that is one way to address leaders who treat other citizens as if they are superior to them. As soon as he asked the question, do you know who I am? I knew that this was someone who is bent on intimidating. You say that he has done this more than once this is my first experience of it so, I was really taken aback. I could not have believed that someone who has served in the capacity that he has served our country would behave in such a manner; it is really something one cannot be very proud of.
Bekeme: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Deji Haastrup, it has been a pleasure having you on the show, look forward to having you again sometime soon. Thank you.
Haastrup: Thank you so very much. It has been a pleasure, have a lovely day, Bye.
So, we have been listening to Mr. Deji Haastrup talk about this Saga that we have had to witness in the past week. The good news is that the National Union of journalists has issued a statement condemning his behaviour and daily trusts Newspaper management has also written out against the behaviour of FFK. And finally, the Nigerian union of journalists in Akwa-Ibom. have boycotted his visit to Akwa-Ibom. He was due to land there on Thursday and they have decided that they will not be a part of it. And that is the sort of stance that we want to see from journalists and citizens alike going into the future. Thank you again for listening to the show. My name is Bekeme, and the show is brought to you by CSR-in-Action and funded by act foundation. Have yourselves a fantastic evening and keep on listening for next week’s show, as we continue with the challenges that you have with metering and electricity in Nigeria. Bye