Gombe gov intolerant of criticism, publisher shares ordeal

Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya

Kera Dahiru Hassan, Publisher of Daylight Reporters, who was declared a persona non grata by the Gombe State Governor, Muhammadu Yahaya, shares with CHIMA AZUBUIKE, his ordeal after the publication of his story on the borrowing spree of the Yahaya administration

How did you get to know Governor Inuwa Yahaya?

I know him right from his days as the Commissioner for Finance during the erstwhile administration of Senator Danjuma Goje. I sometimes worked as a Radio Operator at the Petroleum Products Marketing Company  area office, Gombe. Coincidentally, he lived in one of the buildings close to our office. We usually prayed together at a nearby mosque. Though I didn’t have a personal relationship with him at the time, being one of the cabinet members of the state executive council, I know him pretty well. His younger brother, Alhassan Yahaya, is my good friend and late Alhaji Yusuf Yahaya (May his soul rest in peace) was also someone I was close to in their family.

How did your relationship go sour?

As I said earlier, we started discussing politics during the 2015 elections even though we had never met physically then. Let me tell you that, till today, we have met only twice. The first was when we were travelling to Abuja from Bauchi with the then Governor of Bauchi State, Barrister M.A Abubakar, whom I was working with as his media consultant, the flight which was routing Gombe-Bauchi-Abuja, had on board Inuwa Yahaya, we had a little discussion on our arrival in Abuja. I also met him at one of his offices in Abuja when we visited someone close to him. So, my relationship with him is because we partly spoke on few occasions on the phone.

What is the genesis of your problem with the governor?

I was in Gombe sometime in April 2022; to be precise, I missed a call from an unknown caller. On returning the call, I was told that there was a complaint against me to the Commissioner of Police. I needed to come over to the Gombe State police headquarters. I left the state on Sunday and told the caller that I was in Yola and would surely make myself available either on Friday or Monday. When I discreetly discovered that it was a ploy to have me detained and later remanded, I had to run for my safety. Since then, my lines have constantly been tracked to the extent I had to shut down all my phones.

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In a viral story, you were alleged to have been declared persona non grata by the Governor of Gombe State. What’s your crime?

While the touch of the relationship goes sour, I don’t know what went wrong. Still, many people around him have been telling me that he isn’t happy, but the recent development tells it more.

Obviously, like any other, the doesn’t want either criticism or stories that seem to be negative or expose the lapses and any administrative cavity. To some, it is an essential part of democracy as it gives them an idea to retrace their steps and later right their perceived wrongdoings. The feelings and moods of the citizens determine the actions and inactions of the you can’t always be right and insist on imposing policies that wouldn’t go down well with the masses. Even so, some criticism could be rational and sometimes irrational. Government still needs to be more strategic in navigating out.

How do you feel you couldn’t visit your brother while on admission and attend his funeral after his demise following the governor’s alleged threat?

It’s sad and heart-sickening not to visit my sick brother. He felt sick and was admitted to the Federal Teaching Hospital Gombe while I was hiding till he breathed his last. It became a twin tragedy that I could not attend his burial nor pay my condolence.

How poor will the Gombe State be in the future?

Whether the state is poor is a subject of investigation, not an off-hand opinion. Facts and figures from the Debt Management Office (DMO), domestic banks, and local debt determine the state’s economic prosperity.

How has it been running an online medium coupled with perceived harassment?

My only crime is that I published a story on the state’s debt profile. Other platforms did similar stories on the same subject. A group has also issued a statement warning the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party had equally reprimanded the state for the same rising debt. Still, I was the only one invited, indicating that I was the only target. Ordinarily, if the isn’t comfortable with the report, a simple response with facts could have been enough.

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What is the percentage of harassment faced by journalists in Gombe State?

Well, this was the same administration that prevented journalists at a time from entering Gombe Government House, instead of the other way round where journalists abort functions, a kind of blackout, but the reverse is the case. There are many instances where social media influencers were detained.

If you can’t beat them, some have opted to join them by thriving in PR journalism. What is the way out of the dilemma?

There are two parts to it; PR is just promotion, and Journalism is just the way it is, reporting the s activities the way it is. Mind you; people need to know what the is all about, the s policies. So, there are two things if you opt for a PR man fine, you get paid because there are so many PR organisations, and they are making money. There are those doing journalism who are being harassed. It depends on the part you choose to belong to. As a journalist, I owe the public a duty to tell them like it is.

Does the claim you are a card-carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party using your medium to propagate the wills of the opposition?

There is no aberrant to the constitutional provisions for a journalist to belong to a particular political party. You and I were taught the history of journalism in Nigeria. It has demonstrated that the most prominent politicians and leaders, especially those who struggled for the country’s independence, were all journalists. From Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Ernest Ikoli to Lateef Jakande, Segun Osoba, Nduka Obaighbena, the list is endless.

Today, the Chairman of Blueprint Newspaper is one of the gubernatorial aspirants in Niger State. If someone is talking about this as an issue, he must be ignorant of the politics in Nigeria. The history of journalism in Nigeria is coterminous to the history of the country itself. I commit no crime so long as I work under the established canons of the job. So, it is not a crime to belong to a political party. The late publisher of the Leadership Newspaper was an APC member. I published the story when they accused Dankwambo, whom I served in his cabinet. I’m not working for anyone, but I’m working for society. I have done a lot of stories not favourable to the PDP.

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Recently the level of violence was heightened across political parties in Gombe. Are you not worried about the fate of the 2023 elections?

I’m very worried, and I have every reason to be worried. Recently, I did a story where Kalare (youth militia) went to kill a soldier who came to see his family; three suspects were paraded. We learnt about the issue when Goje was visiting the state, and it was said that some persons had lost their lives. In an event where people are just attacked, I’m very worried; there was also this incident where the PDP office was attacked and burnt; the Funakaye attack on the PDP, and the banter that the APC office too was attacked. So, suppose the whole thing is not tamed by the security agencies when we approach the 2023 general election; in that case, the same thing may happen, and journalists may not be spared.

How safe is it practicing in Gombe, Nigeria, as the election heats up?

It is not safe. The safety of journalists was seriously in danger in the previous elections, and many were attacked, harassed, and even killed. We thank God for the Nigeria Union of Journalists. They have been working assiduously to ensure the safety of journalists and other security agencies.

 

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