The media is a very important tool in the building of any nation. It is the watchdog of any society. It plays a very strategic role in the shaping of the mind of the citizenry of a country including their perception of issues and how they react to them. A society cannot be complete without a vibrant media standing in for the people and fulfilling the people’s right to know.
The media bears a heavy burden especially in a country like Nigeria where sensationalism, prejudice and half truths have pervaded the information stream that feeds the people. These factors are capable of relegating objectivity to the background; hence without the media, it will almost be impossible for the people to be kept abreast of the happenings in their society. This implies that if the people are not properly informed, there will be a problem in the response pattern.
It is with these expectations that some of us are worried by the activities of Omoyele Sowore and his media company, the Sahara Reporters. The publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr Omoyele Sowore is one of the most controversial characters in Nigeria today. His philosophy, one which has been transmitted to his company has turned media business to one done without integrity and at the same time open only to the highest bidder. He has become the man for any hatchet job in Nigeria’s online journalism.
While some will say he has a knack for investigative journalism, it is pretty clear that these investigations have been strategically targeted at certain politicians to tarnish and rubbish their hard earned reputations. These activities cannot be categorised as any other thing but blackmail. It is either Pastor Suleiman and the Stephanie Otobo story, Bukola Saraki or even Dino Melaye and many others. All these cases have been proven to be blackmail but disguised as activism and the agitation for civil rights. What happened to the Pastor and Stephanie story sef?
If you need a man to bring down a politician or any highly placed individual in Nigeria, the man to contact is Sowore and his media agency. It has become that bad. It is also surprising that Nigerians continue to fall for the nefarious activities of this news agency. In these days that fake news has become the order of the day as cited by the United States President, Donald Trump, Sahara Reporters might easily fall into that category.
It is also clear that he has been unleashed by the Buhari administration (one that his medium helped bring into power) on the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu to demystify him. This is evidenced by his obtaining of the hard copy of the court order for proscription of group, immediately it was granted the Attorney General of the Federation by a Federal High Court in Abuja. It is apparent that it is now the turn of Kanu and his group.
One of those gaffes made by his outfit was the continuous calling out of various names the day money was discovered by the EFCC at one Ikoyi residence. As one that is the characteristic of the media outfit, they started throwing different names out there and linking them to the money even when the EFCC was yet to give a position on the ownership of the loot. At first, Sahara Reporters linked the money to a former PDP Chairman, Adamu Muazu and after the man denied ownership of the money, they linked it again to Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, former Managing Director (Retail) of NNPC. Both claims by the outfit where proven false when eventually the NIA boss, Mr. Ayo Oke was linked to the cash.
My people have a saying that a man paraded as a thief round a market while people were buying and selling, cannot be taken back there when the market is closed only to be exonerated. It is on that premise that I make bold to say that linking both individuals to the money was nothing but an assassination of their character, one that no amount of apology can repair. At a time when people are trying to protect their reputation, such behaviour is totally shameful and condemnable.
Sowore is believed to be working for some powerful political interests in Nigeria and one of them is the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Many observers have alleged that the outfit never peddles news items capable of hurting Tinubu or the Lagos Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana.
These allegations are corroborated by the fact that the news outfit has been releasing phone conversations in audio and transcript forms including confidential memos and yet our security agencies have not thought it wise to investigate the sources of these leaked conversations. It presupposes that the media outfit has been bugging phones or they have agents working for them in the telecommunication companies. Even though it is said that the journalist never releases his/her source, we must be mindful of the invading of the privacy of citizens by unauthorized persons because it is a criminal.
It is because of this lack of integrity that a court ordered that he pay the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, 4 billion naira in damages for his libellous publications against him. He has also been accused of creating groups that are always on hand to scuttle processes of the law whenever he finds himself in the police net. In one particular case, he was held in police custody in Panti, Lagos after he had been accused of extortion and his boys came to cause trouble till he was let go.
He has been accused of being involved in a gang rape while he was a student at the University of Lagos. An allegation that was corroborated by a former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro and it is on record that he has not for once owned or refuted the allegation but instead he has consistently cried foul and claimed that politicians are sponsoring media attacks against him. For someone who claims to be an activist and a freedom fighter, it is an irony that he continues to shy away from these allegations. It is said that he who must come to equity must come with clean hands.
His deliberate strategy to avoid discussing the issues surrounding the rape allegation against him speaks volumes and it does go a long way to prove that he actually committed the said act. In the eyes of the law, rape is almost as weighty as murder and victims carry the scars/trauma of such ugly incidents for the rest of their lives. Without proper counselling, many of them never regain their self esteem and some have been known to attempt suicide.
Many individuals have alleged that Sowore has approached them and one amongst many is Lekan Fadodu who claimed that Sowore called him on the phone to demand for a bribe of over 200 million naira threatening that if he failed to provide it, he’ll use his medium against Lekan. These are very weighty allegations against him and this leads one to ask, if Sahara Reporters is the only online news medium in Nigeria.
It is our duty to put Sahara Reporters in check including asking that Sowore explains his role as regards the allegations levelled against him. We must not allow Sahara Reporters turn journalism to one that will be reserved for the highest bidder and we will not allow him blackmail others for money while his own allegations remain unanswered.