Editor's note: Journalist and public affairs commentator, Haruna Abdullahi, writes on the recent campaign of calumny against Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN ahead of the 2023 general elections.
]In the last few days, there have been reports from a pocket of news media platforms alleging that a top Nigerian financial institution, Guaranty Trust Bank, in 2015, donated at least the sum of N200 million to the campaign coffers of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, Vice-President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. The People’s Gazette, the news media platform that orchestrated the hatchet job, has been working so hard, albeit, without much result, to draw the attention of the public to the malicious publication.
Let us be reminded that elections season is here. In Nigeria, such a period is when campaigns of calumny thrive like mushroom, when news media, in their desperate bid to sustain the economic base of their outlets and satiate the political avarice of their paymasters, resort to cheap blackmails, abandon truth to embrace fake news and misinformation. We are therefore not surprised that the People’s Gazette deserted the path of honour and journalistic ethics, to embrace the path of infamy, by spreading the most ridiculous information about Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
First, for an election that took place in 2015, it took the news media about eight years before it could do this report and in doing so failed woefully to unearth any documentary proofs about a purported corrupt practice of that magnitude. It could only report as it claimed that cited the documents, thereby leaving the audience in doubt. This is an example of how not to practice journalism, especially in the 21st century where newsreaders are not only curious, they are highly anxious of seeing evidence of whatever claims the media make.
It is therefore not surprising that the news outlet and its paymasters are left to swim in their folly. Instead of joining the news media to spread the outright lies, Nigerians and reputable media ignored the story, as it was very easy to dismiss as malicious and unprofessional. The piece is laden with numerous claims that could not be substantiated. There are no documents of any kind that GTBank transferred 200 million to Vice-President Osinbajo, no wonder, the news media did not publish any.
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The writer alleged that the N200 million was given to Prof. Osinbajo soon after he was named Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate. The outlet however forgot that Prof. Osinbajo did not run his own campaign independent of Muhammadu Buhari. Questions on the lips of Nigerians who read the ridiculous allegation are: Is it possible for a running mate to have its own separate campaign organisation? And again, is there any proof that Prof. Osinbajo was the one that established the said campaign organisation for whom the said N200 million was transferred? The publication woefully failed to provide answers to these pertinent questions.
It should be noted also that during campaigns, many Political Action Committees (PAC) are formed, with a lot of them being formed without the knowledge of the political party or the candidates. As in most jurisdictions, a PAC is formed to raise money for causes; any cause that suits their fancies. Currently, there are many such PACs dotting the nooks and crannies of the country established without the consent of political parties and the candidates. Is People’s Gazette claiming ignorance of such PACs? If they are, many Nigerians are not.
The Nigerian electoral law is equally not oblivious of the many PACs that often blossom during election season. It may be one of the reasons the law does not mention such PACs as possible violators of the relevant electoral law. The part of the electoral law that prohibits the donation of more than N1 million to a candidate in a presidential race, is targeted at individuals and political parties, not PACs. The law was either unknowingly and wrongly cited in the said publication or knowingly cited by People’s Gazette as a subtle means of conferring credibility on their hatchet job.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as an oracle of law with a long-standing reputation cannot wittingly or unwittingly break the law. He is not just a Professor of Law, he equally occupies a special space reserved for exceptional legal professionals. Osinbajo is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). As a man who has taught and practised law, he knows the law – both in theory and in practice.
We know that election season is here, and this is the time many politicians display flagrant abuse of the basic human virtue of saying the truth; they sponsor publications with the intention to impugn the reputation of rising stars with impeccable character. Even though Osinbajo, whom many know is a rising star in the current political firmament, has not declared his intention to contest in the 2023 election, a lot of people are already agitated and threatened. Nigerians should be wary of media outlets that fly on the wing of ignorance to propagate mischief. That People’s Gazette publication is pure ignorance driven by mischief.
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