Ex-Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has come under heavy criticism for verbally attacking a journalist during a press conference in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Fani-Kayode is seen in a video that had gone viral on social media giving Daily Trust reporter, Eyo Charles, a dressing down for asking him what he termed a “stupid question.”
The encounter was said to have occurred on Thursday 20, August 2020 at a hotel, during a round table with invited journalists when the Daily Trust reporter asked Fani-Kayode who “bankrolled” his recent tour of several southern states.
However, the former minister, who was infuriated by the question, said the journalist was stupid.
He said, “I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man. What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher? Please don’t insult me here. I don’t want to take any questions from this man.
“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to? Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, a very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.”
Utterances negate simple decorum and civility – NUJ
The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ has come hard on the former minister.
The NUJ President, Chris Isiguzo, said in a statement that the former minister assaulted the journalist and threatened him for daring to ask such a question.
Isiguzo said the question posed to Fani-Kayode was appropriate because the former minister had been touring several states without revealing his true intention.
He said, “By denigrating the journalist, Fani-Kayode, has exposed himself the more as an intolerant person who will not want his activities closely scrutinised by the media.
“It is instructive to remind the likes of Fani-Kayode that it is the constitutional right of Journalists to monitor and keep a check on people and institutions in power. By delving into politics and holding political office, Fani-Kayode is very conversant with the watchdog role of the media.”
The NUJ President said it was ironic that Fani-Kayode who was highly critical of the government could take issue with simple questions.
“We are more shocked that the same Fani-Kayode who had in recent times, used his social media handles to call leaders to account is at the same time attacking a Journalist for a simple demand for him to unmask those behind his nationwide tour. He had already visited six states. This is indeed, terribly disappointing,” he said.
It is repulsive and unacceptable – IPC
In its statement, the International Press Centre (IPC) also condemned the verbal assault inflicted on Charles by Fani-Kayode, and said it “views this development as repulsive and unacceptable since there was nothing wrong with Journalist Eyo Charles wanting to know if the tour was an independent initiative or a sponsored one.
“The former Minister had the option of not answering the question and the abuses were totally out of place in the context of the event”, the Executive Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade said.
IPC, in the statement issued by its Communications Officer Olutoyin Ayoade, demanded that the former minister should apologise to the Journalist and give an assurance of his safety in view of the alleged further threats.
I have no apology for my response, Fani-Kayode reacts
But reacting via a statement, Fani-Kayode said he had no apology to offer, insisting that the journalist’s comment was insulting.
“During my tour of the South and after a long and successful press conference in Calabar, Cross Rivers state, a journalist put up his hand for the last question and said: Well we do not know who is bankrolling you,” he said.
“Below is my response and I have no apology to offer for it… This is not a question but an assertion and an insult. And if this insulting assertion were made before (Donald) Trump or OBJ (Olusegun Obasanjo), I know how they would have reacted.
“The young man apologised to me during the press conference and sent his apologies to me after the conference. I have accepted his apologies in good faith and moved on.
“I have always had respect for journalists and I always will. Those of them that know me or have worked with or for me over the last 30 years can attest to that.”
Fani-Kayode added that there is a difference between asking a question and “offering a gratuitous insult.”
“This is all the more so when it is clear that the assertion was sponsored and engineered by my political enemies who wanted to use the young man to insult and embarrass me and question my integrity. Well they got more than they bargained for,” he said.
“I repeat this was not a question but an assertion and an insult and I will not accept that from any man born of woman. Thank you.”
We’ll hold you responsible if anything happens to our reporter – Daily Trust
While condemning Fani Kayode’s action as reprehensible, the management of Daily Trust, in a statement issued by its Executive Director/Editor-in-Chief Naziru Mikailu Abubakar, said Daily Trust reporters are responsible professionals, who uphold the tenets of journalism, as well as best practices.
“That Fani-Kayode attacks a reporter doing his job, is an indication of the chilling disregard he has towards the media, and its work in investigating and reporting on issues. As always, we stand in solidarity with our reporters, and will continue to fight for the rights of all journalists,” the statement said.
It urged the Nigeria Police to take note that if anything happens to Charles, Daily Trust will hold Fani-Kayode responsible, especially due to the intensity of the verbal threats he issued during the shocking incident.
It added that the actions of Fani-Kayode are not only reprehensible, but also constitute a setback to press freedom, in a most dire form. This kind of assault raises major concerns over the safety of journalists in Nigeria.