That order on AIT: An unnecessary faux pas

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The story broke on Monday night. Security advisers of president-elect Muhammadu Buhari, allegedly barred an AIT crew from covering activities of their principal until further notice. They were alleged to have cited adverse security reports and ethical issues as basis of action.

Garba Shehu, the spokesperson for the Buhari campaign, was then quoted by the media as saying: “AIT has been asked to stay aside based on security and family concerns…(and) some issues relating to…standard and ethics. We will be talking to them but for now, the station has been asked to stay aside because, like I said, there are some family and security concerns.

They have been asked to step down their coverage until we resolve the matter with them on ethics and standards”. It was very shocking that such an episode was allowed in the first place! Let us be clear about it; AIT was very unprofessional and indecently gung-ho in the partisanship that it expressed during the last campaign. It was used to broadcast some of the most vulgar, abusive and unacceptable materials against candidate Muhammadu Buhari.

It was unable to hide its bias against Buhari and an ardent partisan of Goodluck Jonathan. Unfortunately, the regulatory body, NBC looked the other way and thus became complicit, as AIT flouted every letter of NBC’s Broadcasting Code, in respect of political broadcasts. Yet, it was unacceptable that AIT was stopped from covering the president-elect.

Over-zealous security officials might have even done that without the knowledge of General Buhari, but that doesn’t excuse the action. There is a lot that Nigerians expect from a president-elect that has promised change and he should be assisted to achieve his ambitions for Nigeria, not hamstrung with indefensible orders against the media, even when it is a medium as compromised as AIT became, in the lead to the elections.

The Nigerian Constitution does not give security officials the power to decide which medium can or cannot cover the activities of public officials. It was therefore correct that Lai Muhammed acted fast and eventually clarified the position. But the faux pas was unnecessary in the first place and must not be allowed to happen again into the future.

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