EFCC, Yahaya Bello and a Complicit Media

By Dr Austin Maho

Stories were abound all through last week how the spin doctors of Yahaya Bello allegedly moved tons of cash around some media houses to influence good conscience. It shouldnt surprise anyone therefore the amount of space devoted by some media organization to the Yahaya Bello and EFCC story.

The substantive story of high level corruption was buried by spin doctors who took over the airwave and newspaper pages propagating deceptive and misleading messages that presented Yahaya Bello as the victim of political witch hunt by a broken EFCC!

The spinmeisters were at the top of their game, their machinery was well oiled by free flowing money from Kogi

EFCC was put on trial and taken to the cleaners for dearing to violate a court order from a high court of Kogi state. Ironically the same Kogi state court in 2023 jailed then EFCC Chairman, Rashid Bawa for contempt and is now holding EFCC chairman, Olukoyede for contempt. Is thunder going to strike twice?

Justice Josiah Majebi is the Chief Judge of Kogi state, who in a recent article by respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Anslem Chidi Odinkalu describes as existing “almost entirely in the pocket of the state governor” .

Should anyone be surprise that the order stopping the EFCC from carrying out the arrest Yahaya Bello emanated from a Kogi court, and that all processes leading to the issuance of the court order happened in one day. Rather than be alarmed by this travesty many media houses and commentators were happy to take the EFCC to the cleaners for disobeying “a court order” emanating from Kogi!

If you have ever had any illusion that media corruption exists, how the media have reported the case between the EFCC and Yahaya Bello should help clear your doubt. A casual content analysis of media report of the events of last week would reveal that it was slanted in favor of Yahaya Bello. There was inherent bias observable in the way some media houses reported the press briefing by the chairman of the EFCC, He was castigated for putting his case in the public domain. He was vilified and called immature and emotional for saying he would resign if he does not bring Yahaya Bello to justice.

When we talk about drawing the lines between journalism and public relations, which is lost to many journalists the Yahaya Bello case presents the perfect example, the locus classicus of media corruption.

It is a case study of why journalism is distinct from public relations and why public relations practioners should stay away from journalism.

Journalism is about DISCLOSURE, to lay open, to make bare, to shine the light of truth on the inner recesses of governance. To hold government accountable to the people. Public Relations is about CLOSURE and DEFLECTION, to make you look the other way, to gaslight, to obsficate,to tell alternative truth. If in a 100 percent , the subject does 99 percent wrong the job of the Public Relations practitioner is to focus on the single one done right. Repeat it over and over again to make you forget the 99 percent that are wrong!

But journalism works differently. If in a 100 percent it happens that 99 percent have been done right, the job of the journalist is to focus on the one percent that has gone awry and ask why. Hence journalist are the conscience of the nation, the watch dog of society. It is for this reason that journalism is the only profession mentioned in the constitution and enjoys the privilege to monitor government onbehalf of the governed.

Hence we should be worried when this distinct line between journalism and Public Relations is becoming blurred! Journalism is not Public Relations.

As a people we have become permissive of corruption, we are culprits!

How are some high profile cases of corruption even possible in the first place? How is it possible that a governor would remove over 80 billion from state coffers without anyone raising the alarm. How is it possible that a political office holder would remove such humongous amount of money from state coffers with no early warning signal in place to alert the public of the pillage of government resources for personal benefit.

A single person can make a difference.
Evil triumph when good men sit and do nothing. We have to decide on the kind of society we want to build.
” If Nigeria do not kill corruption, corruption will kill nigeria”.

The fight against corruption is not about the EFCC or any anti graft agency. It is about Nigeria, it is about Nigerians it is about all of us. It is about our future. It is about what we want to build, the legacy that we want to bequit to upcoming generations.

Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!. The grace of God has abided long enough with Nigeria, its citizens must rise up, take the bull by the horn and chart the future of this country.

Watching the EFCC chairman, outing during his last media engagement, one could easily see the heavy burden he carries on his shoulders, the pain in his eyes. The labor to do the right thing and play by the book dealing with hardened criminals who obeys no law and adhere to no moral code. Who for them all is fair. Who have constituted themselves as untouchables and bigger than the law and the state.

Are we so blind that we cannot see that what happened at Benghazi street Wuse Zone 4, Abuja was an affront to the Nigerian state. A panacea for Anarchy a demistification of the state? The state was defanged, the supreme power of coascion which the state and only the state should possess was made mockery of!

Can’t we see that what a sitting governor Ododo did was aiding a fugitive to escape justice and raises question on why we should continue to retain immunity clause in our constitution, when immunity has become a cover for crime. Evil has seeped into the heart of our nation. If we allow this cancer to metastasized Nigeria dies.

This is the reason why the state, only the state should command the instrument of coarsion, allowing individuals to ride roughshut over state institutions would only encourage more criminals to confront the state. Strong men don’t build a nation, strong institution does. We must resist strongmen with piles of stolen cash to become parallel powers to institutions of state.

An invitation was extended by the EFCC to Yahaya Bello to come and vacate allegations of corruption against his person, he deployed subterfuge and thereafter asked that EFCC operatives should come to his country home, his village for the interrogation.
It is not just insullence but a mockery of the anti-graft agency

When criminals can nolonger be surmoned to answer for crimes against the state or allowed to chose the place and time for their interrogation, we move in the direction of state failure we walk in the precipise.

When lawyers who are suppose to uphold the law, guide society take to the street, join hired crowd for a morsel of bread to protest inanities, we should worry about our the state of our moral fabric.

When journalists who a suppose to be the conscience of the nation, the watch dog become lap dogs of their pay masters barking for the wrong reason there is a reason for all of us to worry.

A pioneer EFCC chairman now National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu was once quoted to have said that if a criminal is driving on one way traffic, he as a law enforcement officer is equally entitled to drive on one way to arrest him.

Criminals don’t play by the book, they would deploy all sorts of subterfuge to evade justice. Where necessary Anti corruption agencies should do all they can to bring corrupt individuals to justice even if they have to drive against traffic to achieve their aim, it would be recorded that it was for a good course.

“The worst part of a society manipulated by politics is to see the poor defending the rich who are responsible for their poverty” (Paulo Coelho). It is even worst when those who are the conscience of the nation those who aught to hold government accountable to the people will bend double to do the will of corrupt politicians.

Journalism is measured by the service it offers the soviety. It should not only give information, but must place the information in context.

How did Yahaya Bello obtained the court order he is brandishing around? Why is the media hammering on this and has made it a major media agenda?
What is the the end game of Yahaya Bello, is it ultimately to evade prosecution by the EFCC? This is the context Public Relations would avoid but journalism would present. Journalism educates the public and give them the facts they need to be active participants in the task of nation building

Journalism is skeptical and critical. It is weary of corrupt politicians who have brought this nation to its kneels. It sides with the people who have had to bear the brunt of bad and corrupt governance since independence, it conscientises and kick the people from their state of inertia.

Dr Austin Maho is a media scholar and publisher of Daybreak Nigeria


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