The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Media and Communication Directorates, led by Dele Alake and Bayo Onanuga have claimed that the Arise TV town hall debate is designed by Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY and Arise Group, to embarrass Bola Tinubu, the party’s presidential candidate.
The duo made the allegation in a statement they jointly signed as a response to Obaigbena’s latest comment asking the duo to present the APC candidate for debate.
Onanuga and Alake alleged that the Arise TV’s town hall meetings are sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The statement said, “In his first statement attacking us, Obaigbena craftily attempted to mis-characterise as an attack on free speech, our principled stand against his blackmail to have Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu appear on Arise TV and its PDP sponsored Town Hall meetings.”
“In the second statement, he was still adamant that our candidate must attend his town hall debate, despite our stance that our candidate is already executing another communications strategy to reach the most important target: the Nigerian voters.
“We, repeat again: We will not make our candidate available to validate a scheme which, in the light of unassailable information at our disposal, is nothing but a racket by the Arise TV owner, designed to embarrass our candidate.”
Recall that Obaigbena had while denying damning allegations made against him by Alake and Onanuga on Wednesday, encouraged the duo to present their principal for debate so that Nigerians can scrutinize him, instead of attacking the media and his person.
He added that Tinubu’s presence at debates and town hall meetings would allow the electorate to interrogate his proposed policies and programmes and choose if he would be the next President in 2023.
Obaigbena stated this in a statement titled: “Lies Have Short Legs, They Do Not Run Far – The Fake News from Bayo Onanuga and Dele Alake”, signed by his Chief of Staff, Fawuziya Mohammed.
The media entrepreneur stressed that journalists were not Tinubu’s opponents in the forthcoming election and the APC campaign council does not need to succumb to cheap blackmail, personal attacks, and bullying.
He noted that many APC PCC members had personally called him to dissociate themselves from Alake and Onanuga’s actions.
He said: “Present your presidential candidate for Town Hall meetings, debates and interviews by the independent media that last for more than 8 minutes, and not pre-arranged Townhalls, where questions are pre-set, prearranged and rehearsed.
“The resort to media bullying tactics, blackmail and fake news will not work. Journalists are not your opponents in the 2023 elections. When they go low, we go high.”
Obaigbena also refuted the claims by Alake and Onanuga that the media organisation owed any tax authorities in South Africa, adding that it paid all its creditors in an organised exit strategy.
He, however, asked both APC chieftains to provide evidence to support their allegation
He said: “If they have any such evidence to the contrary, they should publish it immediately. The debacle of THISDAY in South Africa was one of the factors that persuaded President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to cancel the South African Airways takeover of Nigeria Airways, given that Nigerian businesses were being discriminated against in that country.”
Responding to the allegation about ARISE Networks Limited (ANL) UK, Obaigbena said his disqualification as a Director was still a subject of litigation in the UK Court of Appeals and would not want to make further comments on the matter.
He said: “The Judgement made it clear that there was no evidence of any dishonesty against Obaigbena. Since those initial teething difficulties, other ARISE entities have traded out of the shortages and ARISE News Channel is now thriving in the UK, Europe, the USA, Middle East and 54 countries of Africa. We await the judgement of the Appellate Courts on ANL as to why and if we ought to have known that the FX shortages in Nigeria would not improve to continue trading.”
Clarifying on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) refund, Obaigbena explained that the anti-graft body invited him and Executives of other national newspapers to clarify payments made to NPAN when he was president at the time.
Obaigbena revealed that the executives of all other Nigerian newspapers involved were also invited at the time to clarify the payments they received.
He stressed that he was not detained as he signed no bail bond, “and indeed has never been detained by the EFCC or the police in any criminal case, contrary to the fake news of Bayo Onanuga and Dele Alake.”
He, therefore, explained that the N500 million THISDAY refunded was compensation the Jonathan administration paid THISDAY for the Boko Haram bombing of the newspaper’s elegant Abuja office.
“The Jonathan administration paid compensation for, and/or rebuilt properties bombed by Boko Haram terrorists in Abuja, The United Nations and THISDAY inclusive. Again, when the Buhari administration requested a refund, it was fully made. The property remains un-rebuilt,” he stated.
On staff salaries, Obaigbena stated that the organisation has been very consistent in paying salaries regularly, as and when due every month at ARISE News Channel.
He said: “We do not owe staffers at ARISE whatsoever despite the fake news of Bayo Onanuga and Dele Alake. Of course, all Newspaper houses are facing the tough economic environment arising from the increasing cost of operations and dwindling copy and advert sales and most newspapers owe salaries from time to time. It is, however, taking hypocrisy to a new level for Onanuga to be sermonising about salary payments.
“Those who passed through The News stable of which he was co-founder and CEO, have not forgotten how the company owed 11-month salaries between 1996 and 1997, how protesting staff were forced to forfeit 5-month salary as “contribution to the democratic struggle”, and how union leaders were sacked over the same protest.
“All we do is create value. We have had over 3,000 people in the employment of THISDAY/ARISE Media Group over the years and we are proud to have created value in human and resource capital.
“Dozens of those we have employed here have moved on to become ministers, special advisers, ambassadors, commissioners, special assistants, and publishers of print and online newspapers, including several who are Tinubu’s personal staff and executives in his companies,” he said.
To this end, he maintained that, “No misinformation, fake news of Bayo Onanuga and Dele Alake will change Obaigbena’s global trajectory. The journalists at THISDAY and ARISE News Channel are doing their duty by raising pertinent questions.
“Rather than addressing our questions, Alake and Onanuga countered with wild and misleading allegations and fake news. We did not dismiss their allegations and have addressed them frontally. We now challenge them to respond with facts to the legitimate questions of the Nigerian people through their media.”