The Presidential candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria(ACPN) Oby Ezekwesili, on Tuesday in Port Harcourt complained of harassment by a participant at the opening of the 71st General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the incident occurred while, Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education and Solid Minerals was presenting, a keynote address on the theme, “Broadcasting and the Changing Media Landscape”.
Ezekwesili immediately lashed back at the participant, Yusuf Musa, the General Manager of Nasarawa Radio and Television, who interrupted her while making her presentation.
NAN reports that before going into her address, Ezekwesili, made off-the-cuff comments on the presentations earlier made by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC), Ishaq Modibbo-Kawu.
The Minister was represented at the event by Mr Sunday Baba, the Director of Public Relations and Protocol, in the Ministry.
Ezekwesili said: “My brother, Kawu, I listened to you with rapt attention, you are not speaking like yourself.
“You are threatening to shut down broadcasting stations. Similarly, the speech presented by the representative of the minister is also full of threat.
“This cannot happen in a democracy that we fought hard to attain.
“Patriotism is to support the government when it deserves it and to support the people at all times.
“Anything that can be a hanging threat against the media must be rejected,”
At this point, Musa hectored at the guest speaker, asking her to go straight to her paper rather than making comments and “embarrassing” the minister and NBC DG over their speeches.
Ezekwesili who was not pleased with the interjection by Musa said: “A gentleman is shouting at me there, that is typical of an overzealous person, telling a fellow Nigerian to shut up”
“Forget about our very animated government official who is defending the government.
“We know them, when the current administration is over, they will sing a new song”.
While the altercation continued, Ezekwesili, added, “You were not invited here to the podium, I am. Please let me go into my presentations”.
Musa said after the programme that he interrupted Ezekwesili because she left the presentation she was asked to make to attack the DG, NBC and the Minister.
“She is someone I admire so much because of her contributions to national development but I am not pleased with the way she attacked the NBC over the plan to sanction erring stations”.
Earlier, Modibbo Kawu cautioned radio and TV stations that the NBC would not hesitate to sanction erring stations, as the country enters the season of heightened political activities, en route the 2019 general elections.
“For us at the NBC, we cannot be responsible for the statements that politicians make.
“It is important to remind the broadcasting outfits in BON, that you would be liable for any violations of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code by the politicians that you broadcast live during political rallies.
“So it is your responsibility, not just to collect those huge sums politicians are willing to pay; but you must make them remember the liability you carry for decency in what comes out on radio and television.
Kawu also said that the NBC would not hesitate to shut down any station who failed to pay its licensing fees to the NBC.
He said many broadcasting organizations had refused to pay regularly.
“Many of you canvass the unacceptable argument about the economic situation in the country.
“But licence fees are statutory, and those who do not pay should not be on air! It is as simple as that!
“That is the iron logic of capitalist economics.
“I will like to remind all those who are owing the NBC these statutory licence fees, that we would visit you very soon, before you collect the huge sums from the political parties.
“You would either pay us or you would be shut down and so would be unable to collect money for political broadcasts!” he said.
The minister on his part urged the media to be agents of unity, stability and not to allow themselves to be used as fake news purveyors during the campaign for 2019 general elections.