Sahara Reporters founder, Omoyele Sowore, has received a bashing from the Presidency over his uncomplimentary remarks about the late Malam Isa Funtua, a former President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
The Presidency has threatened also to release a recording of a meeting with Isa Funtua, Sowore and some media leaders at the Department of State Security (DSS) detention facility while trying to secure his release.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said Sowore is twisting facts to fit his narratives about the meeting.
“Faced with this posturing and the unfair attacks on the dead, we certainly will be forced to ask for the release of tapes, in case they are available for the public to judge,’’ the Presidency said in a statement.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, accused Sowore of posturing, noting that Funtua only intervened on “personal grounds’’ not on behalf of government.
Sowore had on Tuesday claimed that he ‘clashed’ with Funtua during a reconciliatory meeting which had Nduka Obaigbena, Vanguard Publisher, Sam Amuka and Garba Shehu in attendance who came to ‘negotiate’ terms for his release.
Sowore wrote on his instagram page @yelesho : “After spending two weeks in DSS detention 2019, one afternoon I was called downstairs early, upon reaching the office of the two senior officers saddled with my detention I was accompanied to the office of the Director Operations, a few minutes later there was this towering figure in white dress arriving with a delegation, it was Isa Funtua (now late) accompanied by Vanguard publisher Sam Amuka, Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu and Nduka Obaigbena, owner of THISDAY and ARISEtv, I was meeting all these men for the first time in my life.”
“They said they had come to discuss my freedom from detention while I thanked them for their kind intervention, I made it clear that it was wrong to come meet with me in detention without first consulting with my lawyer, Femi Falana, we already in court challenging my unjust detention, but Isa Funtua, haughty and condescending, was dismissive, he started berating my lawyer claiming he’s only “grandstanding” and to me he stated with a note of finality, “you can’t defeat the government.”
“I was enraged, and told him, “well you are about to find out that the people can defeat any government no matter how powerful you guys think you’re. As we argued back and forth, Nduka intervened and took me to an anteroom in the office of the DO and pleaded that I should not argue with the old man that I should just play along and get released.”
“I repeated to him that I’d considered the consequences of my actions and I am not interested in negotiating my liberty with anyone. I asked him why he didn’t think it was necessary to contact my attorneys before embarking on such a mission, he said he will get to Femi Falana and that’s was the end of my encounter with the team!”
But Shehu responded: “Let’s get the facts straight on the meeting with Sowore in SSS detention. First, it is important to state that the meeting was not instructed by the government. Nobody sent anybody to go and “negotiate” Sowore’s freedom as he put it. The late Malam Isma’ila, on his own, called me to ask that I broker a meeting with him and two others with the SSS, which they agreed to. It is important that I state that it was the force of Malam Isma’ila’s argument that made the meeting possible.”
“Vanguard Newspapers publisher, Sam Amuka and ThisDay Publisher and President, Nigerian Press Organisation, Nduka Obaigbena, all agreed that Sowore was a “rascal”, who had used his newspaper “to abuse all of us,” but agreed, nonetheless to go and press for his release.”
“As the late Isma’ila put it, although he (Sowore) got into his problems due to politics, not journalism the fact of him being a publisher imposed a duty on the media leaders to seek ways of making him free. The meeting ended well, and contrary to the posturing by Sowore, he said he was happy with a resolution proposed but that his lawyer, whoever that was, needed to come on board. The fence-mending process apparently collapsed after the meeting of the trio with the lawyer in Lagos.”
“I don’t know what Sowore wants to achieve by distorting the facts of what transpired, but my advice to him is that he should stop his attacks on a dead, well-meaning intercessor. Knowing the way the secret service works, it should surprise no one if they keep a recording of that meeting.