The Presidency has threatened to release tapes of meetings between the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and individuals led by late Ismaila Isa Funtua, who tried to broker his release from detention.
This followed remarks made by Sowore against the late close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari after his death on Monday.
Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, who responded to Sowore’s claim in a statement on Tuesday, said the publisher has nothing to gain by attacking the deceased.
He also revealed that members of the team that met Sowore did so because they saw him as a publisher despite falling foul of the law because of politics.
The presidential aide also revealed that late Funtua, 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,” yet agreed to bail him out.
“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. 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.”