SIMONKOLAWOLE! BY SIMON KOLAWOLE
Our paths crossed in 2014. I used to be about to arrange TheCable on-line newspaper. The largest problem was getting a superb editor to take cost. Having practised journalism for over 20 years, I needed to take the again seat and focus my energies on different companies. However unable to get an appropriate candidate, I started to panic. I just about gave up. Then the appliance of ‘Fisayo Soyombo arrived. He carried out excellently properly within the written take a look at — and even higher on the interview. Surprisingly, he gave up an even bigger wage to just accept our supply. In response to him, he needed to be a part of TheCable dream. Placing dream above cash? In Nigeria? I informed myself: this man will go far in life.
Though his newsroom expertise was restricted, his uncooked expertise, youthful vitality, enterprising expertise and dedication helped beginning and nurture TheCable, which he edited from 2014-2017. And he loves journey — corresponding to undercover reporting. He as soon as disguised as a clearing agent with a view to expose the decay within the customs service. This earned him the 2016 Wole Soyinka Investigative Journalist of the 12 months award. To jot down one other story, he drove a “stolen” automobile (i.e. with out paperwork) from Abuja to Lagos and again to Abuja, passing via 86 checkpoints. He bribed law enforcement officials at each level, so he was by no means correctly checked. If the automobile was actually stolen, he would have gotten away with it!
His largest threat up to now needs to be his jail journey. Early 2019, when he was about to stop as editor of Sahara Reporters, he informed me he had a narrative thought and requested if TheCable might foot the invoice. “I wish to do an undercover investigation from contained in the jail,” he stated gleefully, as if asserting that he needed to journey to Dubai for sight-seeing. “Somebody will report me to the police that I broke a deal, I shall be arrested, detained, charged to courtroom after which remanded in jail. I wish to uncover the corruption in our prisons and justice system usually. I’ve researched how a lot it can price me to remain in a extra snug a part of the jail, have entry to telephones and eat noodles.”
I used to be scared. He may very well be killed! I nonetheless requested him to ship in a proposal. On the administration assembly, we have been divided, however we lastly determined to go forward after all of the arguments and counterarguments. Adequate, ‘Fisayo had additionally obtained the Worldwide Centre for Investigative Journalism (ICIR) to foot a part of the invoice. With worry and nervousness tugging at my coronary heart, I authorised the discharge of funds for the project. My spouse was significantly agitated. She saved asking me if it was well worth the bother. I informed her she wanted to really feel ‘Fisayo’s enthusiasm. It was unimaginable to discourage him. He gained’t take no for a solution. He even ready for the journey by doing dreadlocks — to look the half.
Forward of his police custody on the Pedro station in July 2019, he known as to say good bye. It felt like a journey of no return. “Protected journey,” I joked, and we each laughed it off. He adopted a pseudonym — Olajumoke Ojo. All the pieces began properly. The police locked him up. He recorded the atrocities on the station along with his hidden digital camera. In courtroom, some jail officers approached him and stated if he wished, the decide would remand him throughout the premises — for a payment. They didn’t know Ikoyi jail was his aim. He opted for jail. They informed him he might get a cell for N30,000, N100,000 or N150,000, relying on his selection. The VIP cell, they informed him, was N1.5million. It was all a matter of money!
At Ikoyi jail, issues started to take a harmful flip. ‘Fisayo’s brother known as to tell me that his cowl had been blown! Name it the work of the satan: his hidden digital camera was found as he was being processed for incarceration. The warders seized it, watched the movies, handcuffed him behind the again, and started to torture him. They scraped his locks and beat him foolish on each joint in his physique. In our threat evaluation, we by no means noticed this coming. We have been extra apprehensive about beating from fellow inmates. My spouse overheard my cellphone dialog with ‘Fisayo’s brother and burst into tears. “I warned you! I hope they gained’t kill him!” she stated, amid sobs. I managed to calm her down.
To compound issues, ‘Fisayo’s journalist pal and co-conspirator went to go to him in jail as pre-planned. Not figuring out that the burble had burst, she walked straight into bother. She was arrested and handed over to the police. The girl who got here along with her ran away and known as me. Really, ‘Fisayo was not imagined to go to jail with the digital camera. The unique plan was that his journalist pal would faux she got here on a go to after which slip the devices throughout to him. However on sensing on the courtroom premises that the warders would enable you do something for a payment, ‘Fisayo determined to maintain his devices on him. That was how the satan obtained into the element.
I used to be within the UK. I needed to do one thing — and really rapidly — to save lots of ‘Fisayo from a sure bother with the Nigerian state. He might now be formally imprisoned. There have been no ministers in place, so I used to be clean on who to enlist for the rescue operation. I made a decision to succeed in out to a former minister. He began complaining that TheCable had a “sinister motive”. He stated we might have utilized formally to examine the prisons. In any case, NGOs typically go to the prisons together with officers of the Nationwide Human Rights Fee (NHRC), he stated. I knew I used to be coping with an institution individual however I didn’t anticipate this angle. In the long run, he didn’t assist. And ‘Fisayo was nonetheless being tortured.
After I had agonised for hours — amid frantic cellphone calls from ‘Fisayo’s brother — one title lastly got here to thoughts. Mallam Abba Kyari, the late chief of employees to the president. He was as soon as a journalist and an editor. He as soon as wore our sneakers. He would perceive what we have been attempting to do. I despatched him a WhatsApp message, asking if I might name him over an pressing matter. Instantly he learn my message, he known as. I wanted to be tactical in my strategy. I didn’t understand how he too would react to undercover reporting. The previous minister simply stated it was sinister. I knew Kyari to be liberal and progressive, however he was a authorities official and he too may take offence at our audacity.
“Mallam,” I half-stammered, “we are attempting to assist President Buhari combat corruption in authorities businesses, so we determined to ship an undercover reporter to Ikoyi jail. Sadly, his cowl was blown and so they have been torturing him. Additionally they arrested the girl who came around him.” He sighed. I smelt frustration. Then he lamented: “That is what journalists do in superior societies to reveal the rot within the system and authorities will act to place issues proper. However you understand how we’re in Nigeria.” He promised to succeed in out to the related authorities. True to his promise, I obtained phrase that the torture had stopped. The girl was additionally launched by the police.
However Kyari’s assist was simply the tip of the start. With the police, jail and courtroom now conscious of ‘Fisayo’s mission, they determined to make life extra depressing for him. The courtroom pissed off efforts to grant him bail by erecting recent obstacles. I needed to name a prime Lagos state authorities official for assist. The courtroom budged, however gave his launch warrant to jail officers as a substitute of his lawyer. The jail additionally secretly launched him to the police, who took him again to Pedro. Goodness me, he might have been killed on the way in which and his physique dumped within the lagoon! Jail would declare he had been launched; formally, police now not had something to do with him. We dodged a bullet there.
The saving grace was that his brother was monitoring proceedings intently. He had been ready for ‘Fisayo to come back out of jail. After ready for hours with out seeing any motion, he turned stressed. He inquired from the warders and so they stated ‘Fisayo had been launched! To whom? They stated he ought to cease asking them JAMB questions. He virtually went amok. One thing informed him to go to Pedro. On getting there, he determined to check the waters by sending his cousin to search out out if ‘Fisayo was with them. When the man didn’t return, we concluded he too had been detained. They clearly needed to lure the brother into the station and arrest him too. He, in spite of everything, was the “complainant”!
We have been not sure what the police needed: a pound of flesh or a bucket of blood? We despatched Taiwo George, editor of TheCable, to Pedro for fact-finding. He discovered ‘Fisayo behind bars. ‘Fisayo desperately requested him to tell me. The law enforcement officials tried to cease Taiwo however he rapidly known as me, saying on prime of his voice: “I’ve seen ‘Fisayo! He’s on the Pedro police station!” And that was it! We instantly reached out to Mr Zubairu Mu’azu, Lagos police commissioner on the time, and ‘Fisayo was freed that evening. He had spent 5 days in police cell and eight in jail custody to get a narrative! On his method residence, he informed me excitedly on the cellphone: “Oga, we’ve a superb story.” Cheeky rascal!
In October 2019, TheCable revealed his three-part collection on his jail expertise — to large acclaim. It gained him nomination for the Worldwide Journalist of the 12 months award, organised by the One World Media (OWM). The opposite two finalists are from the UK: Alex Crawford of Sky Information and John Sudworth of BBC Information. On Thursday, June 18, the winner shall be introduced. In reality, ‘Fisayo is already winner — trophy or no trophy. As Proverbs 22:29 says, “Present me somebody who does a superb job, and I’ll present you somebody who is healthier than most and worthy of the corporate of kings.” That’s the story of the dare-devil journalist named Olufisayo Babatunde Soyombo. Excellence.
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
ON JUNE 12
On Friday, we marked June 12, for the primary time, as Nigeria’s Democracy Day. It’s in commemoration of the historic presidential election of 1993 gained by Chief MKO Abiola. It was annulled and the nation went right into a debilitating six-year disaster within the first occasion. I feel President Buhari has not obtained the credit score he deserves for recognising June 12. Individuals stated it was for political acquire. Honest sufficient. But Obasanjo was president for eight years, Yar’Adua for 3 years and Jonathan for 5 years with out recognising June 12. Why? Had been they afraid of sure sentiments and didn’t wish to trigger political offence? That places Buhari’s determination in even higher perspective. Laudable.
OSHIOMHOLE VS OBASEKI
It began as a chilly warfare, adopted by the dreaded “no rift” declaration, after which the open warfare. The tussle between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, APC nationwide chairman, and Mr Godwin Obaseki, Edo governor, reached its highest peak up to now when Obaseki was disqualified from the get together’s governorship main by the screening committee. I don’t have all the small print of what went fallacious between them, but when this disqualification comes throughout to Edo voters as a godfather attempting to make use of brute pressure to have his method, Oshiomhole might have himself accountable on the finish of the day. One factor is certain although: the Edo election shall be lit if Obaseki runs on one other platform. Thriller.
Probably the most irritating sights for me on this COVID-19 season is seeing Nigerians stay recklessly as if that they had immunity. Many individuals go round with out face masks; some use the face masks as chin guards; and social distancing means nothing to many. After all, these behaviours are primarily based on some beliefs. Some say there isn’t any coronavirus in Nigeria, that authorities solely desires to embezzle funds; some say there may be COVID-19, however it’s extremely exaggerated; and a few assume it is just the excessive and the mighty that it infects. Any marvel that infections are on the rise? It’s develop into obvious that the one saving grace now could be a vaccine — though some gained’t take it due to Invoice Gates. Hassle.
RACISM AND RAPE
Is the cold-blooded homicide of George Floyd, a black American, by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, going to alter the world? With the statues of historic slavery figures being pulled down and the dictionary definition of racism being edited, we might certainly be coming into a brand new period. On the identical time, the difficulty of rape has come to the entrance burner in Nigeria after a collection of circumstances. The governors and lawmakers appear to be taking it extra critically. Companies are making all of the helpful noises. This, I believe, is a ripple impact of the present anti-racism motion the world over. I hope the anti-rape marketing campaign won’t relent till the legislation comes down closely on the criminals. Perverts.