Former Aviations Minister Chief Femi Fani Kayode has issued an apology which is currently making the rounds on social media Wednesday, over his verbal assault of a journalist– Eyo Charles– who asked him a question at a press conference in Calabar, Cross River last week.
Fani-Kayode, in a statement on Wednesday, said: “I met with my advisors till late last night and I wish to say the following. I hereby withdraw the word “stupid” which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar.
“I have many friends in the media who I offended by losing my cool and using such words. I hereby express my regrets for doing so.”
“I do however wish to state categorically that no threat of physical harm was ever made to the journalist in question and neither did I send anyone to threaten him. Anyone that says otherwise is lying and I challenge them to bring the proof.
“I would never seek to physically harm a journalist. For the last 30 years I have defended and worked with journalists and fought for the right of freedom of expression.
“I am also very close to many in that profession. I would be the last to seek to disparage those that are honorable and noble within its ranks.”
What’s Been Happening:
Chief Fani-Kayode, in a video that had since gone viral on social media, is seen ‘attacking’ Eyo Charles, DailyTrust reporter, for asking him a “stupid question”.
Charles was said to have asked Fani-Kayode who “bankrolled” his recent tour of several southern states.
The former minister was however infuriated by the question, saying the journalist was stupid.
“I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man. What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher? Please don’t insult me here. I don’t want to take any questions from this man. I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to? Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, a very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards,” he said.
The video has been trending on social media for several hours with many defending Fani-Kayode’s response, insisting that the question was insulting.
However, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) condemned the former minister’s outbursts.
Chris Isiguzo, NUJ President, said in a statement, on Tuesday, that Fani-Kayode assaulted the journalist and threatened him for daring to ask such a question.
According to Isiguzo the question posed to the former minister was appropriate because he had been touring several states without revealing his true intention.
“By denigrating the journalist, Fani-Kayode, has exposed himself the more as an intolerant person who will not want his activities closely scrutinised by the media. It is instructive to remind the likes of Fani-Kayode that it is the constitutional right of Journalists to monitor and keep a check on people and institutions in power. By delving into politics and holding political office, Fani-Kayode is very conversant with the watchdog role of the media,” he said.
The NUJ President said it was ironic that Fani-Kayode who was highly critical of the government could take issue with simple questions.
He said, “We are more shocked that the same Fani-Kayode who had in recent times, used his social media handles to call leaders to account is at the same time attacking a Journalist for a simple demand for him to unmask those behind his nationwide tour. He had already visited six states. This is indeed, terribly disappointing.”
However, the former Minister, while reacting to the position of NUJ,had initially said he had no apology for his conduct.
He said on the contrary, the journalist involved had apologised to him.
Fani-Kayode denied allegations that he had threatened the Daily Trust reporter and was after his life.
“During my tour of the South and after a long and successful press conference in Calabar, Cross River state, a journalist put up his hand for the last question and said, ‘well we do not know who is bankrolling you’. This is not a question but an assertion and an insult.
“And if this insulting assertion were made before (Donald) Trump or OBJ (Olusegun Obasanjo) I know how they would have reacted… I have no apology to offer for it. The young man apologised to me during the press conference and sent his apologies to me after the conference. I have accepted his apologies in good faith and moved on.
“I have always had respect for journalists and I always will. Those of them that know me or have worked with or for me over the last 30 years can attest to that. However, there is a distinction between asking a question and offering a gratuitous insult,” the former minister said.