By Ileowo Kikiowo
On June 9 and 10, 2020, TheCable blog published two stories on an imaginary rift between national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Governor of Osun state and Interior Minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
It would have been better to ignore these stories completely for the cheap gossip, innuendos, fabrications and speculations they contain. However, it is best to set the records straight so that TheCable’s version of events isn’t referenced someday as the truth in a world where digital footprints are fast becoming everyone’s archives.
Those of us who care about elevating public discourses should not look away when facts are turned on their heads and falsehood is propagated as truth.
According to TheCable, Aregbesola commemorated his 63rd birthday with a colloquium on May 25, 2020.
“On May 25, 2020, Aregbesola, commissioner of works from 1999-2007 when Tinubu was governor of Lagos, marked his 63rd birthday with a virtual colloquium,” the gossip blog writes.
The virtual colloquium actually held on May 30, 2020. It’s a pity that a purported news platform like TheCable can’t even get something as simple as the date of an event right.
This virtual colloquium was publicized with banners and flyers on social media during the week of Aregbesola’s birthday. Yet, in its rush to publish gossip and pass off the same as news, TheCable couldn’t even do due diligence by first verifying the date of an event. Nothing can be more embarrassing and ridiculous!
TheCable writes that during the colloquium, “Aregbesola unusually called Tinubu “my brother and my partner” on air, in place of the usual “my leader and my mentor” — and this did not escape the attention of some of Tinubu’s loyalists, some of whom questioned the minister on his “new direction”.
This is actually disgraceful from the news platform. Why didn’t TheCable mention these Tinubu loyalists? It’s simple, there was no such conversation anywhere.
Here is what Aregbesola said about Tinubu on the day, verbatim: “The hero of whatever Rauf Aregbesola has done in Osun is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I cannot forget his contribution in making me a good public administrator. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu takes all the glory apart from God.”
How could TheCable not have bothered to watch the full video of the event which is readily available on YouTube and other credible news platforms?
Aregbesola didn’t call Tinubu “brother” or “my partner” during the virtual conference as TheCable posits. And it was a virtual conference. That means it didn’t hold in a physical space. Where were these loyalists who took Aregbesola up on how he addressed Tinubu?
If Aregbesola held any grudges against Tinubu, why would he publicly applaud his role in his political elevation on his big day? After all, he was not under any compulsion to do so and there was no gun to his head either.
On May 25, which was Aregbesola’s birthday (the virtual colloquium was held 5 days later. But trust TheCable to conflate both and mix up its dates because it really doesn’t know better), Tinubu it was who referred to Aregbesola as “my partner, comrade, friend and brother,” in a congratulatory statement and in a series of tweets. This is what TheCable saw and attributed to Aregbesola at a colloquium TheCable didn’t even bother to watch or monitor because reporting news the way it happened, is not something TheCable knows how to do.
This is what Tinubu wrote on Twitter on Aregbesola’s birthday: “Aregbesola is loyal and dependable. He is someone I describe as my partner, comrade, friend and brother. He is an exceptional grassroots campaigner and mobilizer. And he remains invaluable to us in APC.”
Its unprofessional for TheCable to lifts Tinubu’s words and attributes them to Aregbesola. Its simply disingenuous, and a further proof that this was simply a hatchet job from TheCable and nothing more. A hatchet job passed off as an ‘Exclusive’ is something news platforms shouldn’t be caught doing, but here we are.
TheCable says Aregbesola took a private jet ride with former Governor of Ogun state, Ibikunle Amosun, from Lagos to Abuja, just to get back at Tinubu. Another lie in a piece full of lies! The truth is that in recent times, Amosun and Aregbesola haven’t been in a private jet together. Haba, Cable! And if this private jet ride happened -which didn’t happen anyway- what has it got to do with any rift or disagreement? Did Amosun and Aregbesola have to fly between two cities to discuss Tinubu? Are they wizards who can’t discuss matters on land?
TheCable says Aregbesola is in another cold war -or could we call this one a hot war- -with his successor Gboyega Oyetola. Here’s how the blog puts it: “The minister of interior has been having a very cold war with Adegboyega Oyetola, his successor as governor…Aregbesola has visited Oyetola only once since his inauguration in November 2018.”
Nothing can be farther from the truth. There are publicly available images online of Aregbesola visiting Oyetola and Oyetola returning the favour, if TheCable bothered to look. Both men have paid several visits to each other since 2018. Some of the visits between Aregbesola and Oyetola occurred on the following dates: 9/1/2020; 7/9/2019; 8/9/2019; 16/6/2019.
On May 10, 2019, Governor Oyetola paid Aregbesola a visit in his Ikeja GRA residence. Both men have maintained a cordial relationship since 2018 and regularly keep in touch via phone calls and text messages to discuss governance and other matters. There is no ‘beef’ or animosity between them as the lying Cable would have its readers believe.
TheCable also writes of a meeting Aregbesola held a day after his birthday in his GRA residence. Yes, this meeting did hold, but it was far from the clandestine affair TheCable Fabricated. If it was a secret meeting, how come the photos of the meeting were published?
Politicians hold meetings all the time with loyalists, friends and even aggressors. It comes with the terrain. Seeing as this meeting was held as Aregbesola commemorated his birthday, it was nothing more than friends arriving at a celebrant’s home to felicitate and catch up on old times.
To paint this meeting as anything more is mischievous. TheCable’s attempt to weave a non-existent political-intrigue-tale off this meeting is nauseating, to put it mildly.
This blog lays its hands on publicly available images and makes salacious, imaginary stories off of them; and that’s not the kind of journalism our nation should encourage.
If as TheCable writes, Tinubu and Aregbesola are ‘fighting’, how come Tinubu quickly issued a statement to debunk the blog’s lying post of June 9? Did Aregbesola -who is fighting Tinubu in TheCable’s twisted imagination- force Tinubu to put out this statement? How do you even convince an ‘enemy’ to issue a statement in your favour and on your behalf?
It is apparent that after its first story of Tuesday, June 9, was quickly ridiculed as a fabrication, in the wake of Aregbesola’s and Tinubu’s strong rebuttals, TheCable blog decided during an internal meeting in its office to do a follow-up story in a bid to save face. Unfortunately, this face saving initiative was riddled with even more lies than the first. It is clear at this point that TheCable can’t save itself from itself.
There is an adage that says when you find yourself in a hole, just stop digging. Those who call themselves journalists have to do better to elevate the public and political conversation with factual information and not with beer parlour gossip, innuendos and outright lies.
TheCable did its battered reputation even more harm with two fabricated stories in the space of a week. How does a news platform even embark on writing a story this sensitive and libellous without bothering to place phone calls to the parties it was writing about or sending them text messages? How do you write a story on some of the biggest political players in the land without a quest for nuance or balance?
At TheCable, journalism is dead. Long live brown envelope, hatchet journalism!
Ileowo Kikiowo is a public affairs commentator. He writes from Abuja