Nigeria: Answering press lies

Rejoinder to ‘Daily Trust’ fabrication

Members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in Nigeria), have been campaigning throughout the country to build the Socialist Party of Nigeria and secure the SPN’s registration as a party able to stand in elections. At the end of August, the ‘Daily Trust’ newspaper published a totally false report (“ASUU officials in street brawl with Socialist party”) that SPN campaigners were involved in a clash with striking ASUU university lecturers and others during a solidarity march in Calabar, the capital of Cross River state in south-eastern Nigeria. Below is a reply to this attack from a DSM and SPN member, Onwunalu Alexander, who is Protem Publicity Secretary Rivers State Chapter of SPN and participated at the Calabar Rally.

We write in response to a news article published on Wednesday, 28 August 2013, in the Daily Trust newspaper. It was written by Eyo Charles, a Daily Trust correspondent in Calabar. In the report, the journalist alleged that “leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Cross River state who were on public protest on the streets of Calabar yesterday engaged officials of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) in a street brawl”. Nothing like this occurred at the rally.

As a matter of fact the members of the Democratic Socialist Movement, the organization that initiated the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), are represented in the leadership of the Joint Action Front (JAF) that initiated the ongoing nationwide mass rallies to save education. The members of SPN were very active in the August 13 protest march in Lagos where the national action to mobilize mass support for ASUU’s demands and to save education campaign was flagged off. The campaign of mass rallies continued in Calabar with DSM comrades in attendance with two banners, one for the SPN and another for Education Rights Campaign (ERC). Thousands of ERC leaflets were received from the DSM comrades in the rally, including by ASUU officials, for mass circulation.

However, the major problem by some right-wing elements on the demo was with the SPN banner and the leaflets which had the manifesto of the party. This led to unfortunate arguments and an attempt to arrest DSM comrades, but not the physical fight that the report claims took place.

Mr. Eyo Charles threw all journalism ethics to the winds when he reported that “the SPN were also on similar mission of protest but both parties threw caution to the wind and engaged in a free-for-all fight right opposite Governor Liyel Imoke’s office in Calabar”. This is nothing but a fabrication. The procession passed through the front of the Governor’s office without such an incident. It was equally false that “trouble started when each of the parties wanted to be the leader of the protest into the governor’s office”. There was no attempt to enter governor’s office let alone battle over the leadership of the protest as this journalist reported as the leaders of JAF was in the clear leadership of the protests.

Grave, misleading and fraudulent

It is equally grave, misleading and highly fraudulent to report that “when SPN leaders saw that ASUU officials, Non Academic Staff of Universities, National Union of Teachers, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities in collaboration with Joint Action Front (JAF) were having the upper hand, they ordered their boys to shove the ASUU officials aside and take over the protest”. The SPN comrades and members of SPN were part of the rally and the ERC banner which they also displayed was at the forefront of the rally, without any opposition whatsoever.

To show that this media report was fallacious, actually only two SPN/ERC/DSM members participated in this rally. Where then did the reporter get the numbers he brandished when he stated that SPN leaders ordered their boys to shove ASUU officials aside in order to take over the protest? The only union that participated in the protest apart from ASUU members were NAAT members. Again, unions like NASU, and NUT never participated in the rally, so how on earth could SPN leaders shove unions that never participated in the rally. What this reporter did was to look at JAF banner that states thus “FG & State Governments must Implement Agreements Reached with ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NAAT, ASUP, SSANIP, COEASU, SSUCOEN and NUT” and then fabricated that two of the prominent unions (NASU and NUT) listed on JAF’s banner participated in the rally.

Given the magnitude of fabrication of this report by Eyo Charles, it is not out of place to conclude that this report was sponsored. What the sponsors of the report is hiding is the fact that the SPN comrades was subjected to harassment by some right-wing elements at the rally, working hand-in-hand with operatives of the State Security Services to arrest the SPN comrades and hand them over to security operatives.

Since inception in the mid-eighties, the Democratic Socialist Movement, which initiated the Socialist Party of Nigeria, has struggled shoulder to shoulder with workers, youth and the poor and intervenes in the day–to-day struggles of the working people. We have no problem debating our ideas with fellow activists but oppose any attempt to use physical force, or to involve the security forces, in debates.

It is therefore mere mischief to state that "this led to both groups dragging themselves about, punching and tearing each other banners and hurling inventive at each other". Where is the evidence? No such thing happened. The report is just to paint SPN members in bad light.

Nobody spoke on behalf of the SPN leader, Segun Sango, as reported neither were either of the two members that participated in the rally interviewed by any reporter. The report also has it that JAF was also part of those SPN members fought when in actual fact it was the JAF Secretary, Abiodun Aremu, who was the only JAF national leader on the demo was also the person that resisted the move of the right-wing elements and the SSS operatives to whisk away two of the DSM/SPN members! In short, this is a self-contradictory report that is bereft of ideal journalism expected of Daily Trust and its staff! We therefore call for immediate retraction by the Daily Trust newspapers and published apology.

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