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Monday, 5 August 2013

Outrage: The Nation Newspaper Fires Whistleblowers Who Helped Nail Corrupt Business Editor


Ayodele Aminu
By SaharaReporters, New York
Controversial Business Editor of The Nation newspaper, Ayodele Aminu, resigned his appointment at the company last Friday on the heels of petitions to Managing Director Victor Ifijeh by two subordinates, and the recommendation of a panel of inquiry that he be fired for misusing his post.
After that, it got very ugly very quickly, as the Managing Editor—formerly Online Editor—brought in within week summarily directed the two petitioners, both females, to resign their appointments within 24 hours without providing any justification.
Contacted by Sahara Reporters, the reporters confirmed receipt of the memo, but expressed surprise that the management was in effect asking them to suffer for the sins of Aminu “because he is their boy.”
In his valedictory speech, Aminu who allegedly ran his own advertising business alongside his job and traded stories for private goodies, boasted that he prefers to be on his own because the Nation's management is divided.  He clearly did not expect a man as powerful as himself to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word, discipline.  "Whatever the management planned against the petition writer, some members of the management will inform them (petitioners), so leaving here is good riddance to bad rubbish."
With reference to one of the petitioners, he said, "If that woman knew that it would come to this, she wouldn't have written the petition. The Panel recommends that she be posted to the weekend as requested by her in her petition but the MD believes she is being used by some people within the organisation, hence baiting her with the directive to cover the new beat that was the bone of contention while the Panel was sitting, and she refused. Now she has been asked to resign. We are going together.”
Speaking further, Aminu, who joined The Nation after he had been fired at ThisDay, said, "I am not bothered. When I leave here now, I am going to the club [pub].  Imagine the Panel asking me, how many cars do I have?  Foolish questions.  At a point, I just kept quiet, I stopped answering them. I am glad to leave. This is good riddance to bad rubbish.”
He said he was having fun and enjoying myself, and bragged about his prospects.  “I will proceed on my leave and go from there.  No regrets. The Ibrus are already begging me to come to The Guardian, but I want to be on my own," he said.  Over the weekend, nobody at The Guardian confirmed any interested in Mr. Aminu’s services.
Meanwhile, the petitioners have replied the management that they have no basis for resignation, since they are performing their duties regularly, and their petitions were in the interest of the Vintage Press Ltd, publisher of The Nation owned by former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.  One of them was said to be obtaining legal advice as to her options, and they are both concerned about their personal safety.  “He (Aminu) also threatened that I would disappear, the day I told him I would report him to you concerning his high- handedness,” one petitioner had written in the conclusion of her July 5 memo.
Some of the information contained in the petitions, copies of which were obtained by SaharaReporters, are damaging not only to Mr. Aminu, but to his supervisors, Daily Editor Gbenga Omotosho, and Mr. Ifijeh, as they indicate they both knew they were harboring a corrupt and philandering Business Editor, but did nothing about it. 
It seemed clear, for instance, that, using The Nation as cover, Mr. Aminu was effectively in a blackmail business for himself under which he obtained a retainer from willing banks not only to give them favorable cover in the newspaper, but to attempt to influence other newspapers as well.  One of the petitioners recalled the day Mr. Aminu gave her money “in the presence of everybody” to be passed to such correspondents, saying he remembered that he was owing them.
“Three of them, Dele Fanimo of The Guardian, Bimbo Oyesola of The Sun and Victor Ahiuma Young of Vanguard always disagreed with him on request for killing of stories, "No way, we can't kill story for Aminu, he is not our employer", when I delivered his message to them,” the petition declared.
Mr. Aminu seemed to have lived his life in a happy lane.  One of the more memorable quotations attributed to him by one of the petitions that will be of interest to journalists nationwide, as well as to the Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Guild of Editors is this: “Even the MD (Mr Ifijeh) said when he saw my N18 million new jeep that he knew I was the only one that could bring such car to the office. Even the car that the office gave me, I refused to pay instalmentally, I have given them cash. So I don't like people disturbing me when I am doing my business.”  It is unclear how he could have paid cash on the basis of his wages at The Nation, for an N18 million car.
Clearly, the business he referred to did not seem to be the business of journalism, which is why that, and similar quotes, may keep many people at The Nation awake as to exactly how Mr. Aminu could so flagrantly maintain his unprofessionalism.  Mr. Omotoso and Mr. Ifijeh are currently said to be going round engaging people they regard as the publisher's friends in order to save their jobs, giving the impression that the petitions were meant to bring down The Nation.
The second petitioner had a similar perspective in her letter to the Managing Director on July 8.  “Since Mr Aminu came in 2011, he had in mind on how he wants to use the desk for his own business,” she wrote. “One of his plans is to bring people that will owe allegiance to him and displace those perceived as threats.  I have known him for almost 10 years and one thing I know is that he is ready to do anything if he feels you are an obstacle to his business.
“A close friend of his once said “you have no problem with Aminu so far you are not writing against his interest and also not getting adverts from banks he has not been able to blackmail to be on his consultancy list.”
She added: “I will need to add that most things I will write here are things he says openly with the belief that no one can question him.  As he usually says “everybody has a price tag to his name. There is nothing money cannot do.”
No official of The Nation was available today to explain to SaharaReporters why the two women were being thrown into unemployment because their supervisor who has dragged the profession into disrepute is being fired on account of their courageous complaints.

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