I Was Punished For Censoring Hate Campaigns -Mayaki

The immediate past acting director-general of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Musa Mayaki, has revealed that he was issued several queries and rebuked by the presidency of the immediate past administration for daring to censor abusive and inciting comments made by some prominent members of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during on-air campaigns.

Mayaki, who was the acting director-general of the NTA between 2012 and 2014, was not confirmed as the substantive DG; he was, instead, removed and replaced by the incumbent, Mr. Sola Omole.

He said that on several occasions, he was queried by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s chief of staff (CoS), Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, for trying to prevent live transmission of some very abusive comments and hate speeches made by some members of the then ruling.

He added that what saved him from being fired much earlier was the intervention of the then minister of information, Labaran Maku, who, as a professional journalists himself, understood that he (Mayaki) was doing the right thing.

In an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP at the weekend, Mayaki said his travails started as far back as the last governorship election in Edo State when the PDP paid the station about N35 million to carry a live coverage of its campaign rallies.

The former NTA boss noted that PDP members who spoke during the campaign resorted to reigning abuses on the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate during the live transmission of the rallies, the same way it happened during the 2015 campaigns.

He said, “Although I can’t really understand why these things happened the way they did during the 2015 polls, because when I was DG there was election in Edo State. When the PDP came with about N35 million for live coverage of their campaign activities in the state, I took the money and then when they started the campaign I just saw on air- direct live- that it was all insult upon insult.

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“It was not even the journalists covering the campaign that called me and drew my attention; it was our secretary of the board that called me and said, ‘Mr Mayaki, do you see what is going on on-air?’ So, I called the man who is on transmission, Mr Balogun, and said, ‘What can we do about this development?’ He said we can use delayed broadcast and edit (out) whatever insult before we pass it on to the public.

“And that is exactly what we did. Anything they said, once it was insulting we cut it off and, at the end of the day, we pass on only the good aspects of the message that they wanted to pass. So, we continued doing that for the three or four hours that they wanted the programme to be aired.”

Mayaki said he paid dearly for taking such professional measures as the PDP later reported him to the presidency where he was immediately issued a query by the then chief of staff to the president, Chief Oghiadohme, adding that he would have been summarily removed had it not been for the then information minister Maku who knew that he was trying to be professional in handling the campaign broadcast.

“I was so happy that the then minister of information, Labaran Maku, stood by me. He didn’t waver because he knew what I had done and he was very, very okay with it. But how many of us have that kind of stamina to withstand that kind of pressure? Pressures are always coming from everywhere, but if you are very professional, you would know that ‘this one, I should not take it’. Like for us, we were not actually journalists; I just happened to be in NTA and was the most senior officer and I know that the thing was wrong.

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“If I were there during the 2015 electioneering period, I wouldn’t have taken it with all their money, and I even heard that there was no money paid for all the insults.”

The former DG added that his cordial relationship with Maku infuriated the presidency even more and the result was that he got queries upon queries.

He said, “We were so cordial that he allowed me to judge and handle all activities the way I wanted. That is why the presidency was annoyed with me, but sometimes, he was the one who always absorbed the shock. There were so many times the presidency will query me, but once I explained he would quickly know what I have done.

“So, I had very excellent relationship with him and the man was so wonderful. I am happy that he gave me the opportunity to serve for those two years because he could as well have approved that somebody else should take my position.”

Mayaki further advised federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari to be very careful about the way NTA goes about broadcasting activities in the country, because as the largest network in Africa, the station is a sensitive government media organisation and, as such, is capable of setting the whole country on fire by its broadcasts.

He also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that somebody with very rich knowledge about television broadcasting is henceforth appointed chairman of the NTA board.

“It is not every position that you just give to politicians because, in the past, politicians who were board members did a lot of damage to NTA. They just come in and start looking for money. They are least interested in the NTA,” he said.