Updated: February 24, 2021
A Nigerian journalist who has become famous by repeatedly saying the same obvious truth on television – that Boko Haram has not been defeated and troops needed sophisticated weapons from America to defeat the ISIS-inspired terrorists in West Africa – has denied allegations that he was among the senior editors who reportedly collected bribes days ago from the embattled Nigerian chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai.
Mr Babajide Kolade-otitoju worked for TheNews Magazine, Tempo and P.M.News for many years, but it was only when he moved to television continental in the commercial city of Lagos that he gained national fame. Those who used to read him in TheNews did not know who he was, but on television, he asserted himself as the purveyor of truth and the peddler and trader of honesty and integrity.
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He used the picture of President Muhammadu Buhari as his profile picture on Facebook, the man seen by many Nigerians as their avenger against sinners in a country rich in oil and natural resources but full of corruption, mega theft and extremely impoverished citizens.
On President Buhari, he has constantly praised and blasted him at the same time, although he also regularly said on television that the President committed a perjury by lying about his age to the Independent National Electoral Commission, as he was over 80 years old, and not 76 years old as celebrated on December 17, 2018.
Viewers see Otitoju as someone who tells the truth and sticks to facts no matter who may be impacted, especially when it comes to Boko Haram, the terrorist organization that erupted in Nigeria in 2009 at the same time news of significant oil deposits in the Lake Chad Basin were being heard around the world.
Although many people know him now, for those who worked with him at TheNews, he was already popular in a magazine that saw itself as the last hope for democracy in Nigeria at a time dictator Sani Abacha was at the helm. When Abacha died suddenly, Otitoju got close to his corpse and took a picture that would confirm to the entire country on the edge that the tyrant had indeed died.
He once wrote a story that sent someone else to jail and when the man was released, he wrote a book that made him famous.
Otitoju, the Group Controller, Current and Public Affairs at Television Continental, a network station owned by former Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, traveled recently to northern Nigeria to see the war against Boko Haram for himself.
A Facebook post then accused him of collecting N500,000 ($1,400) from the chief of army staff. On Thursday he penned down a Facebook post as well defending his name and denying ever receiving any money.
“Initially my intention was simply to ignore the post by Churcill Umoren on the dinner the Chief of Army staff hosted in Maiduguri during which he claimed the army chief gave each editor in attendance 500k. But friends have somehow prevailed on me to respond because my name was mentioned though the writer never exactly said I got the alleged 500k. He also said army spokesman, Brig Gen Sani Kukasheka Usman accused me of demoralising troops by my comments on social media and on Journalists Hangout. I will respond to the issues one after another.
“First, I need to state here that I went to Maiduguri on my own and left on my own after one week. I had announced on the day my vacation began that I would be in the northeast to see our troops. It would not be my first time of going there on my own unaccompanied. I contacted the chief of air staff’s aides with a view to travelling with them as I did last year. As they were not ready when I was ready I told the airforce spokesman I could not wait for them. However, the chief of air staff ordered that as I had requested the air task force commander should let me go on two missions with the airforce.
“I flew with the Nigerian spy aircraft and the Mi35. Since I was in town a friend of mine prevailed on me to attend the chief of air staff’s dinner and while i was yet to make up my mind the army spokesman met me in the hotel lobby and told me ” you’re the one every soldier wants to see.” .
“I attended the dinner held in the same hotel where I lodged and at no time did the army chief say he was giving us money much less explain that it was not a bribe but simply for xmas. We asked him questions and we offered suggestions like patriots who genuinely want the war to end.
“I disappeared afterwards into my room. I didn’t receive 500k from anyone and I don’t know who got what. The army spokesman never accused me of demoralising troops. Gen Usman knows I can’t be intimidated so he couldn’t have said that to me. We have mutual respect for each other. He and Gen Buratai merely asked us to support the army and see the war as a war against Nigeria. These days I don’t attend media assignments. I would rather send my junior colleagues. Even if it’s a briefing by EFCC. Indeed the inter ministerial brIefing of editors that Aso Rock invites me to, I stopped attending since 2016. It is to avoid this kind of silly stories.
“I know how easy it is for one’s good name to be destroyed. So I am doing my best to protect mine. Nobody can buy my conscience, not the army, nobody.
“Veteran journalist Alhaji Danladi Bako once called me and warned me to keep my name desperately. “You are the most feared journalist in our country. You’re the mouthpiece of the masses. There will be all kinds of temptations. If you go down so many of our people will be disappointed in you,” he said.
“I promise to retain my integrity quotient. I don’t have a choice. Thank you friends for reading and happy new year”.