Monday, 27 January 2020

Agba Jalingo is not a journalist, Ayade breaks silence, says he can't prosecute anybody

Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has finally spoken about the continuous detention of Agba Jalingo, a Nigerian journalist of Cross River State descent who is standing treason trial for criticising the governor, stating that his intellectual background won't let him fight against journalists and he can't prosecute anybody. 

While answering questions from journalists at the presidential villa, Monday shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Ayade said the case in court is between Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo and not Cross River State government. He noted that Agba was charged for treason and the state does not have powers to try anybody for treason as such it couldn't have been him who is incarcerating Jalingo.

"In court, it is Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State."
"He's in court for treason, a state does not have power to try anyone for treason, it's not me."

Speaking further, Ayade disclosed that Mr. Jalingo is not a journalist rather the Chairman of a political party whose presidential candidate tried to topple President Buhari's led Federal Government with the assistance of Agba Jalingo who is a state chairman of the party. 

"You are seeing him as a journalist, but he's not, he's the chairman of Sowore's party in Cross River State so he's a politician. He has a primary calling, which is journalism.

Mr Ayade said the journalist's arrest and trial is in connection with Omoyele Sowore's #RevolutionNow protest.

"On his Facebook page, he sent pictures where he was being teargassed at the revolution march in Lagos. His own pictures, posted by himself and when Sowore was being arrested, he went back to his Facebook to post that the revolution has just started, 'we will continue this battle until revolution works'. He admitted this in Court," Mr Ayade said.

"Once he started the campaign to overthrow the government of President Buhari, he ceased to be seen from the point of journalist because he has become the state chairman of a party."

Governor Ayade, however, says he has been working for Mr Jalingo's release from Calabar prison where he has been incarcerated.

"I am of the opinion that Agba should be released because I think he was just youthfully excited.

"If you ask Agba Jalingo today, I'm the one working with his lawyers for his freedom, I'm the one sustaining him and sending upkeeps," he said.

When contacted, Attah Ochinke, a former attorney General of Cross River State who is leading Jalingo's legal team told Premium Times that he has been having discussions with officials of Cross River State government for the release of Jalingo. But declined comments on the governor's claim of sending upkeep to Jalingo in prison.  "It is not through me," he said.

Mr. Ayade also cleared the air that he is not behind the Incarceration of Jalingo, stating that his intellectual background as a professor won't let him prosecute a journalist. 

"I have an intellectual background as a professor, I will stand with journalists at all times and I will never prosecute somebody."

Speaking further, Ayade said, Jalingo is his not just from the same home town with him, but he is his brother and he has assisted Jalingo severally only for Jalingo to turn back against him in betrayal and blackmail. The governor narrated instances where he assisted the Journalist in setting up the various businesses he is involved with, but will rather be blackmailed for personal issues. 

"Please don't get it wrong, Agba Jalingo is not just from Cross River State, he's not just from Obudu, where I also come from, he's my brother.

"Please ask Agba Jalingo, that CrossRiverWatch, the first person to give him money to set up the office was myself. His official vehicle, it was me. I don't have to list all of these, he knows that I have funded and supported him, but journalism stops where blackmail becomes part of your strategy.

"Today you need something, then Ayade is a good man and you start writing all the good things, but if I take my phone and show you our WhatsApp communication, you will call me a godly man. Today I need money to set up a computer school, tomorrow I need money to feed my birds, the other day I need to be INNOSON's sole distributor in Cross River State, I do all that.

"But when I don't get a thing right you go to the social media and write something as careless as Governor Ayade has taken N500 million to Russia. You impugned my father's name, my character, my family name, for just a personal request that I've not met, out of many that I have met. "Please for once, put yourselves in my shoes. All I simply did was to stay out of the issue," the governor said.

Recall that Mr Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that Mr Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state and has since spent over 5 months in incarceration.

Several local and international organisations have called for his release but it seems to have fallen into deaf ears. And this is the first time the governor is reacting to Jalingo's issues in public.