How Buhari exploits COVID-19 to muffle media in Presidential Villa

There are indications that President Muhammadu Buhari has resolved to exploit the opportunity presented by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease to repel the media from the coverage of his government’s activities in the Presidential Villa.

Checks indicated that reporters, who hitherto were allowed to cover Presidential assignments in the Villa, have been barred from doing so since the outbreak of coronavirus disease in March, 2020.

Even when the reporters have been vaccinated with booster evidence, they have been restricted from covering Presidential activities.

Checks revealed that only those media, majorly government owned, were accorded the privilege of accessing the Press Centre hitherto made available to the media under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

But following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Media Department, under the Special Adviser to the Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, struck a deal with the leadership of the State House Press Corps (SHPC) on reduction of the population of members to cover assignments with an understanding of rotation among the membership.

Initially, it began with those retained mostly as photojournalists but pressures from reporters made the Adesina’s led media department to convert  some of the selected number to reporters.

But, close to two years after, the media department has yet to live up to the rotational arrangement.

Following the breach of the initial arrangement, other restive members of the SHPC put pressure on their Chairman, Musa Ubale, who seemed to have compromised, to ensure the activation of the rotational arrangement to no avail.

They resolved to meet at the FCT (NUJ) Secretariat, since they were barred from the Villa, and resolved to conduct a fresh election as Ubale’s tenure had expired.

The Media Office stopped the proposed election and made a reporter from a government medium to head the Corps while Buhari’s Chief Personal Security Officer (CPSO), Aliyu Abubakar Musa, became the accreditation officer and enforcer of the limited list to be allowed into the Press Centre.

COVID-19 having ebbed and opening up of spaces world over, even with government offices opened to the public on condition of vaccination with booster jabs as clincher and adherence to Non-Pharmaceutical measures, including face masks and hand sanitation, the press men have yet to be fully allowed to cover events at the Presidential Villa.

It was gathered that even when the Media and Publicity Department wrote to Buhari’s CPSO to open up following the liberation of the space worldwide, he bluntly refused saying that journalists accredited were too many.

A discrete investigation by this medium gathered that the CPSO was interested in the tribal and religious balance achieved by the about 22-member journalists currently allowed with most of them representing government media.

It was gathered that the CPSO believed that the government should only accredit and allow a few reporters it could so as to influence reports coming from his principal.

It was learnt that even when Adesina and his Co-Pilot in the Media and Publicity Department, Malam Garba Shehu, made efforts to persuade the CPSO to open up the space, but Musa bluntly refused insisting that news coming out of the Villa must be censored ahead of the 2023 polls.

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