The Publisher of Daily Nigerian, Jafar Jafar, shares with TOBI AWORINDE his experience of obtaining and publishing videos that allegedly show Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State receiving bribes from a contractor in the state
Who is Jafar Jafar?
I am a graduate of Mass Communication. I also hold a Master in Communication Studies. I was a journalist with Daily Trust for five years before I joined the government as Special Assistant to (former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu) Kwankwaso for four years, from 2011 to 2015. Then I returned to the newsroom where I worked for one year at Premium Times as an assistant editor. From Premium Times, I established the Daily Nigerian, also an online news publication based in Abuja.
How did the video clips of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, allegedly receiving bribes from a contractor, come into your possession?
It is a long story. Being in government exposed me to the inner workings of the government and also gave me access. I became friends with a lot of contractors. One of the contractors in the current government, who was also a contractor during that (Kwankwaso’s) government, had been complaining about how the governor forced them to give kickbacks from 15 up to 30 per cent in commission from contractors before any project is awarded. That is just the trend.
When did you start getting the complaints?
More than two years ago. Then I advised him, ‘We can’t just go ahead and write a story about it because everybody will consider it mere hearsay’. Everybody knows that Nigerian governors collect kickbacks. So, in view of this, I advised him that he plant a spy camera on his body because there are many. You can get one on your pen, your button or lapel. A lot of miniature devices can capture good shots nowadays. I gave him that advice and he gave heed to it. He planted the camera but he did not reveal to me that he had captured the shots.
At what point did you give him the advice?
Much more than two years ago.
So, did he immediately take to your advice?
He did not tell me that he did that. He just kept saying, ‘I will see’. I am in Abuja and he’s in Kano. We spent months without talking. Barely one year ago, we met in Kano and he told me he got those shots. But he didn’t give me immediately; he was saying he was a bit sceptical because these politicians can go after any perceived enemy.
Do you know how long he worked with the government?
He’s been a contractor, I think, even before Kwankwaso — either before or during Kwankwaso’s government.
So, it is because of the kickbacks he decided to expose the government?
At what point did he present the videos to you?
It was towards the end of September that I got possession of the videos. It was just weeks before I published the video. When I got hold of them, I started the stories about the videos.
Please, talk a bit more about the clips. How many video clips were you given and how long were the videos?
They were really brazen in nature because I had never seen that spectacle of a governor (allegedly) receiving bribes in hard currency, tucking them under his babanriga, tucking them into envelopes in different scenes. There were about 15 scenes of the bribe-taking process captured by the contractor. Out of the 15 clips, about nine clearly show the governor’s face (allegedly) receiving the bribes and they are incontrovertible.
Is it his voice that is being heard in the videos?
Yes, he is heard clearly in the videos. There was composition. I only released two. When I released the first one, I edited the composition in order to protect some people being mentioned and the voice of the contractor because they would easily have identified him. So, I had no option. They questioned the authenticity of the first one, just because of the absence of voice, despite the fact that I gave certain examples like the Offa robbery CCTV footage, where 19 people were killed. Nobody heard the shot of a single gunshot and the police used that footage to track down even the robbery suspects. So, I wondered why people questioned that bribe-taking video just because there was no voice composition. In view of that, in order to clear doubts, I released the second one, which contains the composition. You can hear the contractor telling the governor, ‘You can just get up and take the money’, and so on.
Did you approach the government at any point to confront it about the allegations in the videos?
The thing is before I released the videos, I only released that a Nigerian governor was caught on tape taking bribes.
Were you saying it as an allegation or as a confirmed case?
It is confirmed because it is there. You can see; it is clear. For me, I believe it is true, really, but anything that is not proven by a court of law is refutable; you can dispute it. So, in the case of law, it is still an allegation, but in the public court, any right-thinking person knows. That is the fact I have said and I stand by it.
But the ethics of journalism require that you give each party in the report a fair chance to defend themselves.
Yes, I am coming to that. Have you read the story I published without balance in it? When you go to a press conference sometimes, we will be invited for the newsmakers to clear the air or explain certain grey areas. Sometimes, a statement is issued instead of the press conference. In the absence of that, then you can call them and ask them, what do you have to say about this? Already, before I released the video, they issued an official statement saying I was a liar and that those people in the video were cloned. Then in my story, I built up with their reaction to ensure it was balance. Why should I contact them to hear again when they already supplied their side of the story? What more do I need?
There’s also the question of you working under the government of Kwankwaso, who is Ganduje’s political foe. What do you say to those who see your publication as politically motivated?
Of course, proudly I worked with him (Kwankwaso) and so what? In spite of my profession, whoever reads mass communication read some aspect of public relations. I practised what I studied, which is public relations. He appointed me, the way he picked Ganduje as his deputy. He worked with Ganduje for over 20 years. I worked with Kwankwaso for only four years. Because of the closeness and affinity between the two, he (Kwankwaso) even anointed him (Ganduje) among other people to succeed him. Who is closer to Kwankwaso — Ganduje or me – that he did not give any appointment? In three and a half years, since 2005, I think I met Kwankwaso only twice, but I met Ganduje over 10 times.
Do you have any personal relationship with Ganduje?
Apart from if I need to talk about work or if I need to interview him, there is nothing personal. It is the same way I never engaged in anything political with Kwankwaso since his administration ended. He never sought my advice for once on any issue. During his presidential (primary) campaign, he never involved me in anything and I never asked to get involved because I believed that I have fully returned to the newsroom and I didn’t have to partake in all their political activities anymore.
Can you talk about your invitation to the state House of Assembly while investigating the alleged bribe-taking scandal?
I really enjoyed the way they handled the matter – how they guaranteed my security and how they gave me a chance to explain myself. It went well.
You mentioned that you are speaking to your lawyers. What steps are you taking to guarantee your protection because as you have indicated, the political space is dangerous?
It is very dangerous. I am really concerned about my safety. That is my major concern now. It is one thing to spill the beans and it is another thing to protect yourself from those you trust. So, you have to be careful; you have to take some steps. I am currently petitioning the Inspector-General of Police over some threats that I am receiving to my life.
What kind of threats are you receiving?
On four occasions, some hoodlums — unknown persons — have gone to my Kano home looking for me. I had not been to Kano since this issue started until when I went to testify before that committee. That was the first time I have been to Kano since this issue. So, I avoided Kano, knowing the fact that they have been coming to ask the gateman whether I am around, which is quite strange because I doubt even if people know that I was the Jafar they are talking about in the area. Nobody knows me; I only relocated to the house about six months ago.