On August 25, 2020, Mr. Charles Eyo, Daily Trust newspaper’s Cross River State Correspondent, was verbally assaulted by a politician, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, who also threatened the journalist with physical harm, saying he has marked him.
Mr. Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, undertook “official visits” to some states to assess the performance of governors, even though he no longer holds any public office. While he was rounding off his visit to Cross River State, he called a press conference and afterhe finished his briefing, it was time for him to take questions from journalists. WhenCharles was recognized, he asked the ex-minister, “Sir, please you did not disclose to us who is bankrolling you…..”.but Mr. Fani-Kayode did not allow the journalist to finish with the question when he threw caution to the wind raised his voice and began to verbally assault the journalist. He raised his voice for several minutes hauling insults at the journalist whom he called “stupid” and “small-minded” saying the journalist was sponsored to come and insult him. He then threatened to inflict bodily harm on the journalist.
The politician blurted out: “How dare you ask me such a very stupid question! I know that you, a hungry-looking, brown envelop journalist, you are sponsored to ask me such an insulting question. You can look into my eyes and ask me such demeaning question! I cannot take that!
“I am a very rich lawyer who has been in government; who has been detained many times by governments. I have a very rich background. How can you ask who is bankrolling my tours of the states. It is very insulting, and I cannot take that. You are very stupid. I know your publishers, I will call them in next few minutes. You have to be fired. I cannot answer any more questions from you or from any other reporter. This conference has ended. I have very short temper…..”.
The journalist disclosed that later on, one of Mr. Fani-Kayode’s security aides came to further threaten him, asking why he had the effrontery to ask such a stupid question, and what his next action was. Charles said: “Sensing how tensed up the atmosphere was, I said to the man, ‘I had apologized to the ex-minister. If the usage of the word ‘bankroll’ was offensive to him, then I withdraw it. What more should I do?’ and at that point he sneaked away.
Mr. Fani-Kayode later apologized and retracted his insults in his statement after he faced a barrage of condemnations for his action. He said, among other things, “I hereby withdraw the word ‘stupid’ which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar,”