June 13, 2024

Democracy & the Media: A tribute to chief Bayo Onanuga

Democracy & the Media: A tribute to chief Bayo Onanuga

By Dr. Josef Onoh

As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, I go down memory lane and nostalgic tour into history to remind the new generation of the sacrifices made for the freedom they enjoy today which you contributed to.

At a time journalists were arrested, jailed and murdered in our nation, your efforts, alongside others, helped put the nation on the right path and paved the transition from military rule to a democratic system of government we celebrate today.

I recall the events of June 1996, when Federal Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (FIIB) agents arrested you, then the managing editor of the newspaper, A M News, Bayo Onanuga, along with four other people who worked for the newspaper; and no reason was given for your arrests, though you were a dedicated critic of the General Abacha led military human rights abuses which your publication that week was on an article dealing with the investigation of Kudirat Abiola’s murder (AFP 19 June 1996).

Your article had insinuated that Abiola’s son was hiding arms in his home; his lawyer was furious and asked the FllB to find out the origin of these allegations, which, according to him
were unfounded.

You were once again rearrested in August 1996, along with Babafemi Ojudu, a fellow journalist working for the magazine, The News. Ojudu was freed on 13 August 1996 you were held at their Lagos headquarters in Shangisha prison and after being detained for a week by the then State Security Service (SSS) you were transferred to the Lagos State Federal Intelligence Office at Alagbon Close.

The military junta refused to charge you as your arrest was triggered by comments you made about the then oil minister Dan Etete titled “The Man Abacha” in the opposition weekly magazine “The News. They also questioned you about your article on General Abacha’s wife that you published in The News (17 Aug 1997).

Your actions were brazen and daring at a dark period journalists were punished with assassinations or murder in the hands of the then Junta. Even in exile you all continued fighting for democracy, for the rights of all Nigerians, at the cost of your own convenience and everything to make sure that this country was well-governed.

Today, a grateful nation remembers your sacrifice. As we celebrate 25 years of democracy we say Thank you.