On 3rd July 2020, Sahara reporters, an online news outlet published a report supposedly, to expose properties owned by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy Dr. Isa Ali Pantami. The online news medium reported Dr. Pantami as having three luxury houses in Abuja. Sahara Reporters must have employed a deep undercover method of investigative journalism to have unearthed such information? But, did Sahara Reporters employ the right and ethical procedures for investigative journalism? Professional media houses Newspapers always employ the best practices in investigative journalism.
Investigative journalism is vital for safeguarding democracy and freedom of speech. It is an important component of a just society. The common people rely on investigative journalists for accurate, factual information with solid evidence to keep them abreast of discreet in-workings of politicians.
An in-depth look into the claims by Sahara Reporters on Pantami showed that Sahara Reporters failed to present any evidence and facts. An investigative journalist, Taiwo Hassan Adebayo said “Investigative journalism is a fact-minding enterprise and it’s not enough to make claims. You have to present evidence for any claim and be transparent about the process, that is, show how you obtained the evidence. I’m talking about documents/records linking the subjects to the said properties and how you obtained the evidence. Did you get from the authorities? Did a source tell you? Did you do some checks linking the properties to offshore firms held by the people you accused?”
Real investigative reports are always fair and they must be fair- Sahara Reporters was not fair- they didn’t attempt to get through to the accused subject to ensure fairness and to help it in further checks by comparing it with other independent sources. One can conclude that Sahara Reporters didn’t follow any laid-down procedures of investigative reporting. An investigative journalist could spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Sahara Reporters’ publication was a rushed unprofessional job, done just to attack the Minister.
On the other hand, we have to also analyse Pantami’s response. Uwa Suleiman, Pantami’s spokesperson said: “For the purpose of setting the records straight, the Honourable Minister has not purchased a single property anywhere In the world, in the period he has been in office as a Minister. One of the apartments in the images published is one which the Honourable Minister has occupied since January 2017, more than two years before becoming a minister, while the other one is a house he rented since 17th December 2019” Though, the response was not detailed, but the points were made.
The targeted media attacks on Pantami in recent times are nothing short of sheer politics- the politics of 2023 presidency is at stake. But why the attacks on Pantami? Ali Isa Pantami is a potential vice presidential candidate. He has many advantages, which his potential rivals don’t have. He is young, highly educated with a Ph.D. from the United Kingdom at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and he has a very rich résumé. Politically, Pantami is a good ‘material’ to balance a presidential ticket. He is from North-East Nigeria- he fits into the agitation for the northeast to present the vice-presidential candidate in 2023. He is a household name in the North-west. They will feel at home with him – he is their cousin. He is an Islamic scholar with a very large cult-like followership nationwide. Pantami is Buhari’s strong confidant and ally. With Buhari’s 12 million-strong vote still intact, Pantami stands to benefit from it. So, Pantami from the north-east as vice-presidential candidate with any presidential candidate from the south, especially the southwest, APC’s 2023 strategy to retain the presidency is a done deal.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state 08036070980, email@example.com