Fri. Apr 3rd, 2020

By Agba Jalingo By Agba Jalingo

6 min read

Recently released from prison where he spent over four months, Mr Agba Jalingo who runs a news site, the Cross River Watch, has been speaking on his experiences, even as he said he would not relent in criticising the Cross River State governor, Prof Ben Ayade, if that will help the governor to serve the people better.
Jalingo said in an interview that the prison experience was worth the while, as it helped him to read a lot of books and also undertake some form of personal retreat.
“Of course it wasn’t my first time in prison. So, that initial shock wasn’t really there. When I got in there, I knew I was actually prepared for a long haul and I had to prepare my mind ahead of time so I don’t break down and it was a time for me to pray, to exercise, to read a lot.
“ I read so many books that I haven’t been able to read for a long time and there was a period when we wanted to organize a football competition among us cell mates in the prison. I don’t know, maybe some pressure came on the controller of the prison, he came to the yard and made life uncomfortable for me for about two weeks.
He insisted that I must not see any visitor again, that I must eat the prison food, he seized our trophies, seized our medals, seized our jerseys; he suspended the competition and took everything away and ensured that the competition did not hold.”
He said it was a routine in the prison for football competitions to hold every December and that all he did was to assist with jerseys and other requirements, but that the authorities may have been influenced to stop it because of him, even as he said that he was prevented from receiving visitors at some point.
But how was he able to print jerseys and procure footballs and other items for the competition, as a prisoner? His response: “Of course, people were coming to see me, I was having a lot of visitors. So I could send the visitors to do the printing and bring them for me, even when they brought them, they handed them first to the warders. It wasn’t a secret in the yard because they do that every time, I think my own was peculiar because it was a critical matter. But they stopped visitors at some point; so things were actually very difficult for me, because they wouldn’t allow me see anybody and it can be very traumatizing, when you are locked up and you are not allowed to see anybody. In fact, when my lawyers came they were also stopped at the gate for some time before they allowed them enter. So beyond that, I had to endure the processes throughout the period I stayed there-179 days. I spent 34 days in police custody with controlled access.
But you are aware that the governor said many times that he had no hand in your arrest?
I heard that and I have also watched the video where he said that. The governor was lying; even the governor when he was talking, when I watched the video, he was under pressure, he knew he was lying, from his countenance he was lying. The issues why the governor arrested me are public. I think that the whole public, the entire public knows the reason why I was arrested. I wrote an article about corruption in our state and the governor decided to come for me, it’s there in the story, I don’t need to beat around the bush.
What is your impression about the person of the governor of Cross River State?
Well, I want to say that Governor Ayade is a very passionate person. He has a lot of passion for what he wants to do but he doesn’t have a strategy that works; and then, he has a messianic mentality. He makes a mistake of seeing himself as a messiah, rather than seeing himself as a leader who only needs to do his best and leave the rest for the next person. And then he is a consummate dictator; he doesn’t like alternative opinion, and that’s a huge problem for any leader in a democratic society. That’s the problem the governor has. He wants to do everything alone. Once you bring an alternative opinion that does not agree with what he holds as his own opinion, rather than seeing you as part of the system, he sees you as an enemy and then he wants to oppress. Who do you want to oppress?
Having been out of prison on bail, do you still hold those opinions about him as of today?
That’s what I am saying; I am telling you this opinion as of today,
Do you still believe that Ayade’s government is corrupt, so to say?
The government is corrupt; I’m insisting that the police should investigate my allegation, that N500 million naira meant for the micro finance bank was missing. I want the police to investigate my allegation. I wasn’t lying, I wasn’t joking, I insist that that money was misappropriated and I want the police to investigate that allegation.
Can you take a look at the governor’s performance over four years?
The reason I criticized him was because I feel he hasn’t done well, he has performed below bar. That’s why I started criticizing him after four years. He is my brother and I promoted his programme that I agreed with. It was until I discovered after four years that he did not perform to expectation, that’s why I decided not to side him and that opinion has not changed.
Before your arrest, how close were you to the governor?
He is my brother; we were as close as all brothers could be.
I’m not sure you’ve met him since you came out, right?
No I haven’t.
So, if you meet him today what will you tell him?
I will greet him as my senior brother and tell him to just have the patience to listen to alternative opinion. That’s what I will tell him. I will greet him. We were taught to respect our elders. I don’t have any grouse that he locked me up, he rather did me a lot of good by locking me up.
What kind of good?
Because he has made Agba Jalingo very popular, he has made me a symbol of press freedom in Nigeria and even across the globe; that’s what he did for me, and I cannot hold any grouse against somebody that did me good.
What’s your next line of action?
There is no new thing; I will continue to call him out anytime I disagree with any of his policies. Nothing will change. I will just continue doing what I’ve always been doing, that’s all, continue to go to court for my trial.
So, will I be right to say that you are not done with him?
It’s not about him; it’s about the government and the management of the resources of Cross River State. After his governorship, he will go back to Obudu where we comes from and then nothing happens to our brotherhood. It’s not even about him, it’s about what the government does. Anytime they do anything that is right, I write and commend him, anytime I disagree with him, I will also go and share my own opinion.
One of the things he used to say against you is that you are mixing your political activities with the practice of journalism?
That’s not wrong. There is no law that stops me from doing that. I’m a journalist and also a politician. Nothing stops me, he is a lawyer and also a politician, he is an environmentalist, he is also a politician, there is no law that stops anybody from doing politics. I have not done anything wrong by so doing.
Can you talk about the signature project of the governor, how impressed or not impressed are you about them?
The signature projects have not taken off; there is no much to talk about them, though he has not been able to move forward from where he told us, and that is part of the things that I have been critiquing, he has not been able to move forward.

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