Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, yesterday said contrary to reports, he has no hand in the travails of Agba Jalingo.
According to him, he is instead working with lawyers of the detained journalist to secure his release.
The governor has been accused several times of instigating the arrest, detention and trial of Jalingo, the publisher of Cross River Watch, an online news publication, for treason.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Ayade said Jalingo is his brother from the same Obudu town in Cross River, and has helped him severally to fund the start-up of the online publication.
Asked why Jalingo was still behind bars when Omoyele Sowore and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, have been freed by the Federal Government, Ayade said: “The case is between Jalingo and the Federal Government. On his Facebook page, he posted an ambitious programme as ‘… Please don’t get it wrong, Agba Jalingo is not just from Cross River State, he’s not just from Obudu, where I also come from, he’s my brother’.
“On his Facebook page, he sent pictures where he was being teargassed at the revolution march in Lagos. His own pictures, posted by himself and when Sowore was being arrested, he went back to his Facebook to post that the revolution has just started, ‘we will continue this battle until revolution works’. He admitted this in court.
“In court, it is the Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State. The same Agba Jalingo who is in jail, I send him money. I called my chief press secretary and others and said journalists will not understand that Agba Jalingo is the state chairman of Sowore’s party, from the time he moved into politics, he became a politician.
“You are seeing him as a journalist, but he’s not, he’s the chairman of Sowore’s party in Cross River State so he’s a politician. He has a primary calling, which is journalism.
“That Cross River Watch, the first person to give him money to set up the office was myself. His official vehicle, it was me. I don’t have to list all of these, he knows that I have funded and supported him, but journalism stops where blackmail becomes part of your strategy.
“Today, you need something, then Ayade is a good man and you start writing all the good things, but if I take my phone and show you our WhatsApp communication, you will call me a godly man. Today, I need money to set up a computer school, tomorrow, I need money to feed my birds, the other day, I need to be INNOSON’s sole distributor in Cross River State, I do all that.
“But when I don’t get a thing right you go to the social media and write something as careless as Governor Ayade has taken N500 million to Russia. You impugned my father’s name, my character, my family name, for just a personal request that I’ve not met, out of many that I have met. Please for once, put yourselves in my shoes. All I simply did was to stay out of the issue.
“He’s in court for treason, a state does not have power to try anyone for treason, it’s not me. Agba Jalingo is not a journalist, he is the chairman of a political party and so once he started the campaign to overthrow the government of President Buhari, he ceased to be seen from the point of journalist because he has become the state chairman of a party.
“I have an intellectual background as a professor, I will stand with journalists at all times and I will never prosecute somebody, but if you ask Agba Jalingo today, I’m the one working with his lawyers for his freedom, I’m the one sustaining him and sending upkeeps, the same man who once called me a golden brother, that I’ve stood with him through tough times.
“When he started publishing damaging articles against the state, I called him as a brother, I said look, the former governor told me you so much blackmailed him, that his wife was detained because she was involved in child trafficking. He had to resort to settling him monthly. When journalism gets to that level, it becomes very dangerous and I don’t want you people to support a course that is not fair.
“I am of the opinion that Agba should be released because I think he was just youthfully excited, but let him not use the power of the pen, let him not use journalism to blackmail, chastise, lampoon, destroy another person just for personal economic benefit.”
Ayade, also underscored the essence to national security of the country if the Bakassi seaports in the state, as well as the super highway, a road he plans to seamlessly connect the state to other parts of the country, become a reality.
The governor said this was the crux of his closed-door discussion with President Buhari, when he went to present “a clear idea of how far we have gone with our signature projects.”
Ayade said the president had been supportive of the state’s efforts to diversify from dependence on oil revenue, especially on the ‘Nigeria Beyond Oil’ project.