Palpable apprehension and concern has grown in Gombe over attempts by the state governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, to stifle the press and freedom of expression.
No less than three journalists have been arrested, harassed or intimidated on false charges of “slander” and “defamation”, after publishing factual “investigative” articles.
Yahaya, we learned, is also on the trail of some journalists who went into hiding to avoid his “persecution”, gathered PRNigeria.
For example, PRNigeria learned that Daylight Reporter editor Dahiru Hassan Kera was declared “persona non grata” in Gombe and has since fled the state.
Kera, who hasn’t set foot in the ‘jewel of the savannah’ for several months now, also went into hiding, after receiving Governor Yahaya’s ‘open’ threat to ‘deal’ with him, a source said. family member at PRNigeria in a chat.
The publisher’s “persecution” began after his online newspaper published a syndicated report on Gombe’s huge debt profile under Inuwa Yahaya’s administration.
Other media platforms such as The Peoples Gazette, Premium Times and Sahara Reporters also published statements from various groups, condemning the “bloated” debt profile.
In a phone conversation with PRNigeria, Kera described the governor’s resolve to hunt him down as “political persecution since he didn’t bother to go after any of the other papers.”
“Besides the innocuous publication of the debt profile story published by my newspaper, Governor Yahaya is not comfortable with my decision to compete for a seat in the Gombe State Assembly, during elections next year,” he said.
According to Kera, while two former governors and five prominent politicians both in Gombe and in other parts of the country tried to appease Governor Yahaya, he ignored their interventions by sticking to his gun.
“It was because of the Governor that I was unable to visit my older brother in a hospital in Gombe while he was bedridden battling a terminal illness, before his death on April 21. 2022.
“And not only that, but I still couldn’t attend his funeral the day after his burial because I didn’t know the trap that Governor Yahaya might have set for me if I dared to visit the state,” he said. -he adds.
Besides the publisher, another state reporter who “got more than he bargained for” at the hands of Governor Yahaya, is a Voice of America, VOA reporter working in Gombe.
In a short but recorded audio-recorded phone call between the governor and the VOA reporter, which PRNigeria obtained, a visibly angry Yahaya threatened to “deal” with VOA staff, over a story the reporter told. made, which the governor did not find “acceptable”. ‘.
Elaborating on the incident, Abdulwahab Muhammad, the journalist in question, however, said the governor did not follow through on his threat.
He told PRNigeria: “During Governor Yahaya’s first 100 days in office, I interviewed him and explained to him what prompted his decision to fire over 4,000 young people, his immediate predecessor in power, Alh . Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, recruited into the Gombe state private security network.
“But the Governor, while responding, said that those recruited got the job to help advance former Governor Dankwambo’s political agenda ahead of the 2019 elections. According to him, those recruited could have joined the police or the military if they were interested in uniformed work.
“So in balancing the story, I also interviewed the Gombe State PDP PRO, who not only criticized the governor’s action but went further by describing his first 100 days as ‘black days’ for the governor. ‘State. Shortly after my report was released, the governor, perhaps having found it, called and started saying all sorts of things’.
Speaking to a PRNigeria correspondent in a phone conversation, Sani Labaran, a social media influencer, recalled the ‘horrendous’ brutality he also suffered at the hands of two thugs and Governor Yahaya’s official driver , last September.
According to the social media influencer, the persecution inflicted on him by thugs allegedly “working” for the Gombe state government may not be unrelated to the fact that he posted a series of messages on social networks, criticizing certain “anti-mass” policies. of the Governor.
Labaran said: “Around September last year, I was at a mechanic’s stall fixing my car, when three people riding in a jeep bearing a Gombe Government House license plate number, invaded the mechanical workshop.
“They immediately swooped down on me, kicking, slapping and brutalizing me with sticks and other hard objects they were wielding. They crushed me and inflicted deep cuts on my head in the process.
“I would later be detained by order of the state government for 11 days, before finally being released. The cruelty and horrific torture I suffered at the police station where I was detained left me made it difficult to walk and urinate easily after I was released. Even had to be performed on me.”
Several attempts by PRNigeria to contact a senior government official in Gombe State were unsuccessful.
Ismaila Uba Misilli, director general of press affairs in the Gombe state government, did not respond to multiple calls from the PRNigeria correspondent on his phone line.
He also did not respond to a WhatsApp message forwarded to him, as of press time.