The Honourable Minister Of State, Labour And Employment,Festus Keyamo,is compelled to issue a Press Statement because of the shabby treatment the Punch Newspaper has meted out to a very senior member of his profession, a senior citizen and the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke, SAN who is 88 years old.
The background of the story:
QUEEN AMINA BLOG (www.ivyukula.com) gathered that,
“Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
PRESS STATEMENT BY FESTUS KEYAMO, SAN
PROTEST AGAINST THE EDITORIAL DICTATORSHIP OF THE PUNCH NEWSPAPERS
I am compelled to issue this Press Statement because of the shabby treatment the Punch Newspaper has meted out to a very senior member of our profession, a senior citizen and the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke, SAN who is 88 years old. Here is a background to the story:
1. On the 25th of March, 2020, I made these seemingly harmless tweets:
“God has allowed COVID-19 to afflict the human race only to redirect our steps back to Him. We have so distorted God’s Word to suit our own human weaknesses and satisfy our greed, even in supposed Holy Places. We should collectively ask for forgiveness & it will all end in praise
Aside the spiritual angle to this scourge, we must all work and pray; God can only help those who help themselves. Those our recalcitrant Pastors must realise this. All the directives of @NCDCgov must be followed to the letter by all and sundry before it can quickly end in praise.”
As usual, the tweets generated varied reactions.
2. On the 2nd of April, 2020, one Abimbola Adelakun wrote an article on the back page of the Punch entitled, No God Is Punishing US With COVID-19. See it here:
3. In the said article, the said lady made disparaging insinuations about my person and my rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. My only offence was expressing my personal Christian belief in my tweet and also emphasizing the physical aspect of the fight against COVID-19 (a fact she conveniently left out in her analysis). In the process, she also, by innuendo, disparaged the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
4. As a policy, I don’t engage in petty quarrels with anyone, both in the regular Press or in the Social Media. Even as a private lawyer, I had enough layers in my skin to take everything anyone threw at me without responding, even including insults, except when an allegation of a SPECIFIC nature (with PROOF) is made. As a public officer, I have even fortified that disposition the more. So, when my attention was drawn to the article, I simply ignored it.
5. However, a few days later, I received a call from Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke, SAN, who apparently felt slighted on my behalf and on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, about the indiscretion of the said Abimbola Adelakun, in referring to the rank of SAN in such disparaging manner. She shared with me a rejoinder she had written to the said lady correcting her article and insisting that her rejoinder be published VERBATIM. She also shared with me the private apology the said Ms. Adelakun sent to her by mail, but kept mute about publishing Mrs. Solanke’s rejoinder.
6. I was effusive in my appreciation to ‘mummy’ (as I often call Mrs. Solanke, SAN) and sent an email to her thanking her. I thought little of the incident again and mentally switched off from the matter.
7. However, earlier today, I opened my mail only to see another email from Mrs. Folake Solanke, SAN, addressed to the editor of Punch Newspapers, complaining about the suppression of her response to the article by Ms. Adelakun. For ease of reading, let me reproduce the letter which I have also attached at the end of this statement:
“28 April 2020
Editor (on Thursday)
The Punch Newspaper
A Rebuttal of the Verbal Disparagement of the TITLE Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)
I hereby extend high commendation to the Punch newspaper for affording the readers an avenue to complain about any publication by which they are aggrieved.
In that context, I refer to my complaint namely: “A REBUTTAL” captured in the heading above which is dated the 8th day of April, 2020. A copy was sent to the published email address in the newspaper. A signed copy was delivered last week to the Punch Oyo State Correspondent — Wale Oyewale — for delivery to you. Another signed copy was addressed to Abimbola Adelakun. The Correspondent was also given a signed copy.
It is my humble considered opinion that, as a matter of equity and transparency, those who read the offending “disparagement” should also be given the opportunity to read the “REBUTTAL”.
In view of the foregoing, I rely on your fairness and cooperation to act expeditiously and advise me when to expect the publication.
I pause with my goodwill. May God liberate the world from the coronavirus pestilence and detention. “Deo Volente”.
Chief Folake Solanke SAN, OON, CON
B.A., Dip.Ed., FNIALS, LL.D (h.c.), LLD (h.c.)
HLF, D.Litt (h.c.), D.Lit (h.c.), D.Litt (h.c.), LLD (h.c.)”
8. My word! An 88-year old octogenarian making all these efforts and STRUGGLING to get a simple rebuttal published??!! What manner of editorial dictatorship is this??!! It is shocking to see a newspapers that supposedly takes the posture of ‘fighting dictatorship’, practicing a worst form of it (suppressing alternative views) even in a relatively small enclave! It is sad to see the Punch that I defended in court so vigorously in the early and mid-nineties when I plied my trade with Gani Fawehinmi Chambers, descend into this morass of moral and political debauchery.
9. I will share below the simple rejoinder of Mrs. Folake Solanke, SAN and the apology sent to her by Ms. Abimbola Adelakun. And, of course, the soft copy of the complaint of Mrs. Solanke, SAN, already reproduced above.
10. I will expect Punch to do the needful immediately. As much as public officers are exposed to harsh criticisms, critical and fair comments, there are however limits. Malice is proven when you refuse to publish a rebuttal to such a story or comment. Or when you fail to accord the rejoinder equal prominence as the original comment. In that situation, the legal option would be the only way.
11. The ball is the court of the Punch.
FESTUS KEYAMO, SAN, FCIARB (UK)
Hon. Minister of State, Labour and Employment.”