Nigerian journalist Ismail Omipidan wrote Jan. 3 defending his journalism ethics and his report that a Nigerian governor has cancer.
According to Omipidan — who is a bureau chief for the Sun — “AbdulAzeez Ahmed Kadir, a Kaduna Government House correspondent of the Sunday New Nigerian Newspaper” called Omipidan’s story into question in a Dec. 19 column for New Nigerian Newspaper.
Omipidan’s Dec. 12 Sunday Sun story claimed that the governor, Patrick Yakowa, has prostate cancer. The article cited “an impeccable source in the state government” asserting that Yakowa has had cancer and “this thing is not new.” The source further stated that the alleged cancer “will not affect his governorship ambition.”
In Omipidan’s Jan. 3 article defending his original story, he claimed that the New Nigerian Newspaper article was “done deliberately to malign my person and to portray me as a mercenary writer.”
He explained he found the story claiming Yakowa had cancer when he “called a government official, for a friendly chat.” The official reportedly responded to Omipidan’s questioning about Yakowa’s trip abroad by saying the governor “is sick” with cancer.
Omipidan explained he started contacting others he “knew had worked with him in the past, including those currently working with him, to confirm the story, and they all confirmed the information to be correct.”
We asked by email how many sources he had and why they were granted anonymity in his report. He wrote that he had “five sources, most of whom are still serving in government, hence the need to hide their identities. Besides, information was obtained from them, without them knowing.”
StinkyJournalism asked Omipidan to explain what he meant by “information was obtained from them without them knowing.” He wrote that :
“Honestly, only one of them knew it was for publication. And the reason he knew was that he had to call me back after discussing with him to ask if I was doing a story in that regard and I told him yes. He now pleaded that I should please not quote him. He was the one who now gave other contacts to reach.”
Omipidan stated earlier in his defense that he also contacted the governor’s media aide who was told the governor would be back Dec. 7. By Dec. 10 he hadn’t heard back from the governor or the media aide, so he turned his story in — “because I was done with my investigations, convinced by the facts at my disposal.”
Omipidan called on Kadir to not treat him as “a scapegoat.” Omipidan wrote:.
“So, please, look elsewhere for a scapegoat, you cannot find one in me. Ask your friend, SA (media), about me. I am not the type of journalist who writes for a ‘pot of porridge’, neither am I one who asks or collects money before doing an interview and my editor is certainly not one, as being insinuated in your piece. I had to go to this length, just to show the general public that the story I authored was done without any malice and I stand by the facts in that story.”
This Day published a statement by the governor’s adviser, Reuben Buhari, calling the Sun story a rumor and unethical.
The statement read:
“It has come to the attention of His Excellency, Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, that certain people are deliberately and maliciously spreading unsubstantiated rumours about the state of his health.
“Even though such rumours are detestably possible in an election year where desperate politicians are concocting anything and conscripting anyone, just to score some cheap political points, the recent unguarded outburst from the Sunday Sun Newspaper of December 12, 2010 is a clear example of unethical journalism.”
StinkyJournalism couldn’t find Kadir’s article online. We e-mailed Kadir asking for him to direct us to the story. Kadir sent a copy of his report to StinkyJournalism.
Kadir’s article cited Buhari’s above statement calling Omipidan’s story rumor and detailing the governor’s schedule. Kadir further questioned if Omipidan “Was sponsored” and how the article was approved by editors.
Kadir also sent StinkyJournalism articles by two other journalists — Samuel Aruwan and Sadiq Martins — criticizing Omipidan’s article.
Aruwan’s story, “Yakowa: Omipidan, Buhari, Kadir and the Rest of Us,” called Omipidan “a man of integrity whose conscience cannot be compromised,” but labeled Omipidan’s story “not factual.”
“The basis of his story and investigation has been serially debunked with empirical evidences,” Aruwan argued, citing the governor’s media aide’s statement including the governor’s schedule while he was out of the country.
Sadiq Martins questioned why Omipidan didn’t cite any sources on the record to back up his story and wondered why there were no documents cited as support for the claims of prostate cancer.
StinkyJournalism wrote to Omipidan for more information. Omipidan responded, saying that “for now, nothing new has happened” with respect to the governor’s health.
Omipidan also wrote to StinkyJournalism via e-mail that he still stands by his story and that “if government believes my story was false, it should publish the governor’s medical status and put a lie to my story, once and for all.”
UPDATE: 1-11-2011, 3:00PM EST: Moved three paragraphs higher up in the story