Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation, said he has regretted his verbal attack against a Daily Trust reporter, Eyo Charles, in Cross River State.
Mr Fani-Kayode, in a Twitter post on Wednesday morning, said, “I met with my advisors and I wish to say the following. I hereby withdraw the word ‘stupid’ which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar.
“I have many friends in the media who I offended by losing my cool and using such words. I hereby express my regrets for doing so.”
Mr Fani-Kayode, however, insisted he did not threaten to harm the reporter nor send anyone to threaten him. “Anyone that says otherwise is lying and I challenge them to bring the proof,” he said.
“I would never seek to physically harm a journalist. For the last 30 years I have defended and worked with journalists and fought for the right of freedom of expression. I am also very close to many in that profession. I would be the last to seek to disparage those that are honorable and noble within its ranks.
“I hope that this will assuage the pain and anger of anyone that was hurt or offended by this ugly episode. I have now put this matter behind me and moved on. Now my tour of the South continues. Moving to another state today!”
Mr Fani-Kayode is captured in a video which has gone viral pouring invective on the Daily Trust reporter, Mr Charles, for asking him a question at a press briefing on Thursday.
Mr Fani-Kayode, who was visibly angry, told the reporter he was “foolish” for asking him who “bankrolled” his tour of projects in Cross River and other states in the South-south.
The briefing, moderated by Governor Ben Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, was meant for the former minister to talk to the reporters about his tour.
It was attended by reporters from Vanguard, Punch, NAN, AIT, and other media houses.
“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that,” Mr Fani-Kayode kept yelling at the reporter who was still standing and apologising — “I am sorry, sir.”
“Don’t judge me by your own standards,” the former minister kept saying.
“I have been in politics since 1990. I am not one of those politicians that you think will just come…. I was taken, I have been locked up how many times by this government. I have been prosecuted, unlike most of these politicians you follow for brown envelopes!
“Don’t ever judge me by that standard. I spend, I don’t take and I am not a poor man, I have never been and will never be.”
Several people and groups, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists, have condemned Mr Fani-Kayode’s attack on the reporter.
The NUJ President, Chris Isiguzo, said in a statement, Tuesday, that Mr Fani-Kayode’s attack against Mr Charles was “gangster-like”.
Mr Isiguzo said the reporter was only asking “a simple question”.
“For him to have embarked on assessment of projects in some states, even though we are yet to be told under what platform, he is doing so, it is proper for the media to hold him to account for his actions and decisions,” Mr Isiguzo said.
Mr Isiguzo said the former minister’s reaction to the reporter’s question was against “simple decorum and civility” and, therefore, “unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible”.
He demanded a retraction from him.
“By delving into politics and holding political office, Fani Kayode is very conversant with the watchdog role of the media.
“We are more shocked that the same Kayode who had in recent times, used his social media handles to call leaders to account is at the same time attacking a journalist for a simple demand for him to unmask those behind his nationwide tour.
“He had already visited six states. This is indeed, terribly disappointing,” the NUJ president said.
“By denigrating the journalist, Fani Kayode has exposed himself the more as an intolerant and unstable person who will not want his activities closely scrutinised by the media.”
Daily Trust newspaper issued a statement on Tuesday, condemning the former minister’s action.