Janet Cooke, former Washington Post American journalist, won the highly coveted Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The prize was established in 1917 by Joseph Pulitzer, who made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, for achievements in newspaper, magazine, online journalism, literature and musical composition within the United States. Cooke was subsequently forced to return the prize and kiss journalism good-bye forever, because the prize-winning story was a fabrication. Cooke became a persona non grata in the media industry, which, at 26, was all hers to bestride. She paid the supreme price for the bogus story about “Jimmy”, the heroin addict. It’s was a case of the punishment fitting the crime. Cooke’s last place of work was as a store attendant, earning a paltry $6 an hour.
Fast forward to Nigeria, where Luka Binniyat, a metaphor of all that’s clearly wrong with the practice of journalism in Nigeria, committed despicable crimes that in more ways than one is worse than that of Cooke. But he, unashamedly, continues to parade himself as a journalist, because of the appalling lack of standards of the media industry. While Cooke only hurt the truth, Binniyat hurt the truth and engendered peaceful coexistence. The effect of that cooked-up report is still being felt many years after.
In 2017, Binniyat had fantastically created five fictional students of the College of Education, Kafanchan, Kaduna state. He went on to allege that Fulani herdsmen had them murdered while in transit. He awarded one of the fictional students mass communication, as course of study, and assigned them hometowns for maximum impact. The inherent mischief by ascribing tribes to them wasn’t lost to the so called affected communities that lost their sons, just like he wanted.
Binniyat’s purpose wasn’t to win any award, like Cooke, but to precipitate a religious crisis in Southern Kaduna, where every slight disagreement, unfortunately, leads to killings and reprisal killings.
For his success in passing off fiction as news in a national newspaper, Binniyat was christened the “Nelson Mandela of Southern Kaduna”, by people who reject civilisation in favour of bigotry. They slurred the name of Mandela to bestow it on a narrow-minded fellow who has no sense of inclusion or respect for the rights of others and has every contempt for the ethics of journalism.
In the 2015 general elections, Binniyat, the “journalist”, openly backed Ramallan Yero, against Nasir El-Rufai, who went on to crush Yero. Binniyat has found that defeat difficult to swallow. He has been consistent in his efforts to demonise El-Rufai.
For those that might have forgotten, Luka Binniyat’s 24th January 2017 report for the Vanguard newspaper, a part of it is being reproduced here.
It reads: “Five students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, Jema’a Local Government Area, Kaduna State, were, Sunday evening, reportedly shot dead close to Gidan Waya, when a commercial car taking them to school from Kafanchan was waylaid by herdsmen, sources told Vanguard yesterday.”
Luka continued his falsehoods, in spite of several red flags that his mother of all fabrications won’t fly, because he was hell-bent on causing disaffection.
The dangerous mischief continued: “Vanguard gathered that the herdsmen ambushed the taxi carrying six passengers near Gidan Waya, in the troubled southern part of Kaduna State and shot five of the commuters, but spared the life of the driver, Sunday evening”. This is the monster report,that the NUJ leadership found no fault with.
There will always be challenges for ournalists covering their community or religion, hence the long standing journalistic maxim that encourages journalists to endeavour to remain “disengaged”. But not when that journalist is Binniyat, who seems to lack professionalism and notoriously reckless with facts. Reason he has no qualms being an official spokesperson of the highly political Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), a card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and still parading as a journalist, totally disrespecting that delicate thin line of control over personal biases.
Binniyat is evidence that advocating on behalf of your community as a journalist has pitfalls.
He is notoriously opposed to the incumbent Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai. It’s that hatred that drives his journalism and the reason the industry should have long shut him out going by his antecedents. But he has been given not one lifeline, but many, which he has continued to squander, knowing he can always play the persecution card. Reasons this so-called journalist lacks accountability, has no remorse, no sense of responsibility and scant regard for professional ethics.
While the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) will not hesitate to shout to the high heavens about El-Rufai “persecuting” Luka, one of its members, it has severally shown the lack of capacity to discipline quacks like him.
So the next sensational and fabricated report by Binniyat is always going to be when, not if. Like they say, a leopard does not change its spot.
On October 29, 2021, Binniyat was back to his old ways. In an article published in an online publication, Binniyat he accused Samuel Aruwan, the Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, of being used by the Kaduna state government to cover genocide reportedly taking place in the area. An unsubstantiated allegation that’s equally not supported by the various Security Situation Reports issued by the state government.
Typical of Binniyat, he attributed the story to Senator Danjuma Laah, Southern Kaduna Senatorial District, like the story of 2017, which he attributed to Adamu Maikori. Maikori, the supposed source of the story, on discovering the falsehood, tendered an unreserved apology, while Binniyat continued to hold on to the authenticity of his falsehood.
Mindful of the implications of the story, Aruwan rightly reported the defamation of his character, injurious falsehoods and incitement to public disturbance to the police. He hasn’t resorted to self help.
The onus is on Binniyat to prove the attributions of the story to Senator Laah. That’s the crux of the matter. He didn’t report the story as the public relations officer of SOKAPU, but as as journalist. Facts are facts, it’s important that Binniyat proves his allegation of genocide, which is a weighty crime.
Latest reports have it that Senator Laah has firmly denied uttering the defamatory words Binniyat attributed to him. While still on trial for the injurious falsehood and fabrication of 2017, Binniyat has in 2021 again allegedly concocted a fabrication which may violate the terms of his bail for the 2017 case.
One must commend Aruwan for seeking justice through the established channels of the rule of law.
In the communal clashes that have blighted parts of southern Kaduna, including his own Zangon-Kataf LGA, Binniyat and his ilk show no appreciation for a common humanity.
They are notoriously quiet whenever the “settler” communities are the victims but scream genocide when the pain is on their side. In many communal clashes, people on both sides often become simultaneously victims and perpetrators. Civilised persons work to ensure that no side suffers or bleeds, but will work tirelessly to protect everyone. The fabrications of Luka Binniyat are intended to frustrate civilised endeavour and pave way for the triumph of tragedy.Dan Azumi writes from Kaduna.