By Timileyin Omilana
Former Nigerian minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has said that he regretted the verbal attack on a Daily Trust reporter Eyo Charles at a press briefing in Calabar.
But the former minister did not apologise to the reporter directly and only “hope that this will assuage the pain and anger of anyone that was hurt or offended by this ugly episode.”
“I met with my advisors I wish to say the following. I hereby withdraw the word “stupid” which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar,” Fani-Kayode said in a tweet on Wednesday.
“I have many friends in the media who I offended by losing my cool & using such words. I hereby express my regrets for doing so,” he added.
“I would never seek to physically harm a journalist. For the last 30 years, I have defended & worked with journalists & 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 honourable and noble within its ranks.”
The former minister came under severe criticisms after a video of him attacking the DailyTrust reporter in a press conference surfaced on social media on Tuesday.
His about-face on Wednesday came after he defended his action late on Tuesday. The press conference took place last Thursday.
Fani-Kayode began a tour of to states governed by People’s Democratic Party in July. He visited Cross River last week.
At the end of the tour in Calabar, he held a press conference where he showered encomiums on Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River.
Charles asked Fani-Kayode if his recent trips were being sponsored but Fani-Kayode in return rained insults on the reporter, describing him as “very stupid”.
“I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man,” he said.
“What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher? Please don’t insult me here. I don’t want to take any questions from this man.
“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to. Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.”
DailyTrust defended its reporter after the video leaked and described the verbal assault on Charles as reprehensible. The newspaper said Fani-Kayode’s outburst was symptomatic of his “disregard” for the Nigerian media.
“That Fani-Kayode attacks a reporter doing his job is an indication of the chilling disregard he has towards the media, and its work in investigating and reporting on issues,” Daily Trust said in a statement on Tuesday.