The campaign for Agba Jalingo’s release has been energised by the recent release of the Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and a former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, from detention.
Mr Jalingo, the publisher of the online CrossRiverWatch, is in prison in Calabar. He is charged with treason over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade.
He was arrested on August 22.
After a relentless campaign that appeared to have yielded no result, advocates of Mr Jalingo’s freedom are now turning to Mr Ayade’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), requesting it to put pressure on the governor over the continuous incarceration of the journalist.
Some Nigerians have questioned the integrity of the PDP as an opposition party in Nigeria, with the way some of its governors, like Mr Ayade, are said to be using the police and the State Security Service (SSS) to clamp down on critics.
A response from one Twitter user to the PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus’ Christmas Day message to Nigerians could very well symbolise the attitude towards the opposition party.
“I want to charge Nigerians to see the birth of Jesus Christ the saviour of mankind as energizer to resist evil and injustice in our land,” Mr Secondus said in a statement on December 25.
A Twitter user going by the name Adetutu Balogun (@Tutsy22) replied Mr Secondus’ tweet by referring him to the role of Governor Ayade in Mr Jalingo’s detention and trial.
“But you’re here preaching about standing for justice & resisting dictator. The party you chair is breeding dictators! Useless opposition party,” the Twitter user said.
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Several Nigerians who responded on Twitter to Mr Secondus told the PDP national chairman to secure freedom for Mr Jalingo before asking Nigerians to stand up against any act of injustice done by the All Progressives Congress-led federal government.
A Twitter user, itiroro (@Itiroro) said to Mr Secondus, “Free Agba Jalingo….! You can’t denounce dictators when you breed one right under ur nets.”
Another Twitter user, Taiwo (@sallaf_ng), said to Mr Secondus, “Sincerity is missing and your hands are dirty. What is Agba Jalingo doing in the prison?”
“There is a dictator in @OfficialPDPNig that needs to be resisted. A journalist has been in prison for a while now and the dictator is a PDP Governor. It’s time the PDP clean their house before coming to preach to the public,” said another Twitter user @J_mknite.
“Going by what is playing out with Agba Jalingo and the way @OfficialPDPNig has not intervened to ensure Ben Ayade drops all charges, Nigerians should not trust them with any position anymore, especially at the center,” a Twitter user, @Intergrity56, said.
“If they are against tyranny, they would have stopped Ayade,” he added.
The PDP attracted similar negative responses on Twitter when the party tweeted its goodwill message on the Yuletide to Nigerians.
“We don’t need your season’s greetings, go and tell your baby tyrant Ben Ayade to free Agba Jalingo. Your actions and your speeches are running perpendicular, and that’s the definition of hypocrisy. You are losing people’s trust faster than you could imagine,” a Twitter user, @ayemojubar, said to the party.
A nonprofit organization, Socio-economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), on Thursday, specifically called on Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president and the PDP 2019 presidential candidate, to intervene in Mr Jalingo’s case.
“Dear @atiku, as presidential candidate of PDP, we urge you to use your influence to prevail on the governor of Cross River state @senatorbenayade to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Agba Jalingo from arbitrary detention,” said SERAP which has been at the forefront of the #FreeAgbaJalingo campaign.
Enough Is Enough Nigeria, an advocacy group known for its good governance and human rights campaign in Nigeria, also made a statement during the holiday, accusing the PDP of keeping quiet over Mr Jalingo’s trial.
“@OfficialPDPNig has kept quiet ever since Agba’s persecution by its governor, @senatorbenayade – without making any statement condemning the illegality. Obviously, PDP & APC shares two sides of a coin merely bearing different names,” the group said on Twitter.
The former vice president Mr Abubakar, while responding to the request for his intervention, said on Friday that he was “working with all parties to get a resolution” in the journalist’s trial.
“As soon as the court is back from its recess, the matter will come to a much more desirable outcome,” Mr Abubakar said through his media office.
“The Agba Jalingo case is most embarrassing and extremely regrettable,” he added. “Please be assured that everything is being done. Intimidation and harassment of any Nigerian, let alone a journalist is unacceptable.”