Agba Jalingo: 'Governor Ayade is a coward'

Detained journalist says the Cross River Governor hasn't got balls.

(L-R) Ben Ayade and Agba Jalingo (Punch)

Jalingo was arrested on August 22, 2019 after he published an article on how Ayade allegedly approved and diverted N500 million meant for the Cross River State Microfinance Bank.

The journalist was picked up in Lagos and driven to Calabar, the Cross River State capital, where he was locked up for 174 days.

He was granted bail on February 13, 2020 by Justice Sule Shuaibu of the Federal High Court, Calabar.

Governor Ayade had denied being behind Jalingo’s incarceration, blaming the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government for the journalist’s arrest and detention.

However, in a TVC interview monitored by TheCable, Jalingo said Ayade vowed to lock him up after he confronted him on the N4.3 billion local government funds he allegedly used for his re-election campaign.

Jalingo told the news channel that he knew he was in trouble after Ayade bristled at his inquiry before his eventual arrest.

Jalingo was charged for alleged conspiracy, terrorism, treasonable felony and attempt to topple the government of Cross River.

“It is cowardice to arrest a man and then turn around and deny you did not arrest him. I thought that he was a very courageous man. He is a professor and should be able to own up to his actions,” Jalingo said.

“He promised he was going to arrest and lock me up long before August 22 when I was arrested, when I raised the issue of the N4.3 billion he withdrew from the local government funds to fund his campaign.

“When I asked him that question privately, he got upset with me and that was where my problem with him started.

“To be frank, the governor is my brother, and I supported his administration for four years. But after four years, I knew the governor did not have any direction. First and foremost, beginning with his budget titles…I knew he was not serious.”

Jalingo says he’s penning a memoir of his time behind bars.

“It (my experience) was mixed feelings; at one side of the coin, it was not fun, at the other side, it was a huge lesson,” he said.

“I think I went on a six-month course, and I came back with a lot of experience. And on the other side, I must say that the conditions in prison are very horrifying, they are less than humane, and at the right time, we will begin to serialise our experience.”

He also said he is not afraid of heading back to jail.

“My worst expectation was that I will be in jail for three years until Governor Ayade leaves office and I will be released. That was the worst I expected.

“I am actually not afraid of going back to jail. What I am afraid of is that at every point in time, Nigerians should be able to rise up to pay the price to defend this democracy," he added.

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