Atunya, BusinessDay Editor’s ‘Parting Shot’, Publisher Keeps Mum Despite Damaging Accusations
A series of frontal allegations and damaging comments published by the departing editor of BusinessDay, Patrick Atuanya who resigned his appointment with the media company effective November 30, 2020, may create a web of complex crisis for the leading Nigeria’s business and financial publication.
The departing editor alleges corporate malpractice and inept management against his employers. According to Atuanya in his “Parting shot” to his editorial team members at BusinessDay shared on the staff WhatsApp group platform, “the spirit of #EndSARS which is a fight against injustice, corruption and an older generation who relishes putting their feet on the neck of the young, must compel me to let our young reporters know a few truths”.
Atuanya who has put in a total of nine years with the company, rose through the ranks, got to the peak of his career in January 2019 when he was appointed editor of the publication.
Although Atuanya could not be immediately reached, the staff of the company we spoke with Media Careerng.org confirmed reading about the editor’s resignation which they said caught them unawares.
“It was shocking and sad to read about his resignation and the allegations he made. He was indeed a very hard-working editor who is always looking out for reporters. He will be greatly missed,” a staff who prefers to be anonymous told Media Career.
In a bid to balance the story, consistent efforts by BrandCrunch to speak with the Publisher, Mr. Frank Aigbogun as regards Atuanya’s damaging allegations, proved abortive.
For instance the first text message sent to his MTN line on Wednesday night read, “Good evening sir. My name is Lekan Babatunde , I cover Media & Marketing. Just want to get a bit of your take on your Editor, Atuanya’s resignation and the series of allegations he levelled against the management. Please, excuse my barging in on you this evening. Professionalism demands I don’t publish a one sided story. Thank you for your understanding”.
Similarly, a call was placed to the same line on Thursday afternoon. This was also followed up with another text message which is also reproduced below.
“Good afternoon, Publisher. Just called your line but it rang out. Just to follow up on the text message I sent to you yesterday as regards Atuanya’s accusations which are antithetical to the Frank Aigbogun we know. If would like me to call you again let me know. Or you could respond through text message”.
As of the time of filing this report, the Publisher was yet to respond to our messages and phone call.
According to findings, while the BusinessDay management is yet to officially respond to Atunya’s weighty and frontal allegations, the deputy editor, Lolade Akinmurele has selected as the Acting Editor for the time being.
Atuanya’s resignation message is reproduced below as shared on the Business Day staff whatsApp platform.
I have today resigned as the Editor of BusinessDay.
I began crafting this letter to my Editorial staff months ago however because I believe in the end that the spirit of #EndSARS which is a fight against injustice, corruption and an older generation who relishes putting their feet on the neck of the young, must compel me to let our young reporters know a few truths.
I have been here 9 years (since January 2012), in that time I have helped to build up BusinessDay into the brand that it is today.
Whether as, Head of the Analyst Desk, Chief Economist, Companies and Markets Editor, News Editor and finally Editor.
If EndSARS had a picture you (the Publisher) would be the poster child to all that is wrong with Nigeria and how the older generation has arrogated themselves to power.
You recently had the audacity to tell your workers you don’t bring hope to them.
How could you though? As you can only give what you have. Fake piety, Love of money, greed, inability to manage your little business.
You owe the taxman and you owe your workers their rightful PENCOM PENSIONS, stealing from their future and breaking the law shamelessly.
When last did you remit workers’ Pensions … Howafter deducting it from their salaries?
Do you know that is a Federal crime?
How much is taken from the company on a weekly basis in the form of dividends?
Are the Board of Directors aware of this? Yours is the only company that I have ever seen that pays a weekly dividend to its CEO, again it is the symptom of a bankrupt moral code that exists deep in you.
70 – 80 per cent of your workers and managers would leave today if they could.
Many are actively looking for another job as we speak and you can’t recognize the crises you face but instead choose to continually chase shadows.
You and the MD a failed economic adviser to GEJ, that ran a failed economic consulting firm) are running a failing ship but are too blind to see.
The leaders of Rome too were feeding fat just until it was sacked by Vandals and Germanic tribes.
The Roman emperors lived fat while the citizens had little. You are now an emperor without clothes, not realizing the rot and the sandcastle you have built will collapse any minute.
I wish you both Good luck because you are going to need it.
You both have destroyed whatever sense of camaraderie left in the company.
Your MD goes from department to department sowing confusion like one who is sad when things are peaceful and smooth.
Frank (Publisher) you harass your female employees on a daily basis to the point that you make them cry, in the process ensuring a toxic work environment.
You come on our editorial platform and bully your workers.
That is a very cowardly act and I have called you out on this face to face in July 2020, in the presence of Deola and the so-called MD.
I told you to point-blank that this must stop and offered to resign back then (July 2020). I have our WhatsApp conversations saved and stored so you cannot deny this.
In Editorial you appointed a clearly unqualified person as Deputy Editor and in the process sowed great discontent among the Newsroom staff all across the country.
You made the decision without consulting me.
That is how low you have sunk as you seek imaginary friends and allies to fight imaginary battles with your Editor.
Tayo called me on September 27, 2020 to tell me you (Frank) have been speaking with him regarding him becoming Editor from January.
I laughed and reminded him that I will be leaving in December or January like I had earlier informed him (in confidence), plus he has been here for long (on and off before me) and will do well to make his own decision on the matter as I am not in a position to advise him on it.
But a curious thing is that Tayo just resigned earlier this year. That is how confused you guys have become in your battle to get rid of me.
It’s so funny Frank.
Perhaps the best way to get to the top in BusinessDay is to RESIGN like your Deputy Editor and Editor (Tayo) have now done and then get rewarded with a higher position.
Maybe I will come back as MD in 2 years with my own resignation (Not in your life though).
You seek that which you can control, which is what has brought you to this sorry pass. 4 Editors (Phillip, Osae-Brown, Patrick, Tayo) in 5 years, and the turnover will continue as I cannot see Tayo lasting more than 2 years with you before as usual you turn on him.
For my editorial staff I am leaving behind I urge you if you are young (20 – 40) to seek your future elsewhere as this is one of the worst companies you can ever work for.
I reached the Zenith of my media career at the age of 39 as Editor so there is frankly nothing else for me here.
For those of you left behind though know that there is no plan, the company is so badly run that it has zero reserves.
After 20 years, salaries are still being paid only when Advert can bring money in.
The Publisher (and not the figurehead MD) is the one in control and usually takes away all money that flows into the company.
It is a sad state of affairs. That is why you don’t have a Staff bus for workers, why your Pensions are not remitted and why many have not been promoted for 20 years.
There are many factors of production, land, capital, labor, plant and equipment, etc, however in an intellectual property sector like the media labour is the most important factor.
However, in BusinessDay the morale of the labour (especially in Editorial) has been reduced to zero by mindless politics.
The person that was made Deputy Editor is highly reviled by 99 percent of the editorial staff.
That is the reality and they are unhappy because the said person is highly unqualified for that role.
It is a big joke and you the Publisher are the one to take sole responsibility for this decision done without consulting me.
The yes man MD may or may not have conveyed my opposition to the appointment to the Publisher, but I told him bluntly in the presence of Deola (HR) that it was a wrong move.
After 10 years in BD I know my people, I know who is good and bad, who has leadership skills and who is a disruptive element.
Furthermore, my experience in living and working on two continents (North America and Africa) has given me the insight on markets, people and so on.
You coming have a major crisis on your hands, it is really unfortunate.
But here is some friendly advice.
BusinessDay needs to begin to remit the pensions you deduct from the salaries of your workers.
It is a crime in Nigeria not to do so, but more importantly it is morally reprehensible.
These young people that work for you largely own no homes, no cars, no stock, nothing.
The only thing they can accumulate right now is their Pensions which hopefully in 10 years would have compounded handsomely.
But not remitting is stealing from their future while they slave away for you today.
Improve your worker’s welfare, set up a housing scheme for which they can benefit, have staff busses, stop favoritism and nepotism.
Finally, I will tell you that if you die today BusinessDay will come to an end. It will be sad but that is how you have chosen to run the organization.
Nobody has any allegiance to BusinessDay.
Go back to promises you made to your pioneer staff.
How many have you fulfilled. Where are they today? Do you think any young staff in BusinessDay dreams of a future there?
They all can’t wait to jump ship. It is a sad state of affairs.
Why is it so hard to make payroll monthly for a 20-year plus old company?
Why are there no remittances of Pension obligations to employee accounts even after deductions from payroll checks?
How can such a dishonest company ever hope to attract and retain top talent?
How many of my journalists have won awards after awards local and international on all subject matters, yet they are never respected but the bloggers at Nairametrics or upstarts at Stearns are constantly being held up as a false standard.
Let it be known that no other editor in Nigeria will take the constant harassment bothering on disrespect I receive from you The Publisher.
As Editor I am expected to run around chasing digital subscribers, what happened to the Customer Acquisition Specialist hired and paid big sums of money monthly?
The Publisher will disrespect me the Editor in the midst of my Juniors and subordinate’s and thinks he is scoring points not knowing he is damaging the company as most people don’t expect that kind of behavior from a so called Publisher.
The dysfunction engineered by the Publisher, MD and lack of company structure, culture and systems at BusinessDay has ensured that there is an inability to hold down talent young or old, to the extent that the company is now a revolving door for hiring jobless people, people looking to make a quick buck and leave, people that have resigned in the past and looking to come make some more quick money (Tayo, MD etc) and leave and so on.
Nobody will say with a straight face they are trying to build a career in BusinessDay.
That is the tragedy of a Nigerian run one-man business.
I hear that when BD South Africa ran the place it was much better structured and run.
I don’t know cause I wasn’t there but I guess that is food for thought for those like the MD whose goal is to play politics with everything with one eye on only how to please the ‘Oga.’
Institutions are not built in Nigeria, because nobody has the courage to tell the truth to power.
Everyone cowers and looks at their own personal bottomlines.
I am proud in writing this letter that I have told the company some hard truths in addition to the message I personally told the Publisher over the past 7 months’ even if I doubt that anything will change.
The problem with businessDay is that it seeks to be a Financial Times, but is no better run and managed than a Motor Park Garage.
Since 2018 I have lost over 15 Reporters and Analysts (all of whom I personally trained) to the dysfunction.
I will name those I can remember.
- Emeka ucheaga 2. Segun Adams 3. Fikayo Owoeye 4. Segun Olanikoyekon 5. Israel Odubola 6. Sobe Eze 7. Cynthia 8. Oghogho 9. David Ibidapo 10. Phd Economist guy 11. Olalekan Ipele 12. Watemi Ethel
Going a bit futher (2016) analysts I trained that left include 13. Yinka Abraham, 14. Dozie Ifebi 15. Daniel Ojabo.
The reporters and analysts were all personally trained and mentored by me as a News Editor and were supposed to be the future of BusinessDay.
Why did they leave? Because they saw an organization without structure or culture of professionalism.
Late salaries. Lack of Pension deductions being remitted and so on.
There has to be soul searching on why the brand can attract talent but cannot retain them.
It is largely because we sell a good façade outside but once they come inside they notice it is quite a dysfunctional place to work.
If you add the research (BRIU) of which I had begun to get to work closely with editorial (for instance I was the head of the team of Editorial and BRIU analysts that authored the first and only MTN pre-IPO research by any media house or investment firm), then the turnover of young people is even more alarming as everyone (Balkisu, Uju, etc) that worked with me and Innocent (then head of BRIU) on the MTN project have all resigned from BRIU.
The Publisher of such an organization should go beyond shouting at reporters and know that this is a failure from his part and of his doing.
The publisher and MD to a smaller extent have enshrined a culture of politics, managers being sidelined in key decisions being made, poor or zero communication, no structure or professional culture, greed, no employee welfare, favoritism, complete collapse of morale across the organization, mismanagement of resources etc.
Take my case for instance. 2020 will make it 9 years I have worked in BusinessDay rising to the top.
I have poured my soul into this work since joining first as an analyst in 2012, then Chief economist, Companies Editor, News Editor and finally Editor.
The position of Editor is the height of one’s career in a media organization.
It is equivalent to being an MD/ED in a bank or GM.
However, despite this I have less than N1.5 million remitted as Pension contributions.
My calculations (which my lawyers and accountants will be sending in) shows a minimum of N25 million due which has been deducted and not remitted including the mandatory 12% for employers and unrealized capital gains (18% per annum).
It is imperative for the organization which I have given 10 years of my time to immediately settle all entitlements due me to avoid any embarrassing situation for its carefully built up facade.
For instance, it is in fact the law in Nigeria that no firm that violates the PENCOM act shall benefit from any contract with the Federal Government.
Yet BusinessDay has benefitted to the tune of over N80 million from numerous contracts from the CBN.
It has also benefited from contracts from various Ministries Departments and Agencies of the FG.
With many proposals lying in Abuja as we speak. It is immoral that these Government funds are funding the profligate lifestyle of insiders at the helm of the company while the Pensions of workers are not paid.
There are other troubling issues of tax evasion, auditing of the books and so on, however like I said earlier it will be unfortunate if these issues get into the public domain or social media.
Once again to all my reporters I leave behind. You have the assurances of my highest regard.