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Like Gambari, like Femi Adesina

Like Gambari, like Femi Adesina
May 22
15:30 2020
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As Editor-in- Chief and big-name Columnist for the Daily Sun Newspaper, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman for president Muhammadu Buhari was a Man of the People. He was a journalist’s journalist, and no Friday passes by without some of us reading from his popular “kulikuli” column in those days when the Newspaper was arguably at its best, complete with some of the finest names in print journalism. As a measure of his reach in the industry, Femi would soon become the president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Such was the Femi that spoke truth by deploying a fine prose and occasionally bringing a blend of scripture, music and literature to educate and entertain us in his numerous offerings.

But a single career choice has the capacity to rubbish the years of hard work and the good name that often come with it. This is without doubt, the Adesina-Tragedy. A contrast of Adesina’s showing in the public space against his arguably finest years in the newsroom and later editorial desks, proves as much. Ever since he took on the thankless job of managing a president who is easily a metaphor for incompetence and indolence combined, we have witnessed with great discomfiture and discombobulation, the unravelling of a man, whose “kulikuli” have now given way to chocolate bars and candies as a privilege of playing court to the throne.

Let us be clear. No one expected Femi to be garlanded by the masses by accepting such a role in the first place. All over the world, the role of a Presidential megaphone is as thankless as can be imagined. It is also a very controversial office, and even more so with a controversial and unpopular president. For example, in less than four years at the oval office, United States President, Donald Trump, has had to settle for at least 3 spokespersons. And there are no guarantees the present occupant of the role would oversee the remainder of his first term in office. Back to Nigeria.

Not a few persons expected Adesina to be dignified and to be a great ambassador of the Nigerian Guild of Editors in the discharge of his duties, as we had seen with the last two media greats who served two former presidents in that capacity. Those expectations have been anything but met.

Not only has Femi Adesina failed to be the dignified and thoroughbred journalist of the first rank we read on days like this on the Backpage of the Daily Sun Newspapers, he has brought sycophancy into a job that tasked professionalism, as though it was not assigned to him on merit, hence why he must go out of his way to impress his master to keep his job, even if it means insulting Nigerians in the process. Haba Femi! Anyone who has followed Adesina’s reaction to criticism leveled at his boss however constructive, would have come to notice the confrontational manner in which he goes about it, complete with arrogance, insouciance and crassitude in a way that is both offending and disturbing.

Yet, it was the same kind of conduct that the self same Adesina bemoaned in Amb. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, not too long ago. Yes, Gambari, the president’s tear-rubber Chief of Staff. In an article written 12 years ago titled, ‘Gambari: The Slap Next Time’, Adesina travelled into history and called out the Gambari days in the Abacha junta while tacitly joining forces with those who opposed his election as the Chairman of the then Niger Delta Summit by late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The core of this dissent as we understood from Adesina’s article, was Gambari’s alleged support of the Abacha regime’s extra judicial killing of Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 8.

It was on this score therefore that Femi Adesina, literally tore Gambari to shreds in the article that was riddled with all manner of Yoruba proverbs for context on Gambari’s sycophancy while he served the Abacha administration, despite acknowledging that he was eminently qualified for the assignment.

Let us hear what Femi Adesina said at the 15th paragraph of the said article. It is the following,”another lesson that we should learn from this development is the veracity of the saying, “Old men have long shadows”. About 13 years ago, Gambari felt he was doing his representative as Permanent Representative to the UN when he defended the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others by the Abacha regime, now the chicken has come home to roost“.

Fast forward to this day, Femi Adesina has probably done more than Gambari was alleged to have done while serving the Abacha regime. In his opinion piece last week, titled, ‘Dear Femi Adesina: learn from yesterday’s Spokesmen’, Frederick Nwabufo chronicled Adesina’s unflattering comments and statements in the five years of serving his master.

Whether it was when he called the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) a political party or when it criticised the Buhari government for failing to protect Christian communities following the public execution of Pastor Lawan Andimi by Boko Haram terrorists; or when he supported the taking of people’s ancestral lands while defending the Ruga programme in July 2018; or even when he suggested that former president Olusegun Obasanjo would have insulted those who ask him to address Nigerians publicly as a way of defending his boss’ incorrigible disposition towards addressing Nigerians; or even the most recent shocker, “People think because either you elected a president or you didn’t elect him, you must lead your president by the nose. It doesn’t happen. Because you elected a man then you begin to order him around“, Femi Adesina has become a Gobellian warlord ready to say all manner of things, from the outrightly ridiculous to the insane and downright mundane, in defence of Daura.

As far as he is concerned, President Muhammadu Buhari, like the Pope in matters of the Church, can do no wrong. And since he is incapable of error or poor judgement, at least in Adesina’s warped imaginations, he cannot be a candidate of criticism. This is understandably the complex that gets Adesina worked up and ruffled each time he’s taken upon on any critical issue in the Buhari regime. He is so conceited and assured of the largely unpopular regime that he’s had to write more than one rejoinders to big name Newspaper Columnists in the typical manner of failing to go about a slave errand like a Freeborn as he levelled against Gambari in his referenced article. Even though in hindsight he is everything Gambari was, and probably more.

Writing in ‘Rituals, blood and death: The Spiritual side of Aso Rock’, former presidential spokesperson and journalist, Reuben Abatti told us of a probably higher force in the seat of the presidency that turns yesterday’s good men into bad men. He writes, “…every student of Aso Villa politics would readily admit that when people get in there, they actually become something else. They act like they are under a spell.’’ Perhaps, our Femi Adesina is under the spell, and in dire need of deliverance, as nothing case can explain away his “uncharacteristic deportment” as Nwabufo argued.

In his article, Femi wrote of Gambari as follows,”Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now, 13 years after, the shackles are still tied around his neck, threatening to asphyxiate him. What an eternal lesson for fawning bootlicking grovellers to learn. Old sins indeed have long shadows“.

Yet, as the countdown to the president Muhammadu Buhari’s regime gradually set in, the following words have become most suited to no other person but Femi Adesina himself. He has since become everything he said of Gambari. A sycophant. A bootlicker. A groveller. Warts and all. But unlike Gambari during the Sani Abacha junta, he has a rare opportunity to reassess the manner of his service of his master and end it on a good note, having observed himself that “old sins have long shadows”.

Even more interestingly, as both men now form the inner circle of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, it is expected that they would take the benefit of the opportunity to reflect on how public service under a corrupt administration can ruin and make nonsense of the platform and reputation built on the outside. I recommend Adesina’s article to be used as a reference point while at that. Both men have a lot to learn from it as they undertake the yeoman’s job of handling and managing a president that would rather be seen, than heard yet full of errors.

Raymond Nkannebe writes from Lagos. He tweets @raynkah

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