By Bala Ibrahim
Every profession has its own hazards, but those professions that involve talking seem to suffer more, with journalism being the biggest whipping boy. Lawyers and politicians follow suit on the ladder of such scapegoatism, as professionals that are made to bear the blame for other’s mistakes, sometimes.
A video is currently going viral, vividly vilifying Mr. Femi Adesina, the Media Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, over an article he wrote in his column of the Saturday Sun Newspaper of July 12th 2008, I suppose. In the article, which was a reaction to the appointment of Professor Ibrahim Gambari, as the chairman of a steering committee on the Niger Delta, Mr.Adesina scoffed at Professor Gambari, for supporting the atrocities of General Sani Abacha, particularly the killing of Mr. Ken Sarowiwa, the then leader of the Ogoni people.
Strong worded terms were used in the column to castigate Professor Gambari, one time Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations, and one who has assumed office this week, as Adesina’s boss. The damning wordings include, “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 grovelers to learn. When you are sent on a slave errand, do it as freeborn”. The question begging for answer in the video is, Would Femi Adesina be the new fawning bootlicking groveler to Professor Gambari?
That brings us to the issue of professional job hazard, with particular bias to the job of a spin doctor, who has a historical precedent of being a public commentator. As columnist or public commentator, concerns are always raised about contemporary issues, and you are called upon to comment. Sometimes the views may not necessarily be yours, they may be sold to you by politicians, captains of industry or the academics. What is important is for you to do justice to the issue, by making sure your comments do not constitute a spin intended to systematically bury the truth.
Many atimes, public commentators fall victims of playing fast and loose with the truth, depending on the issue at hand, along with the human factor weakness, and this brings them into conflict with the politicians and the public. It’s a job hazard that is sometimes inescapable. In that context, like many of us, Adesina had sinned, and the sins are spewed. But we should not hang him, because it’s a job hazard.
I once took a swipe at Mr. Kanu Agabi, who was twice the Attorney General and Nigeria’s Minister of Justice, for taking the brief of Senator Bukola Saraki, over the false asset declaration accusation. The accusation against Saraki started when Mr.Agabi was the Attorney General. The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danlami Umar, and the prosecutor in the case, Rotimi Jacobs, were at various times working under Mr. Agabi. Infact, different sources asserted that the accelerated promotion that Mr. Umar enjoyed in his career was partly due to Mr. Agabi’s support. And Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, the prosecutor, tenant in Agabi’s building, was introduced to the EFCC in the time of Nuhu Ribadu by Mr.Agabi. Mr. Umar and Mr. Jacobs made sure that the Code of Conduct trial ended with a no-guilty verdict for Saraki.
The matter went as far as the supreme court, but sources said, Mr. Agabi’s priority was to stop Mr. Jacobs from filing fresh charges related to a discovery, that Mr. Saraki continued to draw his full salary and entitlements from Kwara State government, several years after he ceased being the governor of the state. By virtue of the esteem with which I hold Mr.Agabi, I felt he had sinned, by acting contrary to conceived conscience. How can you at one time accuse, then come back to defend at another time, and by use of beneficiaries? It’s a spewed sin. But a lawyer friend said it’s normal, we should not hang him, because it’s a job hazard.
The first and the last time I took a gamble in my life was when President Muhammadu Buhari opted for partisan politics. I was on a duty trip in Nairobi Kenya, and while trying to file a report to London, my colleague, the producer, told me Buhari has chosen to join a political party, with the intention of contesting in an election. I said its impossible. We argued almost to the point of bitterness. Are you ready to bet, he asked. I answered in the affirmative.
We settled for a bet on two hundred pounds each, which I quickly agreed to, because I was damn too confident he would loose. I have heard Buhari say more than once, that he was not tailored for politics, that’s why when he finished his secondary education, despite the chance he had of going into professions that would turn him into a politician, he opted for the military, which does not play politics. Again, his disdain for the dirt in politics, which atimes breeds corruption, was responsible for his participation in the overthrow of the conceived corrupt Shagari regime.
Armed with these facts, and the attested righteousness of the General, I went to bed with an over confident zeal, that my wealth would swell by two hundred pounds the next day. Alas, I lost the bet, Buhari declared officially for the ANPP.
However, seeing the innocence of my mistake, my colleague decided to be magnanimous, by letting go the bet. What a magnanimity. On my return to Nigeria, along with a late colleague of mine in Kaduna, we visited the General at home, where I narrated to him my ordeal. He said indeed he had no intention in politics, and truly he detests political processes, at least the Nigerian way. But he was dragged into it by Alhaji Wada Nas or Alhaji Kanti Bello(all of them now late), I cant remember. I felt sad, because as far as I am concerned, he had sinned, by acting contrary to conceived conscience. How can you denounce something, and then come back to embrace it, because of the advise of some people?. It’s a spewed sin. But I refused to hang him, because it’s a job hazard.
Much as I believe Professor Gambari is an attested gentleman, whose experience and exposure must have taken him beyond the level of witch-hunt, a lesson is here for the media practitioners to learn.
Our calling, particularly the calling of columnists, calls for careful and constructive criticisms, but not callous or cruel comments, that could come back to make us look like the cold-hearted.