Last week the Senate President sensationally sacked a media aide less than 48 hours after his appointment was announced. Lawan came under immense pressure by APC loyalists including the newly baptised ‘First Lady’.
I ‘ve been reading his column in the Tribune for some years now and there is no doubt that Festus Adedayo is good with the pen. I initially sympathised with him, not just for that but also from an ‘esprit de corps’ perspective since we share a common academic background in Political Communication.
Now having said that there is a need to differentiate between criticism and insults. I must admit that I mostly skimmed through his scathing attacks on President Buhari primarily because I usually get an adequate dosage of that from the social media and other columnists like Femi Aribisala.
Politics is a game and just like in games emotions are rarely contained, but if indiscipline by players and even spectators are punished then it should also apply in politics. Media practitioners represent the fourth estate of the realm whose primary objective is to present the citizens with factual information that will guide them in making decisions. We are not mere spectators, we are like the linesmen who interpret not just for the referee but also for the spectators.
I recollect a recent chat with an editor who cautioned me about an offensive phrase in an article I submitted for publication. I had been caustic in my description of a group and he promptly told me that such words cannot pass his gate. Indeed the paragraph looked better when my piece was published.
APC has millions of loyalists and their media machinery is ruthless. No political party comes a close second in utilising the power of social media as much as the party has done since the beginning of our current democratic experiment. This didn’t start with Adedayo.
In June last year, renowned columnist and the chairman of Vanguard editorial board was forced to issue a humiliating apology after he described the Yorubas as “sophisticated morons”, an ethnic aspersion that was made viral by the South West wing of the APC youths.
In the same month, a lady who worked with the Presidency was hounded by APC media soldiers for using uncharitable words to describe Vice President Osinbajo on twitter. She was queried and dismissed afterwards.
In the heat of the moment, she boasted that she needn’t lift a finger to work to continue living in affluence for the rest of her life. However shortly after, she ‘nicodemusly’ got another job but somehow her traducers managed to reach her new hirer whose company thrived on government patronage and probably dropped the usual ‘if you want to retain our patronage’ line. Again she was sacked.
The young lady who must have learnt her lesson can even be overlooked for her naivety and youthful exuberance but Festus is neither young nor naive. He is a professional who should know better. It is laughable that he claimed he was still considering the job when we know that he had already popped champagne with friends to celebrate his appointment.
He also said that Obasanjo received the worst lashing from his acidic pen. Well, having now read some of his toxic writings against Buhari I can say that he may have criticised Obasanjo’s government but he INSULTED Buhari’s personae. Moreover, the Yoruba culture and training couldn’t have allowed him to label Obasanjo a fido dido, demented or having a body double. These words definitely go beyond criticism. They are acerbic phrases that shouldn’t be read from a copy and paste blogger let alone a career journalist. To put it plainly Adedayo sounded like a hateful bigot!
Some would argue that journalists are humans and are susceptible to emotional outbursts like every other person. I agree. People are entitled to their opinion regardless of how far fetched or stupid it may sound to you. And frankly, I have read all sorts from respected journalists, especially on social media. One recently wished Abacha’s fate on Buhari for removing the CJN and another suggested that Obasanjo was a mole who should be tied to the stake and shot for calling Buhari a failure. All these are tolerable since we are in a democracy which of course guarantees freedom of speech even though that freedom actually ends where the other’s rights begin.
The bigger issue, however, has to do with honour, morality and integrity. It is a poor reflection of our journalism that the prospect of owning a property in Abuja is often too enticing — as Reuben Abati will tell you — that the ultimate ambition of many is to be appointed the media aide of a politician or some corporate executive. So Mr Adedayo didn’t mind being interviewed for a job by a man he recently described as a myrmidon of the Fuhrer. How can you possibly join a cause you don’t believe in? A man who hates the vulture shouldn’t covet the soup claiming to enjoy the spices.
If the Senate President appointed him out of ignorance or the need to placate his PDP backers, Festus obviously accepted out of greed and hypocritical opportunism. His likes are dangerous, despicable and totally bereft of the requisite values to move the nation forward. It was the Apostle Paul who said that “the tongue has the power of life and death”. Mr Adedayo will surely not die for being sacked but the dent of this experience will remain for a long time, and hopefully a teachable moment for us to always guard our emotions in political discourse.