“Femi Fani Kayode is my boy. Give him food, he will praise you and sing for you”
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. 30/8/2018.
“Tell the truth, and let the devil be ashamed!”
These were the refrains of Mr Adewole, Vice Principal of my secondary school, and the one designated its Chief Administrator of the venerable “pankere”. The flexible cane, made of the branches of some evil tree, that wouldn’t snap as other canes, and has the evil characteristics of wrapping itself around the back, buttocks, or wherever it pleases its wielder, to direct its attention. His admonition would ring out above the anguish and terror, of the ungrateful recipient of his mastery of his craft.
The pankere is a weapon of brain reset, and Mr Adewole was a master craftsman in its use. He might administer only six of the very best, but you need have no doubt as to the trueness of his aim: all shall land on the same spot, and each would be accompanied by the refrain, “tell the truth, and let the devil be ashamed”. Rascally as I was, Mr Adewole would rarely flog me, as long as I told him the truth, unless I was receiving the punishment as a part of the group of rascals in which I was a principal member. Telling the truth would usually guarantee me a mere rebuke, unless I had left him with no choice.
I intend to hold my nose, and to tell the truth in defense of the scallywag known as Femi Fani-Kayode, to whom I shall hereinafter mostly refer to as FKK, for the sake of convenience and brevity. Telling the truth is not always convenient, and it seldom makes you popular, if it was either, Mr Adewole would have had no need for his admonitions, and poor satan, wouldn’t have been further vilified. I do not expect to win too many friends on account of the thankless task that to which I have assigned myself, but I shall nonetheless, attempt to shame the devil.
There are two primary reasons why Femi Fani-Kayode came to my attention, the first is his name, and the second, the oral diarrhea with which he would appear to have been afflicted for a long time. If Obasanjo had not brought him to political prominence by appointing him into office, and then rewarded him with a ministerial office for his loquaciousness and garrulity, he would probably have lived out his life in relative obscurity, living a life of sybaritic opulence, off the proceeds of his ancestral estates. He had done nothing to distinguish himself, or to justify the considerable amounts spent in earning his certificates. Obasanjo inflicted FFK on the Nigerian peoples.
The only other thing of note from his time in the public space, are his corruption trials or persecution as he prefers to style it: a position that I am inclined to agree with, in the face of the clear and vividly demonstrated disinterest of the Buhari regime in fighting corruption, and its clear weaponization of its ludicrous anti corruption circus.
Out of office, FFK has become something of a nuisance to Buhari, Buharists and the Buharidindinrins. He became the voice and major bullhorn of Yoruba ethnic irredentism. The Yoruba would say that “tori Were ita, la se ma n’ni Were ile”. When the mad and unreasonable speaks against what he believes to be either Yoruba, or southern Nigerian interests, FFK has appointed himself defender of these interests, and he has deployed his natural proclivities in the service of the people, who have considered his father, one of its historic Quislings. FFK would appear intent on paying off whatever debt of ethnic loyalty, that his late father might have owed to the Yoruba ethnic group.
In furtherance of a self anointed and appointed missionary journey, FFK was in Calabar in the past week, and that was the setting for the current episode of oral diarrhea, that has birthed our man, a ton of troubles. FFK verbally assaulted one of the journalists invited to cover a press conference in furtherance of his advertised purpose in the town, and the newsman became the news. One of the assembled journos dared to ask FFK, exactly who was bankrolling his preregistrations? FFK was predictably FFK. He was characteristically uncouth, choleric, and most ungracious. Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode took the opportunity to cement his reputation as an all round nasty piece of work. The apple does not appear to have fallen too far away from the tree.
FFK has been serially excoriated for his loutish behavior. Rightly so. He has apologized for being caught doing in the open, what his class have routinely done away from the glare of the cameras. FFK has done nothing that his class does not do every day, and I ask that you watched the video of the event again, the other journalists are to be heard, admonishing the hapless journalist, once FFK was done vibrating. They knew that he had breached the code, and had rendered them all complicit in his brazen breach of Nigerian journalistic ethics, how could he have dared to ask an uncomfortable question of the patron? It is of equal importance to note, that the offending questioner, became immediately apologetic as his colleagues unbraided him as a collective.
Mr Motor-Mouth wasn’t doing anything new, and I would dare to add that his charges against the journalist, ludicrous as they might sound, and diminished as they might have become in the light of his reactions, must not be dismissed as the rants of a drug addled mind. To allow ourselves to be distracted by the messenger, or the manner of his delivery of the message, is to lose the opportunity offered by the moment, for the fourth realm of the Nigerian state, to critically examine itself, look into the mirror held up by the mad man, and thereby tell itself the ugly truths staring it in the face.
How much were the journalists given or promised to cover the news conference? Abi FFK, a faithful child of the Nigerian state and its governance systems, would embark on the political missionary journey that he has assigned himself, without a bag of the proverbial brown envelopes, destined for the pockets of the Nigerian journalists that would be invited to amplify, and ventilate his views, loquacious as they have always been? The video, is just one part of the power dynamics and the syncretic relationship that exists between the Nigerian press, and the Nigerian ruling class.
The Nigerian press was once the pride of Africa. Our journalists spoke unvarnished truth to power in the age of the Unknown Soldiers. We had a courageous, fearless, articulate, patriotic, and highly motivated fourth realm of the state: we had men and women that lived to hold power to account, and who by sheer force of their personal characters and convictions, had soldiers afraid to act or govern with impunity. Just as there was once a country, there was also once, a free and vibrant Nigerian press.
At a recent public meeting organised by the Radical Agenda Movement In the Nigerian Bar Association (RAMINBA), I was privileged to hear a kernel of wisdom from the then newly-elected President of the NBA, Mr Olumide Akpata. He posited, that there is a correlation to be found between the dwindling fortunes and profile of the NBA, and the rising fortunes and profiles, of certain Nigerian lawyers. He named no names, and he needn’t. I am old enough to remember how becoming the president of the NBA, became a shortcut to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Nigerian state, and to the almost certain elevation to the rarefied rank of the SAN.
As it has happened in the legal profession, so it has permeated the practice of journalism in Nigeria. The more powerful the Nigerian press became, the more attention it drew from the Nigerian state, and its evil ruling class. And the more the state and the rulers, desired to control the narrative. Journalists were targeted for rewards, compromises, control, and in some cases, outright elimination. Dele Giwa might have been the first to be killed by the Nigerian state and the criminal elements that rules it, but he certainly wasn’t the last. In place of parcel bombs, the Nigerian state has devised ingenious robberies, unexplained disappearances, and criminal persecutions.
Executives in the journalism trade became recipients of government largesse and were disproportionately favored by the ruling class in its leadership recruitment processes. Elite reporters became Press Secretaries, Commissioners, Ministers, and in some cases Governors. The Nigerian press lost its very best to the governance systems, the academia, and to the diaspora. As the current feudal democracy took hold, and poverty was weaponized, the Nigerian journalist became peculiarly Nigerian: perverse, profane, and corrupt. The rulers began to own the press, literally and figuratively.
The Nigerian journalist has become a victim of the Nigerian state and its evil systems, the pervasive poverty, and the soul crushing demands of the existential crises that living in Nigeria represents, have conspired to ensure that he is always available for sale: a hack, a pen for hire, impoverished and rendered void of altruistic exertions. Corrupt as the society he calls home, chronicling only what he is paid to cover, and incapable of more, because the ones above him, the ones to whom he would have taken his lofty stories, are careful not to upset their political paymasters, who sends in the regular augmentation of the paltry and irregular salaries paid by the “Publisher”.
I have beheld Nigerian journalists being paid for covering public interest events, and I have had one of the major independent TV stations, demand to be paid before they would have my clients, whose land had been brutally expropriated by the Alaafin of Bourdilon, come on their morning show, to tell their stories. The Nigerian press, from cub reporters, to the line and subeditors, have become completely as the rest of us.
FFK is undeserving of any considerations, but the Nigerian press would be doing itself a grave disservice, if it does not seize the opportunity presented by the moment, to critically examine itself, and to then take urgent steps, to enforce some measure of sanity and decency within its ranks.
The putrefaction is multi sectoral, pervasive, and no part of Nigeria is spared the rot. I am a lawyer, and I am happy to warrant that the Nigerian bar and the bench, from the magistrates all the way to the Supreme Court, are just as free of corruption as the Nigeria Police, its Customs, and all of its other agencies. The Nigerian press is similarly afflicted by the peculiarities common to everything Nigerian, and the opportunity for careful introspection is lost, when we focus solely on the vituperations of Mr. Motor-Mouth.
I acknowledge the sacrifices of valiant men and women, that have remained in the profession, and I give my regards to those that have trudged on diligently in spite of the institutional nature of the constraints and difficulties. I salute the Soyombos, other investigative journalists and the few courageous reporters of objective truths, that have refused to be frustrated out of journalism, or to be bought by the men that would be happier to kill the truth.
And yes, truth dies. In darkness.