By Ibraheem Abdullateef
Just as the nation was winding down on the unhealthy el-Rufai vs NBA saga, another drama reared its ugly head yesterday. This time it is between the garrulous ex-Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode and Daily Trust’s correspondent, Mr Eyo Charles. Trouble brewed in Calabar when the reporter asked the PDP chieftain who had been on a tour of the South since July who sponsored his trips. He found the question “insulting” and gave the “rude” reporter a dressing down.
On the much-debated el-Rufai’s debacle, it boils down to the issue of identity. Both of them are identified personaes shrugging to sell viewpoints which people do not see them representative of at the moment. The brilliant Governor of Kaduna would try everything to balloon his ratings as a nationalist. But as he must be realising now, he is nowhere near it in the public minds. Perhaps he needs to recheck his messaging and work on his posture not to be in contrast with his vision and aspirations. Let him start with cleansing Southern Kaduna of bloodbath. For the NBA, they couldn’t have had a worse year. The shameful elections together with the poor handling of the case may leave a lasting dent on their principles and values as a body. No thanks to a failed President, Paul Usoro.
The points that could have been scored from the disinvitation of el-Rufai was lost because the body allowed the cause to be rebranded as a religious faceoff rather than a matter of principles. I found the statement of MURIC leader Prof Akintola divisive and shameful as well as all the intellectuals who had almost let the matter degenerate into a religious strife. It is sickening to see people picking sides based on religious sentiments at the expense of humanity and civil liberty. What happened to us really?
Now if we want to leave it behind fine, the NBA will have to work on the petition submitted against former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Nyesom Wike to posit the earlier decision as an act of justice and fairness. As the Southern Kaduna burns, Odi was also razed years back, and Rivers bears the rascality of Wike glaringly, alongside their other ugly records. I hope the NBA would be able to set this precedence of fairness and impartiality not only to save their image but to lay a marker that the nation shall not respect the failing public holders as I suppose they initially sought. I pray.
So back to Fani-Kayode. His reaction was grander than the ‘insulting’ question. To have taken offence for being insulted only to go ahead to pay back with bigger disrespect speaks to an equal or bigger folly. If Fani was insulted, he did more than an insult to the reporter. He questioned his professionalism, verbally assaulted his dignity, and decency. The words were crude and reeked of arrogance. The kind only he mirrors as he is often found dragging superiority of race and ancestry of one region or the other all his adult life.
But he only reinforces the image of critics in my mind. They can’t withstand half of what they dish. It is the pattern everywhere. That explains why upon reading commentaries on WhatsApp about politics and governance especially as it relates to Kwara, I just laugh them off. The only thing that touches my nerve is misinformation against the government and the officials. Opinions are welcome. It is when asking questions of critics’ decision or action as this, you get to know them. They become a Fani-Kayode, blowing hot. And you begin to wonder if they were ever sincere and true and just as a person as they often demand of others.
If he had felt so unnerved by the question as to who sponsors his joro-jara-joro across the nation, what should the Igbo people –his newly found friends– have done to him when he said he slept with the wife of their leader, late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu?
He is the same man who pummels President Buhari and the Northerners every day on social media for all the wrong reasons. There are no allegations bigger than his mouth to spit. I agree he has freedom of expression, but wonder if the hate speech laws and the DSS doesn’t only work on Malafia and Ghali Na’abah how many times he’d have been arrested for threatening the peace of the country. If he’d not be proud of being so arrested. Because my heart bled when he boasted in the video he had been arrested many times on the ground of corruption but still kicking. You know, our laws and personnel, have a way of making heroes out of crooked minds.
What was the essence of a press conference if it wasn’t to ask questions!? Does being courteous and professional means to ask only sweet questions?
I knew the Daily Trust won’t be nudged into punishing the correspondent for doing his duty. The question may be hard but it wasn’t a rude one. Journalists are to ask hard questions. In fact, we should ask him the more: who sponsored your tour, emperor Fani!? If everyone resents the call for openness in democracy, would the petulant Fani-Kayode have had a decent country to become and brag with the title of a minister? I am afraid something untoward to Eyo Charles would be emboldening the oppressors and loud-mouthed elites the more. I hope people desist from calling him a coward. He was only a person who acted his age, status and profession. Such finesse and class is the hallmark of an experienced journalist. That is why he is celebrated across the country today. Young journalist should pick some lessons. And we should rally round him the more. Hardworking and honest journalists are no second citizens but partners in nation-building, and mustn’t be put down for anyone. Let alone Fani-Kayode, the face of verbal assault and bullying.
Eyo is not his problem. It is the truth and Karma that haunt him. And until he changes his ways, they will remain his comeuppance.