It seems that the spokesman of the Nigerian president must have significant abuse value. You must have a facility for name-calling. Or you must be a normal man that is willing to cast aside your manners and dispense insults on the chief’s behalf.
When Wole Soyinka expressed strong reservations about President Obasanjo’s philistine militarism, Femi Fani-Kayode, Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, talked down to the Nobel Laurate. Fani-Kayode said Soyinka deserved no attention: the mental faculties of the enthusiast of Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron, had been corrupted by paganism.
Chinua Achebe, another renowned writer, bemoaned the three day uninterrupted sack of his home state of Anambra by a private militia sponsored by Obasanjo surrogates and rejected a ‘national award’ in protest against the complicity of Aso Rock. Fani-Kayode queried Achebe’s judgment and tried to rubbish the novelist’s contribution to global literature.
Olusegun Adeniyi proved a rare exception. He maintained his dignity throughout his Yar’Adua days. He refused to lend himself to abuse errands. He comported himself honorably in the midst of the charged power play around the dying president and exited without blemish.
Reuben Abati took the job and seemed determined to keep his culture. When he couldn’t generate abuse on demand, Doyin Okupe, a veteran of the Obasanjo presidency, was recruited to play the all-important role. Rejoicing in the name of an ‘attack lion’, Okupe excitedly went into work, savaging any Jonathan critic in sight. In one extraordinary moment of puppy-like overenthusiasm, he proclaimed that Goodluck was Jesus incarnate.
Before long, the ascendancy of a rival forced Abati to go into overdrive. He taxed his brilliance and contrived the most labored and elaborate denigration of internet-savvy Nigerian youths. He called them: ‘’all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria…’’
Like his predecessors, Femi Adesina demonstrated that he had settled into the job of the presidential spokesman by insulting Nigerians. He went on national television to argue against the reality of hardship in Nigeria. He swore that the talk of the escalation of misery under Buhari was a lie.
As Buhari’s unhinged economics further worsened the dire conditions created by Jonathan’s kleptocracy, Nigerians began to cry louder. Adesina stepped out to dismiss the desperate complaints as hysterical post-election exertions of the loser’s camp. He derisively called the poor folks ‘’wailing wailers.’’
‘’Wailing wailers’’ is the debut album of The Wailers, a group of Jamaican reggae artists including Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. Adesina plagiarized that name to scorn Nigerian citizens who live below his fortune and privilege. He couldn’t think up an insult as original and memorable as Abati’s ‘’children of anger.’’
In his latest op-ed, Femi Adesina did nothing unusual for a change. He did not vouchsafe Nigerians a novel insult. Like before, he resorted to an unimaginative insult. This time around, he baptized those citizens seeking clarity about the health status of President Buhari ‘’Descendants of Shimei’’. He admittedly stole the derisive characterization from ‘’ the Good Book’’.
Adesina’s ‘’Descendants of Shimei’’ name-calling is a sad example of the prostitution of the scriptures. He mischievously twisted a Bible story that deals with a case of lese majeste against King David into a special pleading for President Buhari. The comparison of David and Buhari situations is based on a false similarity of different contexts. The conditions of the monarch and the president -separated by 3, 000 years- are as dissimilar as their respective zeitgeists.
Shimei cursed at a David fleeing from an insurrection into exile. Nigerians have simply asked to know the nature of ailment that has trapped President Buhari in London for more than two months. How does that make them progenies of an infamous scoundrel?
President Buhari has been in the hospital for 78 days. He departed Nigeria less than two months after he returned from his 50 day-long medical vacation. There is no official information on his health status. Buhari believes that the Nigerian taxpayers who pay his medical bills have no right to know what ails him.
Nigeria’s Presidential Aircraft has been parked in London for 78 days and counting. The presidency admits that could Nigeria pay $ 1,000 for every day of parking.
If you asked what was the sense in keeping the plane and crew in London and racking up expenses, Garba Shehu, the other presidential spokesman, would answer that Buhari’s relative frugality entitled him to be prodigal in this instance. And if you asked whether the plane was as sick as the president that it had to stay in London as long as Buhari remained in the hospital, Adesina would call you the grandchild of an idiot.
The big issue is that other matters of state are also parked like Airforce One -at great cost to the Nigerian people.
Two minister-designates are in a state of suspended animation. They have been waiting to be sworn for two months. ‘Acting President’ Yemi Osibanjo cannot swear them in and assign them portfolios because he is a mere pretender to the throne.
The report of the presidential panel set up to investigate the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke, is ‘parked’ too. The cases of Lawal’s grass cutting scam and the tons of hard currency that Oke stashed in a private flat in Ikoyi represent an opportunity for the Buhari/Osibanjo administration to show that the so-called war against corruption is underpinned by sincerity of purpose. But Acting President Osibanjo cannot act on the report because his hands are tied. He is merely occupying presidential space.
The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, recently suspended the Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, for the irregularities surrounding his purchase of some SUVs. Usman defied the minister. He refused to quit, boasting that only Buhari could sanction him!
When you fear that the Acting President is not in command of the presidency and the armed forces, when you express concerns that the real powers still lie with the Ailing President in London and that Osibanjo may not be in position to deal with a national emergency, Adesina lays a guilt trip on you. He insinuates that if you were really human, empathy would have restrained you from acknowledging the impact of Buhari’s indefinite sick leave on the republic.
It’s no secret that an appointment like Adesina’s requires an otherwise decent man to undertake to debase himself on the job. But one doesn’t have to profane the scriptures to earn his keep. He could have extracted a more bearable piece of insult from other sources.
Granted, the language of officialdom must be condescending. The government spokesman is under obligation to ventilate the state’s absolute contempt for the people. The spokesman’s quotidian response to responsible citizen curiosity is name-calling not truth telling.
But there was no justification for venturing into Bible abuse when ‘normal’ citizen abuse would have sufficed. That you are under pressure to rationalize the cover-up of your principal’s ill-health does not mean you have to go the extra mile and assault the religious sensibilities of your audience.
When you are hired to abuse Nigerians, do so dutifully: but, don’t abuse a holy book while you are at it.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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