“As we strode into the living room, I saw with infinite pleasure, the great object of my mission. Standing tall and ramrod straight was President Muhammadu Buhari, with that ubiquitous smile in place. He was looking a lot better than he had ever looked in the past eight months. My heart leapt for joy, and sang praises to God.”
“In spite of what haters, wailers and filthy dreamers imagine, and which they spew out, God remains merciful and immutable. He has the final say. If I were a hater, I would repent in sack clothes and ashes.”
If the above quotes appear to you like the effusive expressions of a pedestrian Nigerian national overwhelmed by the presence of his benefactor, the fault will not be yours and I will not blame you. You may or may not however be disappointed to learn that they are the words of the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari.
A cursory look at the profile of the man Femi Adesina will reveal he reached the pinnacle of his journalistic career in the Nigerian media having been reelected President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors before his appointment in 2015. Yet the rank unprofessionalism he has displayed in his new office reveals nothing about someone who attained such heights. Or perhaps his situation is an indictment on the state of the Nigerian media and bears testimony to the rot that is our fourth estate — a sector so beholden to the very political class it ought to hold to account.
The coiner of the derisive term “wailing wailers” to refer to those critical of the administration he serves and the opposition entirely, Mr Femi has elevated the practice of ridiculing dissenting voices across the nation, an attitude not peculiar to spokesmen of the present administration — Reuben Abati infamously referred to those in the opposition as “children of anger”- to a pitch. When he is not asking those complaining of depreciating power supply to go and attack pipeline vandals personally, warning natives of the consequences of not giving their land up to violent intruders, he is referring to millions of Nigerians demanding better from their government and those in power as the “descendants of shimmei” — an allusion to an ignoble character in the bible — who should “repent in sack clothes and ashes.”
But this contempt for public opinion about those in power is not surprising when the President is regarded as a King who must stay unaccountable and whose display of gestures that democratic governance demands must be considered a favor. Hear him;
“President Buhari has tolerated people who have called him all sorts of names in the past two years. If he didn’t move against them directly, he could have allowed many Abishais to move against them, ‘and take off their heads.’ But not our president, a reformed democrat, a pious man, who has resolved to leave the people suffused by hatred unto God.”
So much for the mind of a journalist. So much for a person appointed to defend a public office holder.
Yet Femi Adesina is not alone in this politics of derision and entitlement that is a main characteristic of the current APC administration. He has learnt from no other than his principal and employer President Muhammadu Buhari himself — the president who in the middle of an election cycle had the gumption to sit amidst an international audience and refer to 60% of Nigerian youths as a bunch of lazy freeloaders.
“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free”
This, even as he leads a country of skyrocketing unemployment rate especially among youths. That a president can so openly display contempt for the people he purports to lead is unheard of. Even the obnoxious Donald Trump leaves his insults and attacks for his for his perceived political opponents.
More recently were the disdainful utterances of the Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole when asked about the issue of graduate medical doctors unable to secure hospital placements to undergo the residencies that would make them specialists. The smug clown replied;
“It might sound selfish, but we can’t all be specialists. We can’t. Some will be farmers, some will be politicians… The man who sews my gown is a doctor. He makes the best gown. And some will be specialists, some will be GPs, some will be farmers.”
For context, this was the previous Vice Chancellor of one of Nigeria’s top federal universities before his appointment. It is one thing to argue that not everyone must pass through academic education and quite another to imply that specialization is not necessary. It is even worse, to hold these views in a country with a record shortage of medical experts and serious brain-drain in the health sector. The condescension in the phrasing is yet disturbing. It is pathetic that insensitivity has become a stock in trade for our leaders.
Nigerian politicians and public office holders must learn to tone down their insults on the public. Granted, it is their right to have opinions and duties to defend the president no matter what as they are on a payroll for that job. Yet, there are professional ways to go about this without unnecessarily insulting the personalities of the people. Adesina’s unmeasured adulation of the president is unbecoming of a man who spent decades in the media. And until he is cured of his hero-worship mentality towards the man Buhari, his subtle and overt insults at Nigerians who employed his boss and foot his bills will remain distasteful.