Should Dr. Reuben Abati, the Editorial Board Chairman of the Guardian newspapers be doing anything sinister if he accepts the offer of being President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman? The question came up in a Nigerian internet discussion forum and someone posed this question while asking Abati to turn down the yet appointment:
“How much respect can any of Dr. Doyin Okupe, late Mr. Tunji Oseni, Mrs. Remi Oyo, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi and Niboro command in a public discourse?”
My comment: Dr. Doyin Okupe is a Medical Doctor and no journalist. He simply got some Yoruba traditional leaders to work on Obasanjo and he got the job that should have gone to Mr. Onyema Ugochukwu had Obasanjo not vacillated in appointing Onyema to the position because of the huge amount of money he thought he paid to Onyema’s P.R agency to be his mouthpiece during the presidency campaign. And though Okupe now claims he does not know why Obasanjo dropped him from the office and replaced him with Mr. Tunji Oseni, I revealed the reasons in May 2004 on the pages of Daily Independent newspapers – office politics and a certain advert invoice for payment to a London newspaper were among the final straws. Okupe had sent one to Obasanjo, while another came from the newspaper’s representative – and both failed to agree.
Oseni was simple, unassuming, and did not have the time either Okupe or sadistic Remi Oyo allocated to office politics or backbiting. What I am writing here is not new; I have published the unflattering details in 2004 in a 14 newspaper-page series on the first term of the Obasanjo administration. I can upload them on the internet if challenged. Oseni wanted to do the job the normal way; but normal ways meant nothing to Obasanjo; once on a trip to Japan, he brought Obasanjo to meet the press – just Chesa Ransom Chesa and I – and he said, “Mr. President, please meet Mr. Tony Eluemunor or the Guardian newsp….” Obasanjo interrupted him with a “we shall see”, and extended his hand and pulled up a lady of about 20 that sat between Chesa and I. Obasanjo took her into his private quarters of the presidential jet. He did not not even wait to chake hands with the journalists who were aboard the aircraft. And he never met them again! But at least, he tried to get Obasanjo meet with the journalists; Oyo would have not have arranged any msuch meeting in the first place.
Mrs. Remi Oyo’s story has not been told. Was she still a staff of a non-Nigerian news agency when she became the President of Nigerian Guild of Editors? Or was the news agency defunct by then, and she had no platform from which to contest the election? Put simply, was she not qualified for the election? Such answers are still not in yet but such questions have been asked. But such question would never be asked about Adeniyi.
Remi Oyo used her position in the Guild to come close to Obasanjo again; both had been close, very close, in Dodan Barracks when she was a Correspondent there during Obasanjo’s Head of State days from 1976 to 1979. Oyo promised to line up the Editors behind Obasanjo.
In Abuja, Remi teamed up with the SSS in several diabolical plots. She was there when Col. Kayode Are (rtd) invited newspaper executives to prepare them to support the state of emergence that would later be imposed on Plateau state – just so that Joshua Dariye would be removed from governor’s office. I was the only one who spoke against that plot that day. That must have been in 2004. The N150 gift given to the other attendees was not extended to me to check whether I would have accepted it or not.
Remi Oyo was neck deep in the pro-Third Term movement. And remember that slush funds were dedicated to that project. She was in the forefront of the fight against the late Dr. Stanley Macebuh. In her days at Aso Rock, journalists who did not report according to her dictates were hounded out.
To Oyo, the best way to do the job was to raise up a team of Editors and Correspondents and Columnists and I-N-F-L-U-E-N-C-E them to praise her principal to high heavens and to get the government to antagonize those who refused to play the game her own way.
How did Segun Adeniyi do his job? Was he at the head of bribe for support team? Did he hamper journalists who wanted to get to the root of an issue? Did he open or block the way of journalists who wanted to get something as simple as the organogram of the State House? Did she block the way of journalists who wanted to interview key State House officials?
And for those who will accuse Adeniyi of undue defense of his boss or lying for him, I’ll say that in my opinion, Adeniyi did not even do enough for Yar’Adua. And I tick this against him, not in the column of inefficiency or betrayal, but under tight-rope walking. Here was a man who had Mr. Cornelius Adebayo for a guardian, the same Adebayo, from Kwara state who served as a Minister of Communications when Gen. Mohammed Abdullahi (rtd) was Obasanjo’s Chief of Staff. Of Abdullahi, I once wrote in a two-page series that Obasanjo had no Chief of Staff. He granted no interviews, made no statements, etc, but remained the military intelligence officer he had always been, plotting, plotting, and plotting some more – against persons. He was the nemesis against Dr. Macabuh in Aso Rock; after he got him removed as Deputy Chief of Staff, and later sacked, Obasanjo once held Macabuh on the right hand and Addullahi on the left and pleaded with Adbullahi to leave Macebuh alone as the man had no interest in government contracts. Then alone with Macabuh, after having asked Abdullahi to move aside, he told Macebuh that he would give him another appointment but outside the Villa this time – “or they will kill you.”
So he asked Macabuh join El-Rufai in the Federal Capital administration and put a human face to El-Rufai’s efforts there. El-Rufai at first accepted Macabuh, but when Abdullahi moved once again against Macebuh, he asked El-Rufai not to allow Macebuh to work with him, and despite Macebuh’s letter of appointment, he did not work there. He was frustrated out. In the end, he was not allowed to buy the house he lived in, a house whose existence he brought to the attention of the FCT, as it was not captured on any of their records. One day, he was thrown out of the house, his property scattered outside. I spent most of that night with Macebuh watching his goods, but his books, packed in a container, had been removed by the invaders and Macabuh the scholar never recovered from that assault until his death a few years later. After that incident, Macebuh began to rue his return from the US in 1977, recalling that by then he had just two years to leave City College of New York where he was an Associate Prof. for a Professorial seat at Harvard University. I wonder if Adeniyi ever suspected that such malfeasance existed in the Villa.
So, Adeniyi, further encumbered by his friendship with the likes of Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir’el-Rufai, could not defend Yar’Adua when those friends of his were heaping lies against him. To have raised a voice against say, Ribadu, would have been to take a stand against Ribadu’s champion; the same Abdullahi. Also, it would have marked Adeniyi out as having abandoned the progressive side to join the reactionaries in the struggle. Poor, Adeniyi, he was simply handicapped, especially as the Katsina clique did not accept him as an insider.
Yet, I will ever praise Adeniyi for stressing the open secret; – but which many Nigerians refused to accept – the terrible media manipulation against the Yar’Adua administration and certain individuals close to it. How will the Nigerian internet community now feel after Adeniyi has quoted Nasir El-Rufai as saying that there was no C-A-B-A-L in the Yar’Adua administration, and that it was a creation of his (and Ribadu’s) to demonize Turai and members of her train? What about the journalists who could not lift even one finger to investigate the existence of the so-called cabal? Should we be looking forward to the day when someone would explain the grand design behind the plotting of Prof. Dora Akunyili’s outburst on national television about the lies and the schemes that had stopped the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan from taking absolute control from an ailing Yar’Adua? Well, Adeniyi has just shown that facts could indeed be stranger than fiction.
Some of us have said long ago that some NGOs and pressure groups such as FIX NIGERIA were created by Ribadu just to defend his interests no matter how narrow or ignoble. Now, through Adeniyi, Nasir El-Rufai did announce to the entire world that Save Nigeria Group (SNG) was his own creation and to champion his, NOT NIGERIA’S interests. So, is any conventional wisdom which Nigerians accepted without question, whether about Turia (former President Yar’Adua’s widow) El-Rufai, Ribadu or Ibori in need of being questioned? Perhaps, yes.
And straight to the question that elicited this essay, “How much respect can any of Dr. Doyin Okupe, late Mr. Tunji Oseni, Mrs. Remi Oyo, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi and Niboro command in a public discourse” my answer is that individual occupants of that office have the opportunity to defining their work ethics. Olusegun Adeniyi worked differently from the way a Remi Oyo did. The times in which they served were different; so two their principals two. Yar’Adua was a gentleman while a top member of the Obasanjo administration once told me that “Obasanjo has no redeeming feature”, an obvious over statement, but which could never have been said of Yar’Adua. On the very day the internet publication timesofnigeria.com reported that a presidential candidate Yar’Adua was dead (when he left unannounced for a German hispital), Mr. Sunny Ofili, the publisher, received a call from Yar’Adua himself. Yar’Adua was not abusive, he did not command him to divulge who confirmed the story, for it was indeed confirmed by a serving minister in Obasanjo’s administration; he told Ofili that he was alive and he promised to invite him to his inauguration if he won the election. Yes, Ofili received the invitation!
Adeniyi served under trying times, under an ailing or absentee President. He did not set out to betray himself or office. Some knew there was something as sinister as the Third Term tenure elongation bid under Obasanjo, including the $5 billion bribery fund that sustained it, some persons too helped to distribute the bribe, yet, they claimed nothing was amiss and have never condemned it. Could El’Rufai, or Ribadu or Remi Oyo be numbered among ANY set of such persons?
So far, Adeniyi has returned to writing for the public, and I think by the way his column has been received, Nigerians have answered the question. They respect Adeniyi. And if Dr. Reuben Abati, has been offered the job, and if he accepts it, the amount of respect he will command on leaving the job does not rest on his acceptance of the appointment alone. Everything would depend on how he does the job.
For Ima Nibori, only a fool would demonize him just for accepting to serve as a spokesman to a public official – as important as the President of Nigeria! Other things must be considered. And that goes for Abati too.
Mr. Tony Eluemunor, a 1991 Fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, is an authority on the Nigerian Presidency. He covered Dodan Barracks for Newswatch magazine and Aso Rock for the Guardian and Daily Independent newspapers.