By: Israel Umoh
A Nigerian lawyer and politician, Femi Fani-Kayode, is mere mortal. Like a human being, he is fitted with characteristics common to Negroid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and other races. He breathes, talks, walks, hears, and eats while blood courses through his veins.
As a person, he has his idiosyncrasies. As a lawyer, he realised on time that there were many lawyers in Nigeria whose voices may not be heard outside law courts. As a politician, he knew he would not be known or heard much on the soapbox or even for winning elections. And so, he decided to stoke controversies on public issues by scaling the mountain of notoriety. He opened the shop of media attacks, attacking anybody who crosses his path, mostly the President or Governor in power. And so, his fame rose astronomically.
For instance, he has written tons of rabid essays criticising any government of the day on everything. He has heaped dozens of vituperations and acerbic comments on any government he does not share a boat with. He is a prolific essayist, a poet of no mean repute, and a preacher of good governance in the country. He is a strident voice and a tenacious fellow. He could yell and castigate anybody he feels to draw more attention or perhaps applause.
And of course, the mass media gave him the space to ply his trade. And today, the man has grown in notoriety taller than most lawyers in name and in fanfare bigger than most politicians. He started with the traditional media. And journalists gave him the window to propagate his gospel. When the world crossed to the social media Rubicon, he joined the new media bandwagon and curries all the appurtenances enjoyed by celebrities. And he has succeeded in growing a large army of followers and admirers in his Facebook and Twitter handles, among others.
At times, some journalists bear a large chunk of the blame. Why do they create monstrosity from people haranguing and turn villains to heroes? Journalism hitherto known as a thankless profession assumes a slave status when the modern-day heroes return to demean the professionals who gave them wings to fly. Give a cub juicy meat, one day the lion will tacitly devour its conservationist.
However, FFK as he is commonly referred to, woke up one day and realised that he was superhuman far above other earthly beings. In short, he saw himself as a principality in wealth acquisition, academic knowledge decked with aura of royalty. What an arrival mentality!
Like ides of March, Thursday, August 20, 2020, was his ‘coronation’ or ‘vilification’ day. During a press briefing in Calabar, he betrayed his feelings and scaled the fence of illusion. When Eyo Charles of the Daily Trust politely asked Fani-Kayode about who was paying for his ‘Good Governance Tour’ of the South-South region, the former minister farted and wasted no time hurling invective at the reporter, and threatening to have him fired.
“I could see from your face, before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man. What type of insulting question is that?” Fani-Kayode flared. Anger could be his albatross. No one is exempted from this misdemeanor. In the Holy Bible, Moses was a mighty prophet, but he was irascible. David was an excellent psalmist and great soldier, but he was engrossed in sexual immorality. Gehazi would have been a mighty prophet, but he fondled with covetousness.
Charles goofed by muttering an apology as the politician assailed him verbally, whereas he should have maintained an uncompromising stance or at worse staged a walk-out. “The question I asked was ‘Sir, you said you have gone round six or seven states to inspect projects undertaken by those governors, and now you are here in Cross River State, rounding off your one-week visit to Governor Ayade. Who is bankrolling you?” Charles recalls, still visibly shaken. “I am 53, he is not much older than me. I am not a child; I am an adult and I have children,” the journalist added.
True that FFK apologised to the press community. Why has he failed to apologise to Charles whom he bruised his self-worth? A typical Akwa Ibom proverb says if you do not collect a hoe from a child, he will dig a hole of excreta instead of cricket. That is why journalists still see the assault in a bad light.
‘Stupid’ used on Charles means unintelligent and brainless. Since stupidity comes in different sachets, where does one place a man who exhibits an emotional intelligence deficit? From the media reports, Charles asked a probing question which is one of the hallmarks of good journalism. Why did he evade the question? As a legal dictum posits “He who goes to equity must go with clean hands,” Did the journalist burst the ‘mission of the self-acclaimed democrat? Why was he angry? Why did his countenance change? Why did the intelligent throw caution to the wind and wanted to punch hot air out of the interviewer?
Yes, Charles might be a husband of one woman wife with a few children not a man of three divorcees with eight children. As a journalist, he files his stories daily to get paid monthly. He does not abandon his cherished profession armed with a portfolio and running mouth and dripping pen to eke a living. In short, Charles may be seen as the jetsam and flotsam of the Nigerian society (an epithet for journalists of Obafemi Awolowo’s fame), yet he does not reap from where he does not sow. The nouveau riche may pose, are they running from pillar to post in search of greener pastures?
FFK may brag that his grandfather and father attended Cambridge University. He may tell those who care to listen that he is more cerebral. He may try to flaunt his family’s wealth as article of enduring achievement in a typical African setting. He may not remember that the Rockefellers and the rest maintain a quiet lifestyle. As the so-called brilliant person bandies these vanities, has he forgotten that he is yet to attain the height or assail the legal sagacity of Chief Gani Fawehinmi who won landmark cases and his legal firm even after his demise is weekly churning out Law Reports used by Nigerian lawyers and beyond? He bagged third class and had no rich family academic pedigree like FFK, but Gani unquestionably attained Olympian height in law practice.
FFK’s visit to Cross River was like a homecoming. Before his visit, FFK had faulted an alleged plan of the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party to take the party structures away from the Governor of Cross Rivers state, Ben Ayade. This might have excited the governor. He was hasty in not finding out that Ayade lost the party’s structure during a State Congress. His words: “It would be a big mistake for the National Working Committee of the PDP to take the party structures in his state away from Ben Ayade, the Governor of Cross Rivers state, and hand them over to anyone else. If this is done and Ayade leaves the party, be rest assured that many of us will leave with him. You cannot and must not undermine a sitting Governor or attempt to humiliate him in his own state and before his people. Some of those that are advocating and behind this nonsense would never allow it to happen in their own states.”
Like sage William Shakespeare once said “He that cometh must be provided for.” FFK is a defender of democracy and Ayade’s fan. Perhaps, the visit to his governor’s friend must have fetched him some undisclosed warts, good hotel accommodation, and rich Efik cuisines. After all, Inyang Nta Henshaw, the late highlife exponent, once sang Ukabare isua enem ke obio Efik meaning “Christmas is well enjoyed in Efik land.” Why? The musician ensconced that all “goodies” are in abundant supply in Calabar. Unfortunately, the visitor got the good and bad sides of the town before he departed.
Well, many people might have seen the loquacity and impudent behavior of FFK as a character flaw. But ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo gave an apt answer. “Femi Fani Kayode is my boy. Provide him food, he will eat and then sing for you. He’s a smart boy.” Despite the misgivings and fumbling of OBJ on the throne, Fan-Kayode never batted his eyes against him nor poured his toothy venoms on the spoilt sport of democracy.
No doubt, he is a smart guy as confirmed by Obasanjo whom he had served as a Minister. In what capacity is the failed politician qualified to go round inspecting projects of governors of oil-rich states? Who made Fani-Kayode a modern-day minister of works or minister of projects? Our governor could shower unmerited courtesies on such a person. Can the governor show such reverence to any Akwa Ibom man or allows him to enjoy the privileges accorded FFK in the name of coming to inspect his projects?
Anyway, he is a smart man. It is nothing but ego trip to massage the non-existent but poor performance of some governors who have been collecting huge allocations from the Federal Government and huge internally generated revenue, yet could not perform. Their citizens are poor and morally depraved and are bereft of social amenities. They are second citizens of rich governments. They are the unemployed of governments that would leave after eight years with fabulous debt profiles.
This is why the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council was hailed by men of good conscience for boycotting FFK’s visit and press briefing in the state on Friday, August 28. The reason was simple: assault on journalists- assault to one is an assault to all. FFK who landed Akwa Ibom soil Thursday, August 27 was given a rousing welcome by Governor Udom Emmanuel. FFK slept in one of the Government Houses in Uyo, not a private hotel. He was ferried in one of the government vehicles and escorted by government officials to project sites.
Reports have it that at a courtesy call, he described Government House, Uyo as one of the best in the country. Was he told that the house was not built by the present administration? He inspected Syringe Metering Company and Green House. At a time, the government officials would pride that the company was built by the government. At another end, the megaphones would say that the company and other 16 others are Public-Private Partnership. Boards of directors are not put in place and shares are not sold. Their ownerships are products of vacuous shadowing. Will FFK issue a report on his visit to the projects? What will the report be used for or by who?
Let it be on notice that the electoral ward of FFK who is holing himself in Lagos is APC dominated. His local government area is APC-manned. His own state- Osun- is APC. Yet, he has the temerity to visit other PDP states to propagate messages and sing PDP eulogies in those states. Even then, will you blame FFK or the governors who are naïve in giving a man without political value in his state the air to breathe in another? Constitutionally, he is entitled to freedom of movement and association as enshrined in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). But what will his mission to states bring to the table of elevated public opinion? Will such put food on the tables of many a famished or challenge some governors to sit up?
Like father, like son, FFK is oozing the smell of his mentor, Obasanjo. He had served him as Special Adviser on Media and Minister of Aviation. He is acting the role of his father-figure also fond of demeaning journalists and denigrating other public figures at will. Insult is FFK’s middle name. FFK has written more incendiary articles and issued more damning statements against President Muhammadu Buhari than any living Nigerian. Knowing that FFK is a rabble-rouser indeed super brat, he has ignored him to wallow in his ignorance of self-adulation.