By FEMI ADESINA
For well over one week, the polity has been suffused with what President Muhammadu Buhari describes as “genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct by men of the Nigeria Police Force.”
And in that period of time too, I have had strident efforts being made to position me as an enemy of the people. Very serious efforts by mean people, who are simply out to generate hatred and animus against other people, for no other reason than Luciferous and pernicious feeling of smug satisfaction.
As a year two undergraduate at the then University of Ife in 1982, one of the texts recommended for us in English Literature class was Enemy of the Public by the Norwegian writer, Henrik Ibsen. I remember traveling from Ile-Ife then to the popular Odusote Bookstores in Ibadan to procure the book, along with some other recommended texts.
The term Enemy of the People originated in Roman times as hostis publicus, which if translated directly means, ‘public enemy,’ someone acting against the larger group, indeed, against society.
Get appointed to serve in an elevated public position in Nigeria, and you automatically face some odium, nay opprobrium. He has joined those who have come to steal our money. He has come to earn fat salary. He is going to be taken care of from the public treasury, while we have to slave and toil before we earn a living. He will be talking to us from a high horse, haughty and huffing, while we look like grasshoppers before him.
They never care what you were, and where you were coming from. Whether you came down several notches in your income in order to serve your country does not matter to them. Did you lobby for the job or not, it does not matter. The moment you get appointed into government position, you are poised to become an enemy of the people.
The first salvo came on Sunday from a suicide fake journalist who plies his trade with an online rag called Peoples Gazette. He published that President Muhammadu Buhari was to have approved the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) the previous Friday, but had been prevailed upon not to do so by his spokesman, Femi Adesina. That happens to be me, and the information was coming to me as a piece of virulent, hateful news.
Again, the hatchet job masquerading as a news item , added that I convinced the President not to ever surrender the sovereignty of government to ‘Twitter warriors,’ whatever that means.
Further, it said because of my anti-people convictions, I had issued a statement against the EndSARS protesters, which had received wide condemnation from the general public.
Several falsities stood out from the supposed news story. One, what the reporter claimed never happened. That I prevailed on President Buhari not to scrap SARS must have existed only in his fecund but diseased imagination. What truth did that information rest on? None. Was I or anybody else spoken with to authenticate the supposed information? Not at all. It clearly failed the test of objectivity, which every good news story must pass.
Then, the report said I had issued a statement against EndSARS protests, which had received wide condemnation. Where, when, how? By that date, I had not said a word, either privately or publicly against the public marches. Any decent journalist would have checked, and quoted the date and content of such statement, if it ever existed.
But the journalist from hell simply published lies against me, not obeying dictates of the noble profession. And because we are in the age of the digital media, characterized by riot and recklessness, people began to share the evil, fake story. The plot to turn me into an enemy of the people was in full motion.
I issued a rejoinder to the fake story by an equally fake reporter, rebutting all his claims. A number of people believed me. But an equally large number of people refused to believe, and continued to share and purvey the evil report. Why not? Some people revel in merely believing the worst about other people, and no superior argument would ever convince them. Of course, Barrabas the murderer was preferred against Jesus in Bible days.
Let me tell you about my minimal contact with this non-credible, notorious purveyor of fake reports, who now publishes the online Peoples Gazette. He used to work for Premium Times, which is one of the more professional online newspapers we have. Over the past five years since I came to serve in government, he had called me up a number of times in the attempt to balance stories. I would give him the side of government, particularly the Presidency. But whenever the stories came out, he would have twisted them to serve his whims and other pre-determined ends. What would be published would in no way look like what I had told him, yet he would credit such to me.
He did it once, I thought it was happenstance. He did it the second time, I thought it was coincidence. When he did it the third time, I then knew it was deliberate enemy action.
I called up his editor, Musikiliu Mojeed, and pleaded that whenever his medium had anything to confirm or crosscheck with me, he should please send a saner and more professional journalist.
It’s that same raggedy reporter that has now become the Publisher of Peoples Gazette. A veritable danger to today and tomorrow, now a Publisher. Shame! Online journalism takes all sorts-the thief, the liar, the pimp, the pen assassin, and all sorts of villains. At the touch of a button, they just attempt to set on fire. They set out to incinerate names, reputations, society, the country, and if possible, humanity itself. Thy glory oh journalism is slain upon the high places. How are the mighty fallen!
There was yet another attempt to position me as an enemy of the public on Wednesday, this week. On August 6, this year, I had appeared on Sunrise Daily, the early morning program of Channels Television. Topic of discussion was a rally the previous day, organized by the Revolution Now group. That rally, meant to torpedo the normal order of society, attracted just a handful of people, who showed clean pair of heels the moment security agents approached.
I was asked how the Presidency felt about the rally. I said it was a non-event, mere irritation caused by a handful of lily-liveried people who vanished as soon as they saw the police.
But on Wednesday, a hidden hostile hand, son of perdition, took a video of the interview, edited it, and made it seem as if I was reacting to the extant EndSARS protests. All hell broke loose online, with people mouthing maledictions and curses against me. Well such things have ways of returning to the sender, so it didn’t bother me. A curse shall not alight without a cause, says that Book of Books.
I am happy that Channels Television was professional enough to issue a prompt clarification. It published that what was being made to look like a fresh interview had been done well over two months earlier. Thanks.
Those who wanted to, believed the television station. A large number chose not to, and bombarded my phone lines with curses, expletives, and messages from the pit of hell. Well, if anybody chooses to belong to that nether region, it’s a matter of choice.
Talking of bombardment of my phone lines, it had begun on Sunday. A hateful mind had published my two numbers on Twitter, urging people to troll me. They called till the phone batteries went dead. Mum was the word from me. “He was reviled, but responded not,” that is what the Good Book said of my master, the one I try to pattern my life after. So, I said not a word to any of the callers.
The flurry of hateful calls was petering out on Wednesday when the doctored video was launched. All hell broke loose again. My two lines began to ring simultaneously, all bearing hateful messages, laced with threats. Still, mum was the word from me. No reviling for reviling, just as my Master would have done. We try to walk in His steps, despite our occasional failings, as mere mortals.
Now, why do I think people try to demonize those in government, and bring them down? Many reasons. Evil hearts. The heart of man is evil, and desperately wicked. If you are in any form of elevated position, they would love to see you fall. Man is in a fallen state, and the more they see you bite the dust, the happier they are.
As spokesman to the President, they have told themselves you were lying before you opened your mouth to talk. Ask them to mention one lie told to them in five years, and they then begin to look like fools, people with addled minds.
Again, envy consumes them. Why should he be presidential spokesman, and I can’t be? Does he have two heads? Why should he be earning that fat pay (lol, very fat, indeed, as fat as Super Dee of Africa) and I am not the one earning it? Why should he live in government quarters, ride official cars fueled and serviced by government (how I wish it happens), and generally be impervious to the hardship in town? Envy turns to malice, and they get consumed by ill will.
Again, in my own case, they say, why is he so loyal to his boss? Why is he not joining us to malign and hate him? Yes, I love President Buhari, and I’ve done so since 1984 when he became military head of state. And till China joins to Africa, I will love him. “The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone,” Ibsen wrote in Enemy of the People. Yes, millions of people love President Buhari passionately, but in the unlikely event that the number will dwindle to ten or less, count me in the number of those that remain. Whether I serve in government or not, Buhari is my man. That is why I wear my best trousers to serve him, though Ibsen wrote that “you should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.” I’m wearing mine.
Some people want me to join them to hate the President. It would never happen. Not in this world, or the next. I have picked my own hero, let them pick theirs. So, they try to bring me down, but the more they try, the higher they see me on the mountain top.
In my first month as Special Adviser to the President, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto had come to the Presidential Villa. I had known him long before then, and he calls me Kulikulii, which is my email address, which I’d chosen for some comic relief.
The Sultan said on that day: “Kulikulii, you have come to do a most difficult job, a thankless job. See what happened to those before you. That is the way people will want you to end. But if the work was thankless for others, for you, it won’t be so.”
The Sultan was prophesying, and I said a resounding amen, thanked him, and left. I’ve not forgotten that encounter, and sure won’t.
So, for all those trying to bring me down, to make me an enemy of the people, are you not striving in vain? For who Jah bless, no man curse, sang Bob Marley. The food seller can only eye a toad hopping by, the toad can never end in her soup pot.
For the fake journalist, and all those who shared his evil report, that person who doctored the Channels TV interview to generate hate, and all those who besieged me with virulent phone calls and text messages, I can only say: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity