Femi Adesina: So what?

Femi Adesina: So what?

Saturday, May 23, 2020 2:55 am


Professor Ibrahim Gambari, left; Femi Adesina, top right and Chief Duro Onabule

By Duro Onabule

Poor chap, adviser on media affairs to President Muhammadu Buhari, whose appointment of a new chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, offered the opportunity for those with latent vested interests to pounce on Adesina.

The man’s offence, according to his critics, was that, wayback in 2005, he (Adesina) faulted Gambari for defending the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa by the military administration of the late General Sani Abacha. Saro Wiwa was tried for the murder of political rival in Ogoniland, Dr. G.B. Leyton, and some supporters. Saro Wiwa preferred open agitation for redressing the plight of Ogoni people while his rivals, the most prominent of whom was Dr. Leyton, opted for peaceful dialogue with Federal Government authorities. It was not clear how it happened but the fact of history was that Dr. Leyton and not a few of his associates were murdered obviously for their political beliefs. Any responsible government must, therefore, take measures to stem such violence.

As rivals, it was not unexpected that Saro Wiwa and some associates were the first suspects and duly arrested. They were, therefore, fighting for their lives. So, fellow Nigerian elites saw in Saro Wiwa one of their own being persecuted for his political views and activities, rather than a criminal murder suspect, rightly or wrongly. Saro Wiwa, innocently, if not stupidly, played along instead of seriously defending himself against possible death sentence. Throughout the trial, Saro Wiwa was never serious as he joked, teased and ridiculed and derided his “oppressors” as the trial progressed.

The defence did not help matters by trivialising a murder trial to go their way or they would withdraw. Indeed, in one moment of unseriousness, the defence withdrew and abandoned Saro Wiwa and his co-accused to their fate. Foolishly, I believed, for a man with his life at stake. Day of judgment came. Saro Wiwa and other accused except one were condemned to death.  Despite the double risk Saro Wiwa and his defence team took, still nobody ever thought the death sentence would be carried out, if only because of Saro Wiwa’s fame in the literary world.

Days later, a routine meeting of General Sani Abacha’s Provisional Ruling Council was summoned for Aso Villa, Abuja, and if any sensational news was expected, it was that the death sentences on Saro Wiwa and co-convicts had been commuted. On the contrary, a senior army officer, General Victor Malu, emerged at the end of the meeting and without any sentiments, somewhat nonchallantly, more like a passing remark, shocked the world that all the death sentences had been ratified. There was outrage all over the world largely because, even in Nigeria and the outside world, not much was known about the murder of  Dr. Leyton and supporters, the crime for which Saro Wiwa and friends were convicted.

This was the very unpleasant task, which, as Nigeria’s ambassador at the United Nations, Gambari had to explain to the outside world. It was such a cheap opportunity for the elite agitators to take to the streets. But Gambari had a job to do to explain his boss to the world. That was the context in which Femi Adesina had to criticise Gambari. Was he the only one, even among Buhari’s today’s associates who criticised Ibrahim Gambari and General Abacha on Saro Wiwa? Has Gambari complained to anybody about Femi Adesina? These critics are frustrated and envious. Neither should Adesina bother himself. He was appointed and re-appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

By the way, when it mattered most and everybody threw darts at Buhari,  the lot fell on Adesina as one of the countable few on the very harsh Lagos/Ibadan dangerous press axis who fought Buhari’s  cause. Throughout Buhari’s three unsuccessful attempts at the presidency (2003, 2007 and 2011), the picture was the same until Buhari won the presidency in 2015. That was the basis of Femi Adesina’s present solid profile.

In similar vein, Ibrahim Gambari had been with Buhari since 1984 as Nigeria’s foreign minister. If, therefore, Femi Adesina and Ibrahim Gambari coalesce today as Buhari’s aides, who could be more complementary in Buhari’s administration? Both are serving Buhari, the only boss in Aso Villa.

Femi Adesina was critical of Ibrahim Gambari in yesteryears and, today, are close colleagues in President Buhari’s administration. There is even a bigger fish in that mould. This is even straight from the horse’s mouth, about which Femi Adesina might not have noticed.

Predictably, Femi’s critics did not know or mischievously (still) pretend not to know. To whom is Chief Bisi Akande next in rank in their APC? Akande is on record in an inerview that, before the fusion of political to form APC, he did not know much about Buhari and was severely critical of the man, a reservation about which Buhari might not even know. According to Bisi Akande, Buhari had an international engagement at Imperial College, London. Innocently, Buhari, before his election as President, invited Chief Bisi Akande to accompany him to the London engagement. That short trip converted Chief Akande about the man, Buhari.

Should Bisi Akande, on account of his past criticism or even low opinion of Buhari, be unqualified for political collaboration with Buhari? Shikena.

-Onabule, Chairman of the Board of NTA was former Chief Press Secretary to President Babangida

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