FANI-KAYODE, ODI AND IYOBOSA'S DIRTY LIES
My attention has been drawn to an article written by Iyobosa Uwugiaren who is a columnist for the Leadership newspaper. The article was titled ''Odi-Who Is Listening To Fani-Kayode'' and it was published on Wednesday 21st November, 2012. The article was not only insulting but it fell far below the standard that we have come to expect from one of the most powerful and influential newspapers on the African continent which Leadership is fast becoming. It is fair to say that anyone, particularly a columnist in such a respected newspaper, can support or not support the Jonathan administration as he or she sees fit. However when it gets to a point that such a columnist resorts to lies in order to impress those that commissioned him to do a hatchet job, it becomes a matter for concern.
Iyobosa said many things in his article and touched on many areas in a futile attempt to rubbish Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, the former spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was also Minister for Culture and Tourism and later Minister for Aviation under the Obasanjo administration. His deceit and lack of understanding of various issues and his hatred and contempt for Chief Fani-Kayode, who he had the temerity to call President Obasanjo's ''attack dog-in-chief'' and refer to by his first name throughout the write-up as if they were the same age or on the same level, was nauseating. Surely a columnist that is worth his salt can disagree with a man without continously manifesting his hatred for him. The fact of the matter is that whether Iyobosa likes Fani-Kayode or not he is a man that ought to be respected given the fact that he once held a very high public office in the land, he has been involved in partisan politics for over 22 years and he is still a very strong, relevant and influential voice in the affairs of Nigeria. Whether the columnist cares to admit it or not tomorrow belongs to people like Fani-Kayode and many listen to him, read his write-ups religiously and swear by him till today. Probably more than any of Obasanjo's former Minister's and aides today, with the possible exception of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who wears the crown as the unofficial ''leader of the opposition'' in Nigeria, Fani-Kayode has continued to find relevance and has continued to make an impact on our national affairs even four years after leaving public office.
He has also become a thorn in the side of the Goodluck Jonathan administration even though his attacks on them have been less scathing than El Rufai's. However given recent events and the contribution that Fani-Kayode has just made on President Obasanjo's behalf on the Odi issue, it is clear that this may well change now and that Fani-Kayode may begin to be even more combative than he has already been in the last two years. This is not good news for President Jonathan's government because the former Minister has often been described by both his friends and his enemies as an ''exocet missile'' and something of an Achilles in battle. He never misses his target and he wages a good war. The next few weeks and months will prove this and as 2015 approaches the attempt by the Jonathan administration to discredit, discourage and silence the voices of all those that oppose them, oftentimes by using the security agencies and willing tools like Iyobosa, will undoubtedly fail.
The mundane issues that the columnist raised in his article about Fani-Kayode's tenure of office as the Senior Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on Public Affairs are hardly worthy of a response other than to say that Chief Fani-Kayode dutifully and rightly defended and joined issues with all of President Obasanjo's traducers in the right and proper manner when he was in government because, for three years, that is what he was paid to do. If Iyobosa cannot make a distinction between "abuse" and ''insulting'' on the one hand and "joining issues" and "defending" on the other then he surely needs to go back to school. He claimed that Fani-kayode had responded to Col.Abubakar Umar, Professor Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chief S.B. Awoniyi and many others by "abusing" and "insulting" them yet he did not produce the evidence of the so-called "abuse" and neither did he tell us what these distinguished gentlemen said about President Obasanjo that resulted in a forceful response from Fani-Kayode. It is so interesting that those that are ready to give out punches are not ready to receive them back. It is only in Nigeria that a man will throw a brick at his President and tell lies about him and yet that same man complains when he gets a pebble of truth or a brick thrown back at him in return. Was Fani-Kayode supposed to clap for Obasanjo's enemies and critics? Was he supposed to be their cheerleaders? I doubt it very much and as far as I am concerned the former Minister needs to offer no apology to the likes of Iyobosa or anyone else for doing his job properly and effectively.
Again the writer took issue with Fani-Kayode's response to President Goodluck Jonathan on the Odi issue and it is clear that his submission lacked any form of logic or sense. If Iyobosa is looking for a job in the Jonathan administration he should just say so instead of coming up with all sorts of embarassingly shallow submissions. President Goodluck Jonathan claimed that Odi was a disaster and that nothing good came out of it and President Obasanjo, through his former spokesman and Minister, responded to him and said that he was wrong. He also gave his reasons, in a very restrained and polite way, as to why he believed that this was so. Why do people like Iyobosa find that so hard to accept, bear or understand? Does he expect everyone to agree with Jonathan all the time? Is Nigeria now a police state where dissent has no place? Must he villify those that do not agree with Jonathan's version of historical events in his column and must he turn it into a personal issue? Do people like Iyabosa expect Obasanjo and his loyalists to keep quiet when the President of Nigeria publically accuses them of mass murder and war crimes?
Even Jonathan-lovers like him can surely appreciate the fact that it is always important to set the record straight when the President is wrong on any issue. This is all the more so when the same President resorts to telling lies about the man who single-handedly lifted him up from the obscurity of Bayelsa State Deputy Governor and made him Governor, Vice President and later President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Fani-Kayode did not at any point give the impression that he relished in the fact that innocent lives were lost or that there was any collateral damage. All he did was make the simple point that the action in Odi was effective and that it resulted in the reduction of the killings of our security personnel in the Niger Delta area by at least 90 per cent when compared to what had been going on in the previous 7 years before Obasanjo came to power. Had it not been for Odi thousands more of our soldiers and policemen would have been murdered in the Niger Delta area by the militants through Obasanjo's 8 years in office. That is a fact and that fact puts a lie to the asssertion by President Jonathan that Odi had ''not achieved it's objectives'' and that it was ''a disaster''.
As much as it is clear that Obasanjo made many mistakes during his tenure of office it is also clear that one of the things that he got right was his strong response to the insurgency and killings of our security personnel and civilian population by the Niger Delta area militants and their brutal form of terrorism. Obasanjo was decisive and very effective when it came to the war against terror which is far more than any of us can say about President Goodluck Jonathan. Fani-Kayode made this point eloquently in his response to Mr. President and who can possibly fault that? The fact that Jonathan's weakness, cowardice and total capitulation in the face of Boko Haram has led to 3000 deaths in the last two years in our country does not appear to bother Iyobosa. The fact that churches are regularly bombed and innocent people are targetted and slaughtered on a daily basis up until today by the dreaded sect, whilst those in government just spend their time drinking champagne, means nothing to the Iyobosa's of this world. The fact that Jonathan's government cannot stop the killing or fight the terrorists effectively is something that matters not to people like our esteemed columnist. He just doesn't seem to care.
I really do wonder how many more people need to die before people like him will stop their shameless worship of Jonathan and instead speak out against and condemn the total abdication of his primary duty and responsibility of providing security and protection for the people of Nigeria? Instead of addressing the obvious inability of the Jonathan administration to handle the Boko Haram insurgency it is Fani-Kayode and Obasanjo that he seems to be obsessed with. Since when has objectivity and decency been thrown out of the window by some of our columnists in this way? How is it that Iyobosa will lament about Odi and yet will not even spare one sentence for those that have been massacred by Boko Haram under Jonathan's watch. Is it because he is from the Niger Delta area himself? Is the blood of those that have been killed in the north by Boko Haram not as red as the blood of his own Niger Delta area people? So blinded is this columnist that he could not even bring himself to urge the Federal Government to do a better job in fighting Boko Haram and protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
Whatever it is that motivates Iyobosa to behave in this way is known only to God and him and neither does it matter one way or the other. This is because in the scheme of things he is just a minor figure and his opinion carries little relevance. Yet the truth is that when even minor figures tell lies they must be responded to and the record must be set straight. Let us look at just one of those lies. Iyabosi claimed that sometime in 2006 Fani-Kayode went to the home of Chief Sunday Awoniyi to "beg him and prostrate before him" after ''insulting'' him for Obasanjo. He also said that he told Chief Awoniyi that if Obasanjo asked him to ''insult'' him again he would do so. This is an insidious and pernicious lie.
It is falsehood and fabrication in it's purest form. I say this this because this event never happened. Chief Fani-Kayode never "begged" Chief S.B. Awoniyi and neither did he ever ''go to his house'' or ''prostrate before him''. I spoke to the Chief himself and asked him and this is what he told me. He also treated Iyobosa's claims with the derision that they deserve suggesting that the young man is ''best ignored''. In any case anyone that knows Fani-Kayode will tell you that it is not in his nature to "beg" anyone and that, whether you agree with him or not on any issue, he often stands his ground and at least has the courage of his convictions. His relationship with the Awoniyi family goes much further back than the likes of Iyabosa can possibly imagine. The late Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, Fani-Kayode's father, who was Deputy Premier of the Western Region and who was a Regional Minister himself, was exceptionally close to Chief S.B. Awoniyi from the early 60's right up until the day he passed on in 1995.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode himself was also close to Chief Awoniyi and worked under him in 1996 during the days of the defunct political association called ANC which Awoniyi led. From that time, and until the day that he died, Awoniyi took Fani-Kayode as his own son and often prayed for him. Where were people like Iyobosa at that time? The only time that Awoniyi and Fani-Kayode ever disagreed or parted ways was when there was a division of opinion between President Obasanjo and the elderstatesman and naturally Fani-Kayode sided with his boss. Yet In doing so he did not "insult" or "abuse" Awoniyi, as Iyobosa has alleged, but he responded to his criticisms of the Obasanjo administration in a concise, logical and forceful manner. Was it a crime for Fani-Kayode to defend the Government that he served and to speak up for his principal? Is that too much for Iyobosa to bear?
Yet this is not the first time that the columnist has done this. He insulted the former Minister and fabricated lies about him a few years ago in the same manner and accused him of all manner of things even then. This was in the same Leadership newspaper that he still writes for till today. Yet those of us that know, love and respect Fani-Kayode ignored him at the time because we knew that he was motivated by nothing but malice.
This time around we will not ignore him. We will let Nigerians know the truth. Iyobosa is entitled to have any opinion that he wants about Fani-Kayode and he can disagree with him on any issue and no-one will lose any sleep over it. What he does not have the right to do is to lie about him and fabricate fanciful and far-fetched fairy tales in an attempt to demean him. The journalists say that "facts are sacred and opinion is cheap". When a columnist who writes for one of the most respected newspapers in Nigeria attempts to pass off a lie as a sacred fact it really is worrying. The fact of the matter is that Fani-Kayode never even met with or set his eyes on Chief S.B. Awoniyi from 2004 right up until the day that the elderstatesman died, let alone "beg" him or "prostrate" before him in 2006.
There is a certain level of decency that is expected of senior journalists like Iyobosa and frankly his article falls well below that level. He can hate Fani-Kayode as much as he wants, just as others love him to high heavens, but he should not use his column to disparage him, to settle personal scores and to tell cheap lies.