IN the course of my journalism career, I have had more than a brush with national and international security organs, because a couple of the encounters weren’t slight. In fact, on a particular occasion, it was a matter of life and death. A proverbial Good Samaritan tipped the back of my head and I melted into a space. When the back and forth between President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), Bashir Abubakar and Olalekan Adetayo of Punch began, I dispassionately monitored events, though the outcome is predictable. With my understanding of such scenario and regardless of who is actually right or wrong, Punch would have to withdraw this reporter from the Villa to prevent probable “accident” that may cost more than his career. I’m not conjecturing anything here and I have not said anyone is going to go after anybody. I have no such information too. But before you accuse me of scare-mongering, why don’t you ask if it happened to me. Yes and though that moment had international dimension to it, but for God, I could be history by now. My point here is: lead us not into temptation is better than deliver us from evil.
Should Punch replace Lekan or cancel Aso Rock beat from its schedule? The decision of the management would definitely be final but I have a few words, judging the past with the present. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the current administration could be objectively adjudged the most choleric of the quartet. None of the three before it had also been as truculent as it is. None equally used the nation’s security apparatus to fight both personal and official battles against both real and imagined enemies, like this administration.
While the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo had a black-book page in using EFCC to muzzle political opponents, the way every security organisation has gone haywire under Buhari would make Obasanjo’s sins look like mis-recorded saintly deeds. My main encounters with the security agencies were under Obasanjo. My former Bureau Chief in Abuja, Alhaji Yemi Giwa, now a practising lawyer-cum-politician, was also expelled from Villa under Obasanjo. Beyond asking Alhaji to quit Obasanjo’s temporary backyard in Aso Rock, there were no messy odds and ends as being witnessed in Adetayo’s case, if my memory serves me well.
Yes, I was interviewed by different security agencies during Obasanjo’s administration. There was even an international security debriefing over a particular story. But the operational mode, style and delivery of security agencies in this era, have broken all barriers in decency.
Recorded intercepted conversations among opposition elements have found their ways into the stable of mercantile media and “pink” journalism. I doubt if the condemnable behavioural pattern has anything to do with Buhari’s military background. The pattern looks more like a mindset, deliberately constructed to achieve an age-long desire. Buhari doesn’t appear to like the media much, though footages of him, especially when aboard aircraft, depicted a voracious consumer of media menu.
Despite having a sweet tooth for what the media has to serve, he obviously doesn’t like the media messing up with him, Actually, nobody does, but both the listed and unspoken codes govern different spaces and once you get into certain spaces, the discomfort such codes bring must be coped with. The option is, break the code and face consequences.
In a democracy, the man on the street is king. It used not to be in Nigeria but the awareness is spreading like a wildfire. Giving the huge trust chasm between the governed and their leaders, the media, which should ideally be in the middle, is seen as the people’s most effective weapon against the leaders, generally seen as selfish and oppressive.
It becomes difficult gagging media in such a scenario without appearing as people’s public enemy number one. Even when you have a good case to pursue against the media, the tact and maturity to employ, would be of higher value than trying to help a famous king kill a mosquito perching on his chin.
That is where the CSO missed it. The Punch fellow may not have been completely correct in his ways with the meltdown, but Bashir walked straight into the age-long whipping-boy sentiment in favour of the media and he is being mercilessly whipped for his ignorance.
From experience, it is likely some Adetayo’s colleagues in the Villa, were egging the security fellow on, providing unsolicited consultancy. But Bashir should have known by now that the tips from “inside” had achieved exactly the opposite of his intention. After the leak of his internal memo to the media, obviously by his self-appointed minders among the Villa correspondents, he completely lost any form of public sympathy and became a full-blown villain. He was wrong insisting that Adetayo remain banned when the president’s image-makers and his boss Lawan Daura asked for Adetayo’s return.
But the truth is, either of them would have to leave that terrain. I will advise Adetayo to still opt out even if Bashir is recalled to the Yellow House. The Punch man is a marked man and he should be wise not to listen to those who would ask him to dare and see what “Buhari and his men can do.” When Obasanjo sent Tribune’s man packing, the decision was never to replace. Villa was covered from outside and heavens didn’t fall.
Is it possible Bashir was running his own errand? Maybe, maybe not. But before you will say your boss doesn’t tolerate roast banana, you must have seen him spew it out on a number of occasions, Even as president-elect, AIT was sent packing. Why not now?