Editor's note: Respected journalist and public affairs analyst, Haruna Abdullahi writes on the intense criticisms that have trailed recent comments of presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina. Adesina, a veteran journalist, made some comments recently, which irked a lot of Nigerians.
Mr Femi Adesina, special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, has come under intense criticisms in recent times for projecting the image of his principal positively and for confronting the reckless bashers of the Buhari presidency in a no-holds-barred engagement. Their aim is to run him out of town so he won't have the guts to do the job he was appointed for excellently.
To start with, most of the criticisms are quite misplaced, irrational and off tangent in the sense that a lot of them are based on baseless emotions and jejune sentiments that cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with the facts, figures, sound reasoning and logic reeled out in Adesina's essays and pronouncements on a close scrutiny. Genuine and purpose-driven criticisms are welcome, no doubt. But when criticisms are more of lies, mudslinging and name-calling, it's not out of place to confront the purveyors of such lest they set the public against the Buhari government.
Left for Adesina alone, such criticisms are hazards that come with the job of being a spokesperson to the President of a country of over 200m people. It's arduous and thankless work. So, he is generally unperturbed by the hotshots and ballistic volleys he gets most especially from social media users in the country.
Be that as it is, a lot of his bitter critics- most of them are cynics anyway- often miss one fact in their acerbic criticism of the former editor and ex-president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors: they often forget that he is simply doing his job which requires that no matter how foggy a situation is, he must always burnish the image of his principal positively.
In all my years of listening to, reading and analyzing presidential spokespersons home and abroad, I have never seen when a spokesperson speaks or writes against his principal in the public. Not even those who speak for outright dictators and established autocrats! So, how exactly do some folks expect Adesina to come out in the open and say or write something that is detrimental to the name and image of the man he serves as his image-maker? Impossicant!
Of a truth, lots of those lambasting him for simply doing his job will most certainly do worse than him should they find themselves in the same position as the soft-spoken veteran journalist and prose stylist. He does not buckle under intense pressure nor will he suffer fools gladly. And as with all impassioned journalists, he maintains utmost fidelity to facts and truth no matter how inconveniencing it may be. This characteristic of his is what a lot of his abusers can't stand.
Take for instance Adesina's position that the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) lied by saying Boko Haram was killing more Christians than Muslims, a claim that can actually ignite a religious war in the country. Or that the Buhari government is deliberately conniving with the insurgents to kill Christians! Sad and regrettable as the killing of any Nigerian by the murderous insurgents may be, the fact remains that no one has done a clinical identification of those killed so far on the basis of the religions they profess to actually determine whether more Christians or Muslims have been killed by Boko Haram. So, how did CAN come up with the spurious claim? Pathetic as this may also be, I can't recall CAN making the same unscientific claim in the immediate past administration of former President Good luck Jonathan. Much as Christians have been killed, Muslims have also been killed. Even Nigerians of other faiths aside the two dominant religions and even those without faith have been killed. The coldest species of humans are the Nigerian Christians and Muslims who collate and tabulate the deaths of their members and run to town comparing who has more or fewer casualties. A people that is only moved by immediate loss and not of the collective is a people far from the image of God.
Do you even need to be a Muslim or Christian to condemn the extermination of any life? We are humans first before we are religious. Anyone who moves around looking for who has and hasn't condemned any life callously snuffed by any criminal is himself not far from the killers. Humans should be united in the loss of humans.
Time we extricate ourselves from the disguise of being religious and come out very plain in our bigoted and jaundiced selves.
Another irrefutable fact that has seen Adesina come under severe criticism is his stance that Boko Haram terrorists have been less murderous than they were prior to 2015. This is an inconvenient truth to the People's Democratic Party and its diehards' majority of whom Adesina's latest bashers are. The figures are in the public domain to ascertain his position on this issue. The facts are also strong enough to pooh-pooh the claim of those who say Boko Haram has killed more people under the administration than its predecessor in office.
The northeast was practically grounded prior to the ascension of President Buhari to power in the historic election of 2015 due to the everyday activities of the insurgents. Today, they operate marginally carrying out a sort of guerrilla attacks unlike in those days when they would annex a town and hoist their flag to show that the town had been conquered in a show of superior power. People living in Abuja were in perpetual fear as the insurgents had already gained entrance into the city. The Nyanya bomb blast is a pointer to this fact. What about the UN bombing or the attempt to kill the then Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Rigim? Such fear no longer exists due to improved security in the FCT. Borno, the epicentre of the Insurgency, is gradually coming back to life. People who hitherto abandoned their homes have returned and returning up till now.
So it beats one's imagination how exactly Adesina's critics and cynics don't want him to say or write about these obvious facts. Working with the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces also privileges him to have some access to classified intelligence information which no doubt will form some of the premises of his public interventions. How many of his critics in the public square will have access to such information?
The primary responsibility of any government is the security and welfare of the people. The people elected Buhari and reelected in 2015 and 2019 to secure their lives and property. These the President must do whichever way that's constitutional he may deem fit. That said, the fact that there are security lapses here and there across the country does not mean that Adesina won't deploy facts and truth to defend his principal and project him in good stead. Luckily, he is made of sterner stuff and I don't ever think he will cave in under criticisms.
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