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How Adedayo, Abubakar lost opportunities over ‘anti-government’ comments

Barely 24 hours after Senate President Ahmed Lawan appointed his media aide, he announced the withdrawal of same, in what will go down as one of most short-lived appointments in history. On June 18, Senate President Lawan appointed Festus Adedayo as his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity,  the man to lead his media team as he pilots the affairs of the 9th Assembly, both as President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly.

The statement by Betty Okoh, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Administration, conveying the appointments of Festus Adedayo and some others, said they “were made based on merit, experience, track record and competence”.

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But just as Festus Adedayo was still taking in the news of the appointment and congratulatory messages were still pouring in, the appointment was withdrawn.

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Two days after the appointment, on June 20, a statement from the Office of the Senate President, said the appointment had been reviewed.

The statement was signed by Mohammed Isa, Special Assistant to the Senate President on Media and Publicity.

It stated, “The Office of the President of the Senate has reviewed the appointment of Mr Festus Adedayo as Special Adviser, Media and Publicity and decided to rescind its decision. The Office “wish Mr Adedayo the best in his future endeavours.’’

It was gathered that the prominent columnist, Adedayo, who holds a Doctorate degree in Political Communication and has worked as a media adviser to former governors of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, and Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, was not dropped due to lack of competence or experience; rather, he was consumed by the very words he had uttered and columns he wrote in the past.

Shortly after the appointment was announced, there was outcry by some persons and groups challenging it. They also launched a campaign on the Social Media tagged, #sackfestus adedayo.

The outcry was led by the Buhari Media Organisation and some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who insisted that Adedayo was an “anti-Buhari media personality.’’  They basically accused Lawan of rewarding President Muhammadu Buhari’s enemies.

Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that, unable to take the pressure, the Senate President, after a meeting between himself and some key members of the Red Chamber, decided to withdraw the appointment.

Adedayo, in some of his columns, had called out the President Buhari administration.

In one of his articles titled “Who will be Nigeria’s last president?”Adedayo criticised Federal Government’s decision to establish a radio station “principally devoted to Fulani herdsmen.”

“I have this hunch that by the time President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office after his second term, there may either be no Nigeria as properly so called or the nagging questions of our existence would have led to the ultimate violent resolution of our identity and leadership crises,” he wrote.

In another piece written before the 2019 general elections, the Ibadan-based journalist flayed the trial of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, describing it as a plot by the president to return to office.

“Buhari’s recourse to spitting on the constitution he swore to uphold, his desperation for a second term, as well as that of the hawks surrounding him – in whose veins blood does not flow – will certainly drag Nigeria towards Cote d’Ivoire and land Buhari on the laps of Gbagbo.

“If Chief Justice Onnoghen is guilty of all those fabulous allegations levelled against him, he certainly deserves to rot in the hottest part of hell. But Buhari does not have the constitutional power to sack him,” he wrote.

Reacting to the withdrawal of his appointment, Adedayo stated, “Of a truth, I am a venomous critic of President Muhammadu Buhari, with no apologies. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Adams Oshiomhole, Ibikunle Amosu, Bukola Saraki and several others have been on the receiving end of the unkind temper of my pen.

“What those who are vilifying me for always writing against government should have done was to rise from their laziness and conduct an x-ray of my writing. In my close to 20 years of public sphere intervention …I believe that government should reflect the highest moral echelon of the society and those who run it should make covenant of chastity and fidelity with themselves.”

He added that he would not bear grudges against those who made him lose the job, saying, “Lawan will be my model of a good Nigerian forever, and Nigerian politicians have a lot to learn from that gentleman and his politics of blindness to tribe and political party affiliation.”

It took Senate President Lawan over three weeks to appoint a new media aide as Adedayo’s replacement. Ola Awoniyi was announced only last week.

In Kaduna State, another appointment was truncated, even before it could see the light of day, over “anti-government comments.” This time, it was a commissioner nominee. Aliyu Abubakar was on the second list of nominees consisting of three names sent by Governor Nasir el-Rufai to the state Assembly for screening and confirmation. The governor had earlier sent a list of 11 nominees. Like his fellow nominees, penultimate Thursday, he went to the Assembly for the exercise.

It was gathered that Abubakar, who is from Kauru Local Government Area of the state, had fully prepared for likely questions that would be thrown his way and how he would proffer answers that would ensure his confirmation as Commissioner for Agriculture, and by extension, a seat in the State Executive Council. What he did not prepare for, however, was the real issue that would confront him – his past.  He was said to have been criticising el-Rufai’s policies on his Facebook handle since 2017.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Aminu Shagali, who presided over the sitting, particularly accused Abubakar of criticising el-Rufai’s policies on education, especially on the disengagement of unqualified teachers. It would be recalled that in January, 2018, Governor El-Rufai sacked about 22,000 teachers, who he said were unqualified for the job.

Addressing the nominee at the sitting, the Speaker said, “In your Facebook account, you said there was nothing like making Kaduna State great again; it is a deceptive cliché used by politicians to deceive the masses. We should make Kaduna great at the appropriate time. It is a responsibility for those who are truly sincere not for those who are inherently sarcastic.

“You also said El-Rufai must learn to tackle issues with human face. You also said you were an advocate of change that goes to the root, not only the symptoms.

“You also said in the same post, ‘Stop comparing me with El-Rufai who thinks he is more intelligent than intelligence itself”’.

After his ‘past sins were reeled out’, the House unanimously rejected the nominee.

Speaking with journalists after the session, the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Alhaji Tanimu Musa, said, “The evil that men do lives after them. Jaafaru has been a critic of this administration on the social media. He has been criticising the government. So why do you want to work with the government you have been criticising?”

Speaking on the issue, Dr. Shehu Mustapha Liberty, the Head of the Department of Political Science, University of Maiduguri, and director in charge of Partnerships, Linkages, and Alumni Affairs, also at the institution, flayed the development, saying it was bad for the nation’s democracy.

He maintained that people should not be judged based on their positions on issues.

“Every Nigerian should be allowed to air his or her views in a democratic dispensation.  If the issues are libellous or defamatory, they can be handled separately. But it is totally wrong to judge someone because he or she criticised someone in government or had a contrary view on certain issues,” he said.

He maintained that people must be allowed to speak as long as they are guided by extant laws.

He maintained that appointments should be based on competence and that dropping an appointee or a nominee because he held a certain position at some point amounts to “taking partisanship too far.” The comments, though not what the government wants to hear, may have been made in good faith and in the interest of the nation.”

“In the case of the Senate President, I feel he should have insisted on keeping the media aide he appointed. He shouldn’t have given in to pressure. If he had made it clear that whatever Adedayo said or wrote were his (Adedayo) personal opinions and that the man is qualified for the job, he would have sent a good signal for the future.   And in the case of the Kaduna nominee, it was ridiculous.  The Assembly should have gone ahead and screened him.  In fact, they should have used the opportunity to ask him questions on those comments he made and what he thinks El-Rufai should have done differently.”

Dr Liberty noted that through criticisms some policies are amended to better serve the people. He said a democratic government should encourage as many views as possible as that will help it to formulate policies that would improve the lives of the people.

He said that all over the world, opposition figures are not shut out, adding that in some cases, they are brought into government as a way of accommodating divergent views.

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