By Sam Fatoyibo
Recently, the media and the whole world woke up to a trending story of how a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a politician, lawyer, poet and popular social media practitioner, Chief David Oluwafemi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode, popularly called Femi Fani-Kayode, lashed out at a journalist, Mr. Charles Eyo, of the Daily Trust Newspaper for asking a straightforward question about his inspection of government projects in the Peoples Democratic Party states (where the governor is a member of the party.
According to Wikipedia, “On August 25, 2020, while attending a brief press conference during his tour of the southern part of Nigeria, he insulted and denigrated a journalist from Daily Trust Newspaper, a subsidiary of media trust. The journalist had reportedly said, “We don’t know who is bankrolling you” and this had set Fani-Kayode off on a tirade of words. Press houses, as well as Nigerians on Twitter and other social networks, expressed great displeasure at his barrage of insults taking into context the fact that he is a lawyer and could have exhibited more decorum. On August 26, 2020, he issued an apology, to the journalist, which has since been considered to be half-hearted and insincere on his part.”
Many things have been written on the said episode and I am not here to re-echo what has been said. Instead, I am writing to expose us to the lessons some classes of people can learn from the unfortunate incident.
Those in positions of honour must keep reminding themselves that they are human beings like the less privileged citizens. One major reason why Fani-Kayode came out the way he did was because he felt he was a big man and untouchable. He believed there were some questions that were not meant for people at his level. He had forgotten that the day he began the inspection of public projects, he had exposed himself to the public scrutiny and the journalists are the mouthpiece of the public. Our “honourable people” especially our politicians must see themselves as fortunate people who have no reason to be proud.
Fani-Kayode, even in his widely publicised apology, has not seen the main issue. If not, he should have answered the Nigerian people who keep asking: “Who is bankrolling you?”
The group that needs to learn much from this embarrassment is the media. For long, we have played into the hands of the moneybags and influential in our society. The media profession must be placed in a level that all people (people in government and those outside of it) will respect the Pen and Mic profession. Like the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalist rightly declared, press conferences must be organised in the right places. The current habit of organising press conferences where the organisers want should be discouraged as it can put the lives of our Pen warriors at risk.
Again, the owners of media houses in Nigeria must pay our journalists handsomely so that the temptation of looking forward to receiving gratification from those who need their services can be tamed. The journalists are not inferior people to other professionals and therefore they must act as the conscience of those who must account for their action, reaction and inaction. The reactions of the journalists who attended the Calabar press conference said much about the inferiority complex that many of our brothers and sisters in the media profession now live with.
Sam Fatoyinbo, Isawo Road, Ikorodu, Lagos.