Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan’s decision to revise the appointment of Dr. Festus Adedayo as his Media Aide comes off with a protruding belly of interpretations and implications, especially given his promises of bipartisan collaboration and cooperation for national unity and progress.
The development, which presented as a cross between a miscarriage and abortion, raises a whole lot of issues about relationship between politicians and journalists, as well as apprehensions over the possibility of a pliable (rubberstamp) legislature in the 9th National Assembly.
By upturning an appointment he made willingly and out of his personal conviction barely 48 hours of such an important engagement, observers believe that the Senate President unwittingly betrayed the confidence Nigerians reposed on the ability of his office to “check and balance” executive slips.
Analysts have also noted that although the job of Special Adviser on Media is not a high-end appointment, the call for the head of Festus was astonishing and symptomatic of the level of deprivation in the land.
Coming at a time when expectations are high that President Muhammadu Buhari, who endorsed Lawan for the Senate Presidency, should shift from his 97 versus five percent approach in making federal appointments, the firing of the columnist underscores continuing hatred for opposition and disdain for dissenting ideas.
Hate Culture, Divisive Strife
Based on the sudden reversal of Mr. Adedayo’s appointment by the number one lawmaker in the current dispensation, some observers have expressed the view that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has shown its determination to deepen the culture of hate and disunion in the polity.
The nullification of Adedayo’s nomination plays up similar sentiment canvassed by the national chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, when he declared that there would be nothing for the opposition in the fledgling 9th National Assembly.
Senator Lawan might have decided to bow to the dictates of his party, but given the fact of the office he now occupies as President of the Nigerian Senate, it would not be wrong for some Nigerians to interpret it as pedantic and subservience.
The development seems to have revealed the manner of screening that awaits President Buhari’s cabinet nominees and other executive correspondences. But it is obvious that only Lawan could answer the many questions his reversal has thrown up: Did he not carry out background checks on the candidate he nominated?
Does the Senate President see his office more of a donation from APC or a citadel of service to all Nigerians? Having bowed to pressures to rescind a harmless decision as hiring official staff, would the Senate President have the moral stamina to stand up to the party or president on weightier matters that pertain to statecraft and national stability?
All weights would return to the Senate President’s table, because he exposed his style by the flip-flop he has exposed in the Adedayo affair. The letter announcing the reversal tells much: “The office of the President of the Senate has reviewed the appointment of Mr. Festus Adedayo as Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President of the Senate and decided to rescind its decision on the appointment, and wishes Mr. Adebayo the best in his future endeavours.”
Most commentators said that in those few sentences the current President of Nigeria’s Senate turned himself from a hero of democracy with bi-partisan understanding to a lackey of the Presidency.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) remarked that by taking such a negative paradox, the Senate President “confirmed the fear of many Nigerians that the Senate under his leadership will be an annex of the executive arm of government.”
In a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Imo Ugochinyere, CUPP contended that the President of Senate, Lawan, “sacrificed competence by withdrawing the appointment of Dr. Adedayo based on pressure from APC chieftains” and the current administration.
CUPP stated: “It is surprising, to say the least, that the head of another arm of government (Senate President Ahmed Lawan) succumbed to the pressure from Aso Rock and that of the paid social media warriors and quickly withdrew Dr. Adedayo’s nomination just for not being a stooge of the executive arm of government.
“Opposition political parties view this development as primitive show of intolerance and sacrifice of competence on the altar of Halleluyah politics. Senator Lawan has, by this singular act, proved Nigerians right that the Senate under his leadership will be an annex of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led executive arm of government.”
Partitioning Media Practitioners
The firing of Dr. Adedayo before he could assume the professional office of Special Adviser to the Senate President goes further to expose the stratification of media practitioners by the ruling party and Buhari’s Presidency into those in favour of ‘our style and those against.’
Some media practitioners who did not want their name in print because they are working in ‘friendly media’ explained that most officials of current federal government keep a list of friendly and not friendly media, stressing that the notion could be blamed in part for the level of strife and disunity in the country.
Experts of media management also agree that while hate mongering gives rise to strife, strife leads to division, which they said is deleterious to social cohesion and harmonious coexistence of the different ethnic groups.
Although some stakeholders said Dr. Adedayo could have rejected the offer on the grounds of the professional slant of his works, others believe that as a citizen and qualified media practitioner, whether to accept or rebuff the offer remains his exclusive right.
However, the point which most observers fail to recognise is that Dr. Adedayo was not invited to join a political party, neither was the nomination to serve as Special Adviser predicated on altering his world view on current affairs in the country.
In his response to the interrupted appointment, Adedayo maintained that he “had no regrets and would continue speaking the truth to power….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.”
Reflecting on the predisposing circumstances that warranted the reversal of the appointment he added: “I believe that government should reflect the highest moral echelon of society and those who run it should make covenant of chastity and fidelity with themselves.
“Said to be the brainchild of some hired Rottweiler dogs loyal to some lords in the APC, a campaign dubbed #sackfestus adedayo was mounted immediately and within hours, had given birth to thousands of recruits. Many of the commentators who took liberty to harangue me have no idea of who I am and went on a railroaded binge to dress me in an alien robe.”
The Senate President must by now be thinking what kind of country the current leaders are building when people now take pleasure in bringing others down and replacing merit with mediocrity in the name of bitter and jejune politics.
It is evident that Dr. Lawan wanted to demonstrate the clarity of mind which his current office as first among equals demands, by hearkening to the suggestion of a colleague in hiring what majority of commentators consider a befitting professional.
When politicians from northern Nigeria, including former Governor Sule Lamido lamented that Buhari upon becoming president would reduce governance to his level, not many people believed him.
Another ominous perspective to the Adedayo debacle is that well meaning and patriotic professionals might begin to demur from taking up public office. This much could be gleaned from Adedayo’s response.
He had stated: “The person who nominated me for this office under contention will bear me witness: I told him point-blank when he intimated me of the proposed nomination that I had sworn never to do the job of a publicist again in my life, after my two experiences in government.
“It is a job that almost asks for your life; where you have no respite of any kind. More importantly, all my life, I have never lobbied for any office. Second is that, I believe that my stints in government have almost killed the deposit of writing talent in me. Judging by my beginning as a writer, today I should be one of Africa’s most-read fiction writers.”
Despite all efforts to shoo the 9th National Assembly away from any ignominious blunder or scandal that could reenact the inglorious June 9, 2015 episode, it is possible that the current Senate President and APC leaders have through the handling of his staff recruitment burdened the Senate.
The faux pas might haunt the Senate President and the 9th Senate, such that any step they take going forward would be interpreted from point of weakness and not patriotism or political sagacity.