MY ANCESTORS AND FOREBEARS IN THE MEDIA OFFICE, BY FEMI ADESINA
All things are now ready. Last week, I wrote about the cleaning and clearing of my office in State House, Presidential Villa, Abuja. The job is now done, and as a bride waits for her groom, the office now expects its next occupant, the Adviser on Media to the incoming President.
That event is now about 38 days away. William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet: “Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books…” That is how I look forward to my next endeavors, after serving in government for 8 years.
The Good Book says of Moses: “And Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be spoken later.” (Hebrews Chapter 3, verse 5).
To the best of my ability, I have served my principal, Muhammadu Buhari, the Mai Gaskiya (honest man), who hails from Daura, in Katsina State. Through thick and thin, I have been there with him. Been called names, excoriated, flagellated, threatened. But there I was. All the way. Bloodied at times, but unbowed. Now, happily, like love goes towards love, a schoolboy away from his books, all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go. Remember Jet Plane, that song by Sonya Spence?
All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye…
But goodbye we must say. Today, permit me to pay tribute to all those who have served in the office I’d occupied in the past 8 years. They also served their masters; faithfully, just as I have tried to do. I had written about them in the past, both living and dead, but I bring an updated version today.
Something now nestles quietly in one of the drawers in my office. With the inscription, Femi Adesina, OON. Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, 2015-2023. It is my portrait, I got it prepared since March, and in another 38 days, by the grace of God, it should be hung on that historical board, which bears the service records of those I call my ancestors and forebears.
I recommend that kind of board for everyone to have in whichever traffic lane of life they operate: office, home, church, mosque, anywhere, everywhere. It would remind that we are but pilgrims, passing through life like a wayfarer. We have our entrances and exits.
“Life is but a walking shadow. A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing ,” wrote William Shakespeare in Macbeth. That is what and who we are. Birds of passage, with no continuing city here. But we seek one that is to come. That is, if we have any modicum of sense.
The board lists the names of all those who have served as image makers to the nation’s heads of state since 1976, with their pictures emblazoned. First is Ogbuefi (later Igwe) Alex Nwokedi, who served Gen Olusegun Obasanjo as military head of state between 1976 and 1979. He later went on to become Manager, Group Public Affairs of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and then to the royal stool as Igwe of Achalla, in Anambra State. We were in touch for many years, but the lot fell on me sadly to announce his passage to the great beyond in May, 2020. Igwe Nwokedi lived well, and died well at a good old age of 84 years.
Next on the board is Mr Charles Igoh, who served Alhaji Shehu Shagari from 1979 to September 1983. Followed by Mallam Abba Dabo, who served the same President in his second term, which lasted just from October to December 1983. The military struck, and truncated the term. But whether long or short, Mallam Dabo is in the pantheon of those who served as image makers to presidents of this country. That’s history for you. It records everything, pleasant and unpleasant.
Next: Mallam Wada Maida. My gentleman senior friend. We both love Muhammadu Buhari, and he served as Chief Press Secretary when our principal was military head of state between January 1984 and August 1985. Sadly, he passed away in August 2020 without being ill for one day. He was ever genial, smiling, calm.
Then comes the man we call Double Chief. Duro Onabule, who served Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida for eight years. He has the singular honour of having served longest in the position till now. He went the way of all flesh in August last year, aged 83.
Chief Onabule was my very senior friend and inspiration. I had read him since I was a schoolboy, and was privileged to serve as editor of National Concord, a position he had held decades earlier. He maintained a weekly column with the newspaper. When I became pioneer editor of Daily Sun in 2003, I was again delighted to invite him as a columnist, a duty post at which he remained till his last day. You can’t imagine the strength I drew from Onabule’s private messages to me whenever we went through turbulence in government.
Still on the board. Next is Sola Atere, another senior friend and professional colleague. He served the transitional government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, between January and August 1993.
Our Fellow! That’s how I call the next man. Emma Agu, former editor of Champion Newspaper, and Chief Press Secretary to the Interim National Government, headed also by Chief Shonekan. The tenure lasted only about 84 days, but Agu, a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, is also in the books of history as one who served.
Chief David Attah, also now deceased, served Gen Sani Abacha for five years. The lot also fell on me to announce his obituary a couple of years back. This job!
Mallam Mohammed Haruna , alive and kicking to the glory of God, served for about a year with General Abdulsalami Abubakar. He’s now a Federal Commissioner with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Three people served with President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. Dr Doyin Okupe, Mr Tunji Oseni (deceased) and Mrs Oluremi Oyo (also deceased).
The next three people are my contemporaries. We went through university at the same period, are in the same age bracket, and also practiced as journalists together for decades in Lagos. We are friends. Olusegun Adeniyi served President Umaru Yar’Adua for three years, Ima Niboro was with Dr Goodluck Jonathan for one year, and Dr Reuben Abati was with the same President for four years.
Next to be recorded on the board? Femi Adesina, 2015-2023. Like I said, the picture is ready, with the period of service indicated. All to the glory of God. He makes all things possible.
Anytime I had looked at that board in the past 8 years, it reminded me that there are always entrances and exits, as Shakespeare wrote. The Yorubas talk about the man who inherited a potent charm, and is now striving to live forever. Well, if the charm was that potent, the original owner would not have died in the first place. We have our entrances and exits. I look forward to mine in 38 days, by God’s grace.
As a journalist, I pounded the streets for years, looking for news to report. And then in 1995, I was elevated to line editorship as Features Editor of National Concord. That was the first time I had an office to myself, outside the general Newsroom. What did I first do when I entered that office? I prayed, committing my stay into the hands of God, and also my exit, asking that it would be in glorious circumstances. And I’ve done that in every subsequent office I occupied. I’ve been Deputy Editor, National Concord, Editor of same paper, Editor, Daily Sun, Executive Director, Publications, The Sun Newspapers, Deputy Managing Director, and later Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief. I was equally President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, and now Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President since 2015. On the very first day in my current office, I already handed over the last day to God. That last day now approaches. Even life does not last forever.
Those who served before me have all succeeded in their different ways, no matter what people choose to believe, or say of them. They served their principals faithfully. I tried to do the same. As I move on in 38 days, let me borrow the words of Shakespeare again: “If we do meet again, why, we shall smile; if not, this parting was well made.”
Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity