By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The appointment of Festus Adedayo, columnist and member of Tribune Editorial Board, as a special adviser on media to the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, and the sudden withdrawal of the same, evidently against Lawan’s will, in response to the mordant recriminations by a tribe of incorrigible leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) present the clearest indication yet of how Lawan’s philosophical inspiration to contribute topax-Nigeriana, using the platform of the senate presidency, is on the edge of existential backlashes of politics and ideology.
To be sure, there can be no question at all about Lawan’s pan-Nigerian outlook. If there was any that tended to create a doubt about his patriotic commitment to a peaceful, united Nigeria before he stepped in the saddle and prior to the hoopla generated by the appointment, the Yobe-born politician had emphatically dismantled the galling question and invalidated the erroneous perception. Adedayo’s appointment had forcefully shattered some histrionic dispositions as well as historic patterns in the configuration of media administrative infrastructure by successive occupants of the plum office of senate president.
In fact, none of Lawan’s predecessors had appointed a spokesperson clearly outside his regional, ethnic and religious confines. This assertion can be subjected to a realistic historical check. Having been opportune to report the activities of the senate almost consistently and at different times for Vanguard, THISDAY and The Congresswatch magazine, I can confirm that the late Evan(s) Enwerem who was senate president from June 3 to November 18, 1999 appointed his kinsman from Abia state, Emeka Nwosu, a former editor at the Daily Times, as his spokesperson.
The late Chuba Okadigbo (November 18, 1999-August 8, 2000) appointed an Igbo, Emeka Ihedioha, who was then a fringe public relations consultant and currently Imo state governor, as his spokesperson. Ihedioha’s appointment was political and not professional. Anyim Pius Anyim, who succeeded Okadigbo and served out the term of Southeast as senate president in the fourth senate, appointed his Ebonyi state brother, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, then working for Radio Nigeria, as special adviser on media; and, when there was need to rejig the office, he appointed another Igbo, Kenneth Ugbechie, an editor at Post Express, and created a new office for Orji, far away from the path of the media.
In the fifth senate, although Adolphus Wabara (June 2003 to April 2005) appointed a Yoruba, Mayor Akinpelu, editor of a soft sell/celebrity magazine, as his spokesperson, yet the choice was within Wabara’s southern regional enclave. Ken Nnamani (April 2005 to June 2007) emplaced a media team, which was patently designed to promote a divide-and-rule arrangement. He had, upon a recommendation, appointed an Edo man, the late Augsteen Bash-Adamu, who was editor of Champion newspaper, as his spokesperson. He would immediately sideline him for his kinsman from Enugu, Uche Anichukwu, whose media pedigree was obscure.
Senator David Mark from the north-central zone appointed Kola Ologbondiyan, an editor at THISDAY newspapers, from Kogi in the same zone, as his spokesperson for all of eight years while Bukola Saraki, a Yoruba from Kwara, with a supposed Abeokuta ancestry, appointed Yusuf Olaniyonu, also an editor at THISDAY newspapers, from Ogun state as his spokesperson. In essence, Lawan’s appointment of Adedayo transcended all these parochial considerations and found anchorage in a seemingly pristine cosmopolitan tradition that feeds hope to the Nigeria Project. In that élan, Lawan showed capacity to downplay the factors of region, tribe and religion in his overall consideration and choice of the trajectory to chart.
Lawan’s focus was on building a new Nigeria, which could only be achieved through deploying competence and merit in escalating shared commitment to the Nigeria Project. The office of the senate president, which makes him the third citizen in the country, offers that opportunity. Accomplishing the goal necessarily requires that contempt for region, religion and ethnicity be ensconced in the administrative and governance architecture of the office. Therefore, dismissing the questions of loyalty, prebendal politics and spoil system in his appointments into a strictly professional media position – after all, membership of a political party is usually not a criterion – inevitably placed him at the receiving end of the vitriol of disapprobative APC leaders and members.
Their argument has been clearly canvassed. Lawan might have acted in apple-pie order in the context of his idea to join hands with competent Nigerians who are passionate about a better Nigeria, but the choice of Adedayo, as far as they were concerned, was impolitic. They summoned Adedayo’s preoccupation, antecedent and disposition for interrogation as a catholic critic of the administration to achieve his summative indictment as an “Obote man” to use his own words as captured in a published personal conversation that he had with a friend of his on the issue.
APC’s leaders and members who vehemently opposed Adedayo’s appointment could be justified in their advocacy to stymie his readiness to “reap” from where he did not sow; if the idea powering their action is pecuniary. They probably believe a suitable person in their own estimation could be sourced from among those of their foot soldiers who took the bullet from the like of Adedayo for the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari.
But Lawan’s proclivity represents a higher ideal, tending towards the accommodation of a Nigerian in the push for catharsis of antediluvian fault-lines of politicization of choices and foisting of personages on the system by means other than merit, competence and nationalism. It was in that praxis that Lawan had moved to upend the unwritten code that a spokesperson to the senate president must necessarily share some ethnic, religious, political or even filial affinity with the occupant of the office.
Nevertheless, the lower ideal of political consideration within the progressive conclave that the APC purportedly typifies has understandably outweighed all other reasonable considerations that would have projected the APC as accommodating; sans pettiness.
Even though, he respected the sensibilities of his party apparatchiks by withdrawing Adedayo’s appointment, Lawan had succeeded in cutting a niche for himself as a detribalised Nigerian, which is the essential fulcrum of his devotion to pax-Nigeriana. And, besides, the symbolism of Adedayo’s appointment reinforces the belief in and hope for a nation where, even though, our tongues and tribes may differ, there can always be justifiable platforms of brotherhood on which to stand in alliances to achieve a Nigeria of our collective dream.
This will make the building of synergy between the legislative and the executive arms of the federal government easier in keeping fidelity with the social contract. And, never again shall there be deceptive rhetoric to explain away the retrogressive feuds between the arms of government, especially in budgetary administration that has become characteristic aggravation in their relationship.
Under Enwerem’s senate presidency, the legislature was tied to the apron string of Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency in constant prostrate genuflection. Okadigbo redefined that relationship and insisted on the independence of the legislature. Anyim initially hobnobbed with the presidency until he parted ways and pitted his tent with his colleagues. Wabara came with his idea of interdependence of the arms of government, which did not save him.
Nnamani’s mantra was “legislative due process” under which he hid to frustrate Obasanjo’s ignoble Third Term agenda. David Mark enjoyed a robust relationship with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua such that in all his executive communications, Yar’Adua always addressed Mark as “My dear brother”. In the chambers, Mark deferred to his colleagues and referred to them as “my bosses”. That was one of the wise acts to sidestep the proverbial banana peel.
For Saraki, the manner of his emergence did not give room for any sort of camaraderie and succor for all of four years. It is expected that Lawan, in contributing to pax-Nigeriana, will prudently and mutually respectfully engage the support of his colleagues. He will need them more that the Presidency to escape the banana peels. True.
*Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, contributed this piece via: email@example.com