Monday, July 31, 2017

Memo To My Friends In Aso Rock Villa

By Abraham Ogbodo
Before I get started, I have a confession to make. In my little way, I try to avoid the friendship of big men. I will explain. Big men and (women too) can hardly appreciate the worth of a small man. They cannot initiate a short telephone conversation with the small person to say ‘I am just checking on you my friend.’ If they manage to do, it is not to say hi but to complain, most times bitterly, about some matter that a small man didn’t handle to their ultimate satisfaction; or reel out more directives after which they recline to their exclusive economic zone and wait for when the unfortunate small man will become useful again.
*Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina and Laolu Akande

The big man thinks his bigness, and the fact that he allows some social access more than compensate for every effort the small man puts in to sustain the relationship. As a Christian, I asked God to give me the wisdom to manage big men and women. He told me to stop pretending to be a big man’s friend. The application of that wisdom has never failed me. I have just offered free of charge what took me days of fasting and prayers to secure from God.
I have had to give this background so that my friends in Aso Rock Villa, who however became big men on May 29, 2015 or thereabout, will understand why I have somehow maintained a safe distance. They are Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and Laolu Akande. All three are evidently big men by any interpretation. The first two are my senior colleagues; they became editors of national titles long before I did. Laolu Akande is my junior in every sense. 

Do not get me wrong! They are still my very good friends and I protect their interests when occasion calls. For instance, I had had to tackle Femi Fani-Kayode privately when he woke up one morning, and for no reason, decided to rechristen Shehu Garba as Shehu Garbage. I pointed it out to him, even though he insisted that Garbage was better than Garba. This is just one example of the many soft battles I conduct now and again on behalf of these my three friends. Femi Adesina was actually with me in spirit and kind when my parish, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Arida Ikotun Lagos, honoured me the other day.
All three have been nice to me. About the only time that they didn’t do too well was when I had the golden chance to shake hands with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock Villa. The opportunity was mismanaged by the in-house camera man. A snap shot of that historic handshake was never transmitted to me and so, as we speak, I do not have any other concrete evidence to prove that the President and I are allies.
Don’t tell me that shaking hands with the President is not a big deal. It is a big deal and I even have higher aspiration – shaking hands or a photo shot with the President of the United States of America. I am not there yet but people like Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole (by the way, where is he now with his wife?) are already there. By His Grace, I shall be there one day.
But more importantly, as we pray and prepare for the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari from his medical vacation in UK, I would like to make this little appeal. When he finally comes and there is need to get some of us to meet him in Aso Rock, I ask for my cameraman to be included in the delegation. I do not want a repeat of what happened the last time. Such a memento is all I need in these days of government by photography to become a VIP and attract some undeserved goodwill. I know my friends will not exclude my photographer and me when the time finally comes to visit Buhari in Nigeria.
Although they have not invited me alone to Aso Rock Villa for any purpose, but so far, I have been included in all invitations for meetings with key operators in the Villa. It is just that each time I went and met Mallam Shehu Garba, he would be saying, ‘walahi talihi! Walahi talahi! This is my very good friend.’ He would be shaking his head in apparent disapproval or in a manner that belies his proclamation. Thereafter, he would smile and shake my hands more firmly than warmly.
I have not attached any significance to this piece of ritual and I am not planning to. Maybe it is some new way that he has been conditioned by the power-packed Aso Rock environment to greet friends that visit from outside. Whichever, I want to use this opportunity to announce to the three of them that I am still a loyal friend.
Last week, the trio held a press briefing to explain why seven more governors comprising two or so elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) needed to go to London to see Buhari about 24 hours after some four APC governors, a minister and the party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had gone and returned. I had put them on the front page to strengthen their message.
One busybody fellow had asked if any of them called to acknowledge the gesture. I asked why he would say a thing like that. What are friends for if every tiny gesture has to be specially acknowledged? I am not like that. My only grouse was with the postmortem. Since they announced the departure, I had expected my good friends to return to the control room to announce the arrival of the seven governors and say what they brought.
It is the natural sequence of events. Missions everywhere in the world are reported at take-off and completion. Nobody needs special lessons in geography to understand that the other side of midnight is dawn. If you called to say you were going to London for abc purpose, you should also call to announce the outcome when you returned. Each of the governors like the proverbial blind men that went to see the elephant would have had a different impression of the target, leaving the mainstream position to speculation.
That is why the actual state of health of the President and his return date to the country has become a moving target. From ‘very okay and returning on June 11’ according to Kalu Orji Kalu, it moved to ‘recuperating fast and coming back on July 28’ according to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo. Now, it is ‘doing well and will return as soon as his doctors give clearance’ by nobody in particular. 
Now, let me address you directly my friends. You understand much as I do that journalists do not create stories; they only report stories. You also know that the news is not what is advertised but what is hidden. And so, to hide behind a finger and expect people to close their eyes from seeing you because they are your friends is not a strategy.
Expectation, hope, prayer, wish, appeal, abuse, anger and other sentiments, even curses, are good ingredients of life. But none is a strategy. Therefore, combining and applying them so generously in the task of communicating to Nigerians the suitability of Buhari to continue as President will achieve no purpose. It is misinformation at best.
On the other hand, a strategy will be to tell the simple truth regarding the health of the President and then argue within the precincts of law, precedents and any other consideration, why Muhammadu Buhari is still good for Nigeria in spite of his current health challenges. I have offered this professional advice free of charge. Don’t bother to call to thank me. After all, what are friends for!
*Mr. Ogbodo is the Editor of The Guardian


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