The friendly media parley between former presidential spokesman and one-time Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and members of the press in a nondescript 5-star hotel in Calabar, the Cross-River State turned towards an abrasive end. In a viral video that surfaced online few hours after the coarse reaction between the Ile-Ife Chief and a certain reporter, the foremost Nigerian was seen throwing caution of the wind tongue-lashing the supposed errant journalist, Charles Eyo, who currently works for the Daily Trust newspaper. In what the former presidential aide considers an ‘insult’, Eyo posed a question about who was ‘bankrolling’ his road trips to some areas of the country being visited by the politician in recent, the purpose of which has remained unclear.
Since that incidence took place, the said journalist had written his own account of the story. Encouraged by supports from the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalist and many who thought that FFK’s action had gone a little ‘too far’. Penning an article detailing his grueling encounter with the former minister might be considered as a way to mop up more sympathy or enlighten the public of the happenstances of the outburst. For the journalist to further drive home the point that he was indeed within his ‘constitutional duties’ to ask questions as it was deemed appropriate and, of course, as fellow colleagues of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, I could not agree any less with the latter position based on its legality.
Realistically speaking, journalists have always been victims of similar brushes with top-level officials in parastatals or personalities of huge influences in different climes. At a time, President Donald Trump had openly disgraced a reporter from CNN for asking him ‘baseless’ questions. In my own opinion, the logicality of what sufficiently defines the right question(s) to ask or not by journalists is not just a matter of professional etiquette only. It should also be epitomised by good mannerism and the rules of empathy.
Enthused by the reaction of FFK on a day when he was given a detailed report of his trips to certain parts of the country on what could be naturally termed as Corporate Social Responsibility by a concerned citizen, I have decided to mirror in my own perspective the right questions that could have averted the public disgrace suffered by Charles Eyo while FFK on the other hand, suffering disparaging comments from sympathizers of Charles Eyo.
To start with, I shall be revisiting a quote by the former aviation minister when he wrote on his official twitter page: ‘All those who can’t manage their anger & who habitually fly into an uncontrollable & inexplicable rage at the drop of a hat should watch this & learn a thing or two! Moral of the tale: reign in ur rage, control ur emotions & think through the consequences of ur every move’’. The post accompanied a video of an angry man who in the promise of throwing objects to an apparent foe mistakenly fell off a top-floor of a three-storey building . The man later yielded the ghost after all medical attention failed.
Can one say that the former presidential spokesman had a foreboding of what fate would befall him in the nearest future when he made such an important post on controlling one’s temper in the face of whatever provocation? Inferring that FFK had thrown stones into his proverbial glass house would also buttress the situation between him and the journalist.
It should be noted that I referenced this quote by FFK not to take a swipe at him but to establish some degree of fact. Reading the quote, the anti-FFK group on this issue would have jumped off their seat and applauded that journalistic foray into the ex-Minister’s past sayings. Let me be clear that I am not here to cast aspersion on neither FFK nor Eyo!
In the field of Criminal Law, his actions could be said to be one influenced by a negative stimulating factor. The Yoruba elders have a saying that ‘Even if a child throws away a knife that had cut deep into the flesh of his hand, the harm has already been done.’ In this case, standing as a jury in a case in which the ‘defendant’ has made a public apology is completely out of place. I am only here to set the records straight.
Playing back the viral video where FFK made such verbal vituperations against Charles Eyo, I saw beyond the sentiments shared by my colleagues and other Nigerians both online and offline respectively. I am neither a lover of violence or a proponent of those who try to silence the media. I am just a Nigerian who believes that, if FFK was given a fair hearing on this, he might have a completely different opinion to substantiate the rationale behind his actions.
Channeling one’s grievance to certain misjudged, misguided comment he made would only amount to such people falling in the pits of their wrong perception. Even when an accused is caught red-handed in a crime, decorum and judicial process require that he defend his case before the state eventually pronounces its verdict. You will agree with me that the period of ‘anger’ defiles all sense of right-thinking actions. Anyone could have reacted as FFK if they are in the same shoes.
FFK, the son of Chief Babaremilekun Fani-Kayode, a First Republic foremost politician, Lawyer and the last Deputy Premier of the Western Region also has a stake in the development of the republic. By the standard of his standing as a reputable politician, a former Minister and a Nigerian, embarking on such venture as the road tour should not have been tied to a political undertone. Before the stop-over at Cross Rivers State, FFK had visited some other states in the country including those that are governed by his political rivals. He visited them anyway. If the maxim, ‘pictures speak a thousand words’ is anything to go by, those State Governors had welcomed him in open arms. Suggesting either verbally or otherwise in politicising every motive by a Nigerian political elite should be merely dismissed as a puerile conspiracy theory.
If indeed FFK was ‘bankrolled’ by anyone as Charles Eyo had suggested by his question to the ex-Minister, would he had generously answered? Charles Eyo on one hand should be given a thumbs-up for trying to dig out facts for the purpose of clarity. Unfortunately, the hoe he tried using is a rusty metal. Again I asked, what was the objective questioning format or background research on FFK by the journalist to have prompted him to ask the question.
In the viral video, FFK is seen challenging Charles Eyo to go and tell those who sent Eyo that ‘he got more than he bargained for.’ What could have been an interesting intellectual engagement had turned ‘bloody, uncouth and confrontational.’ At this point, I turn over to the legal profession for some inspiration. Even when a defendant is standing in the dock for cross-examination, would the prosecution come up with an argument against the defendant without an informed base?
To term FFK as a villain in this case while Eyo walks about as a victim turned hero is not absolutely justified. FFK has come out to make a public apology stating in clear terms that he had withdrawn his brazen comments. In the light of fair judgement, Eyo being a professional journalist, should also be called to order.
It is easy to say that journalist suffer in the hands of some subjects. If you observe closely, you would observe the fatalities that journalists cause in the process of discharging their duties. I recall that it was reported some time ago that musician Burna Boy walked out of an interview. Ask Burna Boy and he would have told you why he did so. Singer Omawunmi at a time slapped a photojournalist. I think the leadership of the NUJ should look into frequent human resource development for journalists in order to mitigate some of the errors that some journalists commit in the field.
By tendering his apology to the Nigerian media and withdrawing his statement, FFK had shown to the world what it means to be a man of integrity. Even though some persons argue vehemently that FFK has habitually insulted journalists, the same he repeated on the fateful day against Charles Eyo. The situation only reminds us all of conquering our personal demons as we climb up the ladder of life because there would always be more embarrassing questions waiting in the lobby of progress.