On January 2, this year, Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Muhammadu Buhari, was conferred with a title, “Nwanne di na mba,” by the traditional ruler of Agunese Afam Mmaku Autonomous Community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu, Igwe Cyprian Maduabuchi Nevobasi (Original Igbo).
It will not be fallacious if I declare that Femi and I share some consanguinity of cousinship in its extrapolated form—our geopolitical disparity notwithstanding. Five mutual experiences that follow will encapsulate the subject of this contribution.
The bestowal of “Nwanne di na mba” (brother in the Diaspora) on Femi is not surprising because he is more than a brother to many Nigerians from all walks of life. Indeed, there are friends and colleagues who command more value in our lives than relations! Femi is one of such rarities.
Sometime in the late ’90s, Trade Bank held its annual general meeting (AGM) in a hotel in Ibadan. The business reporting maestro/editor of Daily Times then and now Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Barrister Ndu Ughamadu, was one of the special guests. I was the Features Editor then. He chose me among senior colleagues of mine to represent him on the occasion. It was a proxy privilege.
The editor of the defunct National Concord and media consultant to Trade Bank, Mr. Dele Alake, coordinated the pre-AGM media briefing and had personally invited my editor. At the end of the session, because of copious gatecrashers, Mr. Alake announced that he would “address” accredited journalists in Lagos when he returned to the Centre of Excellence.
A few days later, the Features Editor of National Concord, Mr. Femi Adesina came to the Agidingbi, Ikeja, expansive complex of the old Daily Times, before the currency of its bastardisation, with a message from Mr. Alake, the former Lagos State Information and Strategy Commissioner under the governorship of Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
If it were these days, two things would likely happen: either there would be no message whatsoever or the message would be “edited.” None of these happened because the two gentlemen involved (Dele and Femi) are highly respectable gentlemen with no disposition to filthy lucre. I take off my hat to them in acknowledgment of their uncommon uprightness and profusion of professional integrity.
Immediately Femi left, I took the enveloped message to the reportage guru of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) who yearly spent more time in Vienna than in Nigeria and editor of Daily Times, Barrister Ughamadu, who had sent me to the AGM. Without touching the envelope, he told me that it was my recompense, which I should take.
My second encounter with this caring “Nwanne di na mba” was when I visited him in his capacity as the first editor of The Sun. I had gone in search of job placement in the Voice of the Nation. Without hesitation, he informed me that it was still a weekly publication and that when it goes daily shortly, I should return. A few months later, The Sun went daily. When I went back to Femi without any previous appointment, he left his office on the ground floor and took me straight to the last floor and handed me over to the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief and his deputy, Egbon Mike Awoyinfa and the late Dimgba Igwe, respectively.
What was supposed to be an exhaustive interview turned out to be a review of my reputational pedigree and what I had in store for The Sun. Oga Mike kept insisting that I was more of an intellectual journalist who may not fit into their celebrity, soft-sell, genre of journalism. I proved on that auspicious occasion that I had professional flexibility and could adapt to any occupational environment.
Shortly after the interactive session, I was given an employment letter as a member of the Editorial Board. On reflection now, if Femi had not done the groundwork, my CV and antecedents alone, perhaps, may not have guaranteed my engagement. Whatever informed my superlative selection, I must thank Femi for laying the foundation that hallmarked my competency, capacity and overall professionalism.
The next encounter I had with Femi was on a trip to The Gambia in a chartered aircraft at the instance of the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. While on the trip, Dr. Kalu asked Femi to explain to him who was senior professionally between one of the editors in The Sun then and my humble self. Femi replied that there was no basis for such a comparison because when I was an editor (both in Daily Times and The Post Express), the fellow was then a reporter! This was years back. Femi’s declarative forthrightness endeared him to me the more. I never mentioned it to him.
When the ex-governor of Abia State, Theodore Ahamefule Orji (Ocheonwu), in demonstration of naked power absoluteness, sent policemen from Umuahia and Lagos to abduct me from my Lagos home and handcuffed from one police cell to all in Umuahia, it was Femi that restlessly led the massive rescue mission through physical and telephonic interventions throughout my asinine incarceration right from Lagos, Abuja to Umuahia. If Dr. Kalu (who was in London) and Femi had not moved fast and supersonically established contacts with the police leadership on the bovine kidnap that indicated juvenility, I probably would have been “wasted” without any trace of my existentialism! I thank God for His awesomeness that was catalytic in my survival. It will never be well with T.A. Orji.
When I did “My Abduction Story”— a three-page satiric account of my T. A. Orji-masterminded harrowing experiences published in The Sun, Femi called me in the four-star hotel where I was hibernating and furiously declared that I had sold out. I never did. He insisted that I must do a rebuttal, which I did, debunking all the public insinuations, gossip and social media idiocies. Femi was satisfied and our relationship kept flourishing.
During my detention in Umuahia, Femi called my wife to come to The Sun and take N200,000 for family upkeep until I come back soonest. Of course, my wife, being an entrepreneurial engineer engaged in chain-vehicular mobile marketing and other income-generating initiatives, had no need for such financial mediation.
Femi’s other act of brotherliness to me was at the launch of my book in 2015. Despite his status as the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of this medium at the time, he was one of the first 10 persons to arrive at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, venue of the presentation of my third book entitled “Media Gaffes and Essays.” This “Nwanne di na mba” stayed till the end of the six-hour spectacular event. It was demonstrative of the love and respect he has for me. Not many people in his position would have been so committed to my personal project. He also encouraged Dr. Kalu, who cancelled his scheduled business trip to Abuja, to attend as the chief host.
Now, tell me why I should not eternally celebrate this “Nwanne di na mba”? In my rating of Yoruba benefactors who have touched my life beyond measure, Femi comes second after the late language activist, Baba Bayo Oguntuase. The third position is still vacant!
Let me underscore the point that I deliberately did not mention Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr., in the above classification because it would be infra dig to do considering his interminably exponential beneficence to me. His unparalleled interventions in my life are beyond journalistic poetry or writing wizardry.
• Wabara ([email protected]/ 08055001948) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.