Former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, always has a lot to say about poor governance, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and civil liberties.
He has written tons of rabid essays criticizing the government of the day on just about everything and for just about every action. He’s a prolific essayist on good governance and the state of our union.
But when Eyo Charles of the Daily Trust politely asked Fani-Kayode about who was paying for his ‘Good Governance Tour’ of the south-south region during a press briefing in Calabar on Thursday, August 20, 2020, the former minister wasted no time hurling invective at the reporter, while threatening to have him fired.
“I could see from your face, before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man. What type of insulting question is that?” Fani-Kayode flared.
Charles had to mutter an apology as the politician assailed him verbally because he was left with no choice.
“The question I asked was ‘Sir, you said you have gone round six or seven states to inspect projects undertaken by those governors, and now you are here in Cross River State, rounding off your one-week visit to Governor Ayade. Who is bankrolling you?” Charles recalls, still visibly shaken.
“I am 53, he is not much older than me. I am not a child, I am an adult and I have children,” the journalist added.
The problem with Fani-Kayode is that he’s always been this way. He’s always been a loose cannon, a rabble-rouser.
A former presidency spokesperson and former tourism/culture and aviation minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Fani-Kayode retains this innate ability to assail, to assault in a crisp, nasal, pejorative accent, and to fly off the handle. He was probably born this way.
Fani-Kayode once boasted about an affair with Bianca Ojukwu just to prove he is no bigot or ethnic jingoist. He’s scoffed at a sitting governor’s humble beginnings and how this governor wore the same clothes for three months; and he’s flip-flopped on his political ideologies (or lack of same) as he hops from one political camp to another since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.
Obasanjo once said of Fani-Kayode that if you want him to sing for you, just hand him food.
In attacking and verbally assaulting a journalist last week, and asking his security detail to interrogate this journalist on the hotel grounds after that most embarrassing of press briefings, Fani-Kayode was only being true to character.
Also worth noting is the fact that Fani-Kayode used that meltdown moment to conveniently evade the reporter’s germane question of who was paying for his trips across the south-south region in these pandemic-stricken times.
In what capacity is a washed-up, failed, convicted politician inspecting projects of governors of oil-rich states? Who made Fani-Kayode a modern-day minister of works or minister of projects?
Told that Fani-Kayode had thrown caution to the wind in a new clip, a friend joked on social media: “is it not when you have cautioned that you can throw one? This man doesn’t know caution.” There are those who have repeatedly accused the man of substance abuse.
In any case, those of us who earn a living in the media should all rise and speak up, not just in defense of Mr. Edward Charles, but in defense of our most noble profession. Our job is an often thankless one, carried out in a peculiar, harsh environment.
We are insulted daily by the people, by politicians and by government officials–each accusing us of selling out. We are arrested by government officials for telling the truth. And like we just witnessed on tape, we are often shouted down and harangued into silence by members of a corrupt, privileged political class.
We are easy targets wherever we turn for just doing our jobs.
Fani-Kayode is not one to apologize. Nor should we expect any words of remorse from him. “I have no apology to offer,” he said in the wake of the outrage that has greeted his embarrassing outing in Cross River last week.
However, he needs to be thoroughly ashamed of himself for once again proving true the aphorism that leopards do not change their spots overnight.