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Fani-Kayode’s Unforgivable Public Relations Gaffe

There is a reason why the word “unforgivable” exists in the English Language.  There would be no need for it if everything is forgivable. The synonyms for unforgivable are words such as indefensible, inexcusable, unjustifiable, unpardonable, unwarrantable and insupportable. Bearing this in mind, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode’s reply to a simple question posed by Daily Trust Reporter, Eyo Charles, is by synonym unforgivable.

Eyo simply asked the former minister who was bankrolling his tour of states. Rather than providing a simple answer, Femi Fani-Kayode launched into an arrogant unbefitting rant revealing both paranoia and egocentricity. He insulted the reporter and praised himself saying he is rich and could never be poor. He evidently couldn’t see the irony of a man who has been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for money laundering and remanded in custody publicly making such a claim. For a man who regularly refers to his “pedigree”, it’s notable that he didn’t display any when he engaged in discourteous indecorous behavior. Journalists are paid to seek the truth about matters by gathering, verifying then accurately reporting facts.

They have the right to ask questions to satisfy public curiosity. Nigerians want to know why a well-known political figure has constituted himself into a one-man project verification committee traveling around the country at this time of COVID-19 pandemic. Despite holding no public office, he holds press conferences, and if his tour isn’t being sponsored, then what does he intend to use his report for? These aren’t insults; they are legitimate questions. Fani-Kayode’s abusive, rude, insolent, and offensive response isn’t unusual for him. He regularly utters public insults. He, more than any other living Nigerian, is renowned for pouring scorn on others without restraint or decorum.

He has unreservedly insulted the current Vice-President with a language which no well brought up person would care to repeat. Not once has the gentleman pastor and erudite Professor of Law dignified him with a response. Anyone who constantly refers to himself a lawyer should learn to speak like one. Whereas lawyers are known for guarding their language, Fani-Kayode regularly inflames passions with his words. He seemingly derives pleasure from insulting others, but takes serious umbrage when he feels he is being insulted. Whatever his opinion of himself, he is neither the richest nor most educated Nigerian. Kudos must be given to Daily Trust Management for standing firmly in support of their reporter.

There is absolutely no reason why the ex-minister couldn’t simply have replied that nobody is bankrolling him and that he’s self-funded. He chose instead to believe that the question was somehow “mischievous”. Evidently self-absorbed in his own world and exhibiting signs of paranoia, he alleged that the reporter’s question was sponsored and engineered by his political enemies to insult and embarrass him. Interestingly, he refers to himself as a “leader” without explaining exactly who or what he is leading. He has no record of contesting and winning an election or having any constituency of any sort.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) who later accepted his apology initially referred to him as being “unstable”. He originally said he wouldn’t apologise because the question was “a gratuitous insult” but later apologised.  The most revealing aspect of his apology is that he said he had to meet with his “advisors” before he realised he was supposed to be ashamed of himself and show remorse. His “apology” was deficient in content. True apologies comprise three statements. First, “I am sorry to have offended you”, secondly, “I promise not to do it again” and thirdly, “what can I do to make it better”.

He said none of these things, but rather only expressed regret for using the word “stupid”. He never apologised for his conceited demeanour and totally inappropriate response. He went on to say “I disappointed myself, my family, and friends, my leaders, those that trained me and brought me to the limelight and into public office, those who I regard in high esteem”, and that “for me, the matter is closed”. This has led to the speculation that he doesn’t actually feel remorse but has been “advised” to apologise so as not to handicap any future political ambitions. This isn’t the first time Femi Fani-Kayode has disappointed all those whom he mentioned, and the matter should not be closed just like that.

This doesn’t mean there should be a vendetta against him. Indeed, paradoxically, the nation should be grateful to him. Leaders are supposed to exhibit respect and polite behaviour, and all he did was simply highlight the complete contempt in which today’s political actors hold ordinary citizens.  There are those who say nobody should cry more than the bereaved and that since Daily Trust’s South-South reporter, Eyo Charles, said he has forgiven him; the matter should be laid to rest. Forgiveness is Eyo’s prerogative. However, Fani-Kayode offended all Nigerians. It made them ponder on how defective characters ever get into high office.

It made them reflect that perhaps the reason why the nation has failed to progress is the calibre and temperament of individuals who have held high political offices. It made them consider whether in truth the secret of “success” in the political environment is to re-invent your character and discover ways to continuously be forgiven for errant behaviour. Quite deplorably, some commentators are relating the unethical behaviour of a minority of journalists to Fani-Kayode’s errant behaviour. They betray their inferiority complex by referring to “better and more intelligent ways” the question could have been asked. All their suggestions are based on a belief that journalists should massage the egos of political appointees if they want to be treated respectfully. Maybe indeed Fani-Kayode invited the press simply in order to fawn over him; this didn’t happen. There are psychiatrists who say he should be forgiven because he was exhibiting signs of paranoia which is a symptom of well-documented causes. Many Nigerians are disappointed by the measured criticism of Fani-Kayode in the mainstream media. They would have preferred the type of gutter language he uses routinely. It would be self-defeating if it were to be so. However, there can be no gainsaying that Femi Fani-Kayode’s demeanour was indefensible, inexcusable, unjustifiable, unwarrantable and insupportable, and therefore, by definition, unforgivable.

<<Daily Trust

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