•BY SHAKA MOMODU•
I am always reluctant to join issues with my professional colleagues on the pages of newspapers, more so, when that person was my former senior colleague. In my 20 years on this job, I have only had cause to publicly join issues with a senior colleague once. That person was Waziri Adio, for whom I have enormous professional respect. He wrote an article following the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in December 2014 with the headline, ‘Is This, Finally, The Buhari Moment?’ I disputed some aspects of that article with a response titled, ‘Buhari: When Facts Become Contrived.’ I took that unusual step because I realised his article left out some historical facts, which I felt were important to situate the then-Candidate Buhari in proper context.
Four years after, I find myself challenged by a direct and frontal assault on my motivation for regularly calling out a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu, for his overbearing transgressions against the taxpayers of Lagos of which I am one. I find my integrity impugned by a former senior colleague who left THISDAY as an editor to set up his own newspaper, which unfortunately has disappeared from the streets.
My first reaction was to deny that Mr. Tunde Rahman penned that nonsense that carried his photograph as a right of reply to my article three days earlier. “No, it can’t be him,” I told myself. But there it was, bearing his photo and name. I am restrained by professional courtesies in the language of my response to his regrettable allegation in the very first paragraph of his defence of his paymaster. Let me state here, I will still accord Rahman, now Tinubu’s media aide, as much as possible the courtesies due a former senior editor, because I know he must be under immense pressure to justify his pay. But there is a saying in the land of my fathers that goes, “When you spit in the wind, it will come back and land in your face.”
I did not fail to notice the subtle inference of sponsorship of my articles on Tinubu by my “paymaster”. This to me is even more upsetting coming from a former editor who once ran a column himself. I still remember how he always complained about the lazy retort by some people to any article they don’t like as sponsored. Now the same Rahman has turned 360 degrees playing the same hand. This life sef! Tinubu is now his hero and I now a “counterfeit democrat”. Laugh wan kill me here oo!
I would have dismissed the piece as one of those responses that keep media hirelings relevant to their masters. Other than that, what exactly do they really do? Apart from issuing silly press statements defending the indefensible, they more often than not do not write and pen lustrous tributes on their master’s birthday. But unfortunately, it was from Rahman. The fact that the entire piece was predicated on a very nebulous, highly provocative and egregious allegation, a deliberate falsehood designed to smear me makes a response to some aspects of the article, inevitable. I cannot allow my former editor to do that and get away just because he is now on the other side and has learnt some dirty APC propaganda tricks, and hence decided to test-fire his arrows at me. Being my former editor does not give him the licence to impugn and assail my integrity.
Frankly, I was taken aback when I first learnt that Rahman had taken up the job of a media spokesman to Tinubu about two years ago. I thought that was beneath a titled Editor of THISDAY. I was even more surprised knowing Rahman’s take on Tinubu’s brand of politics when he was in the newsroom. I asked myself, what could have made a former titled Editor of THISDAY take up a job (someone described it as one of the worst jobs for a titled editor of a major newspaper) as Tinubu’s spokesman?
Now let’s go to the issues at hand. Rahman opened his appalling reply to my article with the following: “He seems possessed of some irrational phobia concerning Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Judging from Momodu’s latest article, the old animus he holds against Tinubu for not inviting him to be part of his team should have ebbed by now. Instead, Momodu keeps the fire of hatred burning. He seeks revenge for an insult that never happened. A man has a right to choose the team of his liking. Momodu cannot deprive Tinubu or anyone else of that right. Momodu should get on with life and do something constructive instead of brimming with anger over what might have been.”
Animus against Tinubu for not inviting me to be part of his team? Did I ask to be invited? What team was he talking about? Did he write that under the influence? Who did I approach to get me on board Tinubu’s team? I hardly knew what to make of this strange charge. If it was intended to blackmail me, then it was a thoughtless and ill-advised move.
First, I was not aware that Tinubu was recruiting people into his team, let alone, wanting to be part of it. Even if I was aware, I would never have joined Tinubu’s team because I don’t deal in a mess of pottage. I can’t be part of a team working for a political godfather, let alone one whose brand of politics is mercantile and breathtakingly hypocritical. I am self-aware enough to know that I will never do that. I feel personally insulted by that irresponsible claim and Rahman himself knew that it was a lie but stated it all the same just to impugn my integrity and in his estimation, cause some damage.
The imputation of motive other than a firm commitment to holding leaders of Tinubu’s stature to account is not only asinine, it is a weedy strategy by weak and ineffectual spokesmen to retain their jobs; an old trick with a short lifespan. Let me refer Rahman to an old saying, “When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.” Whispering gossip is the stock in trade to remain relevant around godfathers like Tinubu. I will never do that. For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t hate Tinubu, as Rahman and other Jagaban lackeys would want their paymaster to believe.
Going by the logic of Rahman’s dense and fraudulent claim, maybe it’s because President Muhammadu Buhari did not invite me to join his team that is why I have been relentlessly critical of him. Same goes for Rotimi Amaechi, Babatunde Fashola, Professor Wole Soyinka, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Rochas Okorocha, and so many others. You see, media aides to career politicians have a way of turning logic on its head when making baseless claims.
Rahman would want the Jagaban before whom all must bow to know Akinwunmi Ambode is sponsoring me. Really? Poor Ambode! I can imagine him (Rahman) running to his boss like someone who just received an important scoop, breathing heavily, panting and whispering tales by moonlight in Jagaban’s ear, and then expecting a pat on the back afterwards. Rahman’s inference to Governor Ambode is laughable. So in his warped thinking, Ambode told me to write against Tinubu? C’mon Rahman! Does Ambode give me directions on what to write? This is beneath the Rahman I used to know at THISDAY before he joined the mob of progressive pretenders. Or is he saying this based on his own experience as a columnist?
For his information, I have been critical of Tinubu for a long time, this stretches to as far back as March 5, 2014 when I wrote an article titled, ‘Tinubu: The Flawed Progressive.’ That was well before Ambode even emerged on the scene. The truth is I was once an ardent admirer of Tinubu for his June 12 heroics, for how he set out as Lagos governor: his push for fiscal federalism and advocacy for progressive reforms, etc., until I started to sense there was little in terms of service and personal sacrifice for the good of the collective from him.
He was the only candidate I voted for in the 1999 general election. That was because of the faith I had in him. I stayed glued to the television watching him deliver his inaugural speech as the Lagos governor. To me, he once represented a promise. What motivates me is that cause I believe in strongly enough that I am willing to lose for it. People like Rahman can’t stand such resolve on principle. I decided long ago to take the lonely road to challenge Tinubu and others alike at every turn, not because of hatred for them but to register my disappointment with their brand of politics driven by “what is in it for them”.
On the Lagos governorship primary, was Rahman hallucinating when he said over one million people voted in that perverse election conducted on a working day? Who did this to Rahman? The transition from the newsroom to being a spokesman to Tinubu has surely affected him such that he now sees things from the prism of “us versus them”. Well, in a way, he is right. I am different from him. I can differentiate good from evil. He can’t. Rahman has become a willing enabler of injustice and profiteering in our system and has forgotten that there will be a day of reckoning.
Even Clement Ebri, the head of the NWC panel sent to Lagos by the national leadership of the APC told the whole world to disregard the charade that took place as primary before he was forced to eat his own words. I have often said that journalists who become media spokesmen to politicians are far more dangerous than the politicians they serve. “Any man who claims to have caught a frog by its tail is being economical with the truth.” Tunde Rahman is a good example.
It is more than a tragedy that his journalist career built on a reputation of many years of upholding the truth has painfully morphed into spinning falsehoods and “true lies” to the consternation of his former professional colleagues. Rahman has been sucked into the big propaganda machine of his paymaster; from a THISDAY Editor to a spin-doctor! Nigerians should ask him who sold the lie to the newsrooms in September last year at the height of the intrigues to deny Ambode a second term ticket, that the respected General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye had begged Tinubu on the telephone to let Ambode run for a second term and that Tinubu had declined, insisting that “every man should head to the field to test his popularity.”
As it turned out, the respected man of God didn’t even call Tinubu on the phone, how much more intercede for Ambode. It was all a big fat lie put out by Tinubu’s team headed by Rahman. Adeboye had to issue a public statement refuting the false claim by Tinubu’s team. That rebuttal was followed by a deafening silence from Rahman.
Is this the kind of stuff these people think I deal in? Is this the kind of team Rahman claimed I was angry I was not invited to join? Something must be wrong with this guy. He and others alike deserve more to be pitied than criticised.
On his claim that Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, has doubled power generation, the recent revelation by the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) put the lie to that hollow claim. The Executive Director for Research and Advocacy of the association, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, disputed the government’s claims that power generation had peaked to 7,000MW since President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in May 2015, explaining that as of January 2015, Nigeria already had close to that generation figure.
He also described as false, the government’s repeated claim that excess generation of 2,000MW was idle. He said: “A review of NERC’s “Daily Energy Watch” for January 28, 2015 would indicate a generation availability of 6,421MW – divided into a peak of 4,230MW and constrained energy of 2,191MW. In other words, it is misleading to state that available generation had grown from 4,000MW in 2015, as a measure of progress, given that the volume of generation was slightly under 7,000MW already or previously existed prior to the beginning of this administration.
“Furthermore, there is no stranded 2,000MW. While there is an available capacity of 7,000MW, the best that can be generated at this time is 5,000MW.
This is because there is insufficient gas to power the thermal plants due to gas line limitations – for instance, the non-completion of the Oben pipeline, and the absence of a commercial framework that would encourage gas exploration.”
According to him, generation that is constrained by gas amounts to an average of 1,500MW daily, adding that 25 out of 28 generation plants are fuelled by gas. He explained further that the transmission grid frequency, line limitation and water management made up the difference of the balance 500MW of constrained generation.
“In simple terms, the often-advertised and pronounced Disco limitation to take on 2,000MW of additional generation is not consistent with the facts or reality. This therefore shows that very little has actually changed, contrary to the minister’s constant pronouncements,” Oduntan added.
I will not even break a sweat responding to other foolish claims peppered with a string of falsehoods in that appalling piece and in others like it that have appeared elsewhere. Lies have a short lifespan.
- Momodu, Email: email@example.com, SMS Only: 0811 266 1654