The Three Harsh Letters

<strong>The Three Harsh Letters</strong>

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

On Monday, 6 March, 2023, one was led to write this short advisory on one’s Facebook timeline: “To my seniors (and juniors) managing the public and media affairs of major combatants of the 2023 presidential election fallout: please, stop amplifying the narcissistic vituperations of fringe elements, and thus mainstreaming what should otherwise be consigned to sideline tantrums of inconsequential muffins. 

Yes, their verbal missiles are alarming, even incendiary, but let’s resist the urge to censor them by regurgitating their nonsense…and thereby expanding the reaches of their intentions: to cause fear, disharmony, doubts and unrest. 

As the good book says: do not repay evil with evil… Make your points, by all means, but don’t take the low road… Thank you.”

   That unsolicited advisory was, of course, ignored…and bile spewed remorselessly, meshing with more vitriol and diatribes. Barely a month after, three well-respected pen-men released different barbed “long knives” as a consequence of what they believe was an attempt by the embryonic communication team of the incoming civilian administration to muzzle “the free press”. All three missives came within 72 hours of the ₦5m fine unleashed on Channels Television for the uncharitable interview granted the litigious vice presidential candidate of Labour Party in the recent election, Datti Baba-Ahmed.

  First to strike on Saturday, 1st of April, was the lashing letter from Richard Akinnola (aka Baba Richie). We will nimble through the 606-word message he simply titled ‘Open Letter To Bayo Onanuga’. Since Baba Richie does not usually spare himself the comforting spinelessness of being anonymous, you are likely to read the full letter on his Facebook timeline. Here are excerpts: “My dear Bayo,

I hope you are now happy and satisfied, that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has sanctioned CHANNELS with a N5 million fine, following your petition over the Datti Ahmed’s interview on CHANNELS… 

  “You and l have been friends for several years, fought many battles together against the military, particularly against their onslaught on the free press. I therefore feel terribly pained that l have to publicly upbraid you for your recent public statements, particularly your petition against CHANNELS TV, to the (NBC). Et tu, Bayo? I’m still trying to wrap my heads round your sudden 360 degrees against all you fought for under the military. You are yet to be in government and you have started exhibiting intolerance against the independent media, the same thing you fought for all your years, like Dr Onagoruwa did. I’m sure your principal, who has been a lover of free press, would be embarrassed by your position. 

  “I watched the interview under reference and l must say, you are VERY UNFAIR to Seun Okinbaloye, the anchor man who repeatedly cautioned Datti Ahmed for making some seemingly inciting comments, to the anger and discomfiture of Datti Ahmed.

  “For eight years, despite all vitriolic attacks on the president, Femi Adesina, as Special Adviser, Media to the president, did not petition against any medium but you wey never enter, don dey censor the media. What a shame! I can expect the disaster that awaits us if you become the presidential spokesperson.”

  Less than 48 hours after Akinnola’s scathing letter, came the cavalry in the shape of a direct rebuke from the former Politics Editor of The PUNCH, a one-time Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Gbenga Daniel, Wale Adedayo who is now the Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government in Ogun State. His 602-word response titled ‘That Richard Akinnola’s Letter To Bayo Onanuga’ is unambiguous in its bluntness. We will underline his salient jabs here: “I was taken aback after reading a piece by a senior colleague, Egbon Richard Akinnola II, who claimed that his friend and colleague, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, missed the ball in his petition against Channels TV. Baba Richie, you missed it biggerly sir! Onanuga did the right thing. He should be commended.

  “In Journalism, the tool of our trade is readily available for mischief makers, who might want to cause unrest. Only a gullible media organisation allows certain views to run unchecked in the name of press freedom. Direct incitement to create chaos using a TV station is a negation of Journalism practice. Such should never be allowed. And where such has taken place, there is need for sanctions so that others do not follow that route. Broadcast Journalism is far different from Print in that its effects are almost immediate. And these sink deeper.

  “A genuine Producer of a programme on air should have shut down the cameras immediately a guest persistently violate rules. That did not happen in the matter at hand, except, of course, IF you agree with Datti Ahmed’s statements….

  “Yoruba people, especially those of the self-determination groups have more than bent backwards before, during and after these elections given what the Ibos did in Lagos and across Yorubaland. The Ibos did everything possible to provoke an inter-ethnic war. But they forgot that, the same patience we had during Abacha’s rule remain with us…

  “No matter the Nigeria we have, there are no-go areas, which many have respected over time. The Ibos remain the only tribe, who always disregard this outside their land, but maintain same at home. They do everything possible to frustrate others out of their place, yet sing one Nigeria outside the same space. They probably take others as fools. This MUST stop!”

  The sun was about to set on that Monday (3 April) when a ringing declamation boomed out of the blistering stable of notable journalist, Nollywood producer and director, Zik Zulu Okafor. His 760-word rejoinder bristled with indignation and disgust – we present some excerpts from the piece entitled ‘Mr Wale Adebayo’s Rumpus’: “Your article, I’m sorry, stank. It celebrated abject lack of exposure. I need to apologise to you because you don’t deserve these kind of stinging adjectives by the attainments you reeled out in your article. But your acidic lines diminish you in a confounding way.

For what Datti Baba Ahmed, a Nigerian of Northern extraction, said on Channels Television, you unleashed a corrosive tongue against Nigerians from the East, Ibos. You took a morbid satisfaction in abusing fellow Nigerians. Your mindset seems to be on a serpentine cause without any guardrails. Shocking!

  But, let me ask you, how many times do you watch TVC, owned by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. I ask because I watch it. Yes, because BAT is a political strategist I admire and indeed adore. I have followed his political odyssey since 1991 and I once wrote that he was 20 years ahead of most of his then fellow Senators. But I am almost certain you don’t watch TVC. If you do, you would’ve seen that what Baba Ahmed said on Channels, TVC guests spill much more everyday. Can any man say anything worse than (what) Femi Fani Kayode says everyday? Yet, you want Channels to go off air because everyone’s song must be in harmonious symphony with your jangling tunes. You want to place Asiwaju on a monstrous pedestal even before he assumes office. 

  “I am unable to find an iota of merit in your vile descent on Ibos. I do not want to delve into your angst over their politics in Lagos. Because that enunciates how low you descended… to dictate behavioural pattern in politics to a Nigerian… in Nigeria. So strange. Do you peep into the South-East to see Northerners and Yorubas living there? They will never return to their states again. They are home in Igbo land. Do you know this? Do you know how many Yoruba Obas in Igbo land? Over 30, yes. I bet you have no clue….”

  As it is in my first salvo at the start of this article, so shall it end: “As the good book says: do not repay evil with evil… Make your points, by all means, but don’t take the low road… Thank you”.

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