The recent incident in Calabar that saw the former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, rained verbal assault on the Cross River-based Daily Trust reporter, Charles Eyo, proved rumbustious as a moment of outrage seized the social media, with the minister insisting he was not going to apologise over the matter. For his friends in the journalism profession, including yours sincerely, the incident was a complete letdown when the man popularly called FFK tripped over a question of who was funding his tour of states.
For a man whose criticisms of government has been a major preoccupation, assaulting a reporter over a question was not only unforgiven, his insistence fueled anger among media practitioners and members of the public. Not a few people hold the view that the man who attended the best of schools in the United Kingdom is not only proud but too opinionated to offer an apology to media professionals he had demeaned.
Of course, I am aware that FFK has a considerable number of foes lurking in the shadows to launch a barrage of attack and cut him to size. A colleague of mine had called and requested me to write something on the unfortunate incident in Calabar. I felt not only deeply hurt by the Calabar event, I really empathised with the hard questioner who seemed shaken by the reaction of the former minister.
As soon as the embarrassing event became public, critics, especially social media activists, launched acerbic attacks on the man whose criticisms have kept government officials in check. Apart from identifying with the reporter who many said was not treated fairly, his traducers never spared Fani-Kayode who took advantage of the Calabar incident to pummel him.
FFK’s dilemma had initially looked unresolved as he remained adamant and unyielding to offer an apology over the verbal assault and further accused the reporter of unsubstantiated assertion aimed at embarrassing him. Less than 24 hours after the event, FFK issued an unambiguous apology: “I’m deeply sorry for the manner I reacted to the said reporter. I was too hard on him. The question was mischievous, but I fell for it.
“I should have been smarter than that. I am using this opportunity to reach out to him, and I hope he will be kind enough to forgive me. I disappointed myself, my family and friends, my colleagues and even my bosses, those who hold me in high esteem.
“I have regrets, it was not my finest day. No leader or public figure should ever react like that. I disappointed myself. I deeply regret it and I believe it will never happen again.”
Even Eyo, the victim of FFK’s verbal attack, said he had forgiven the former minister. But that was not enough for those who felt infuriated by the disposition of the former minister on the incident. For those who felt they had got FFK where it matters the most, there was no way of letting go of a prized game they had looked forward to having for dinner. It soon became that the cacophonous voices trailing the incident, with close observers wondering if the anti-FFK’s tantrums were not indicative of unseen forces bankrolling the campaign targeted at the former minister.
Determined to end the unfortunate uproar over the unpleasant incident, the man whose eloquence and writing have rankled his critics wrote a formal letter of apology to the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). He did not only once again apologise for his behaviour at the Calabar event, this time around he was remorseful that Thomases were shocked that FFK could offer such an apology.
There is no doubt that, unlike Nigerian politicians who are known never to openly apologise for their missteps, FFK proved that it is only the strong that can apologise and recognise their mistakes. In doing this, he reversed the Calabar embarrassing episode into a demonstration of humility known and practised by only people who are deeply committed to principles.
Being a servant to truth, there is no denying the fact that when one falters, the easiest means to getting back on track is through an apology. No human being so perfect can condemn a man who has apologised for his wrong doing.
Apology has been described as the glue that holds life. Son, when an erring person admits to guilt, nothing can be left unrepaired. For a leader who confesses to his fault amounts to demonstrating an enviable hallmark of leadership.
A leader that cannot own up to his fault cannot be trusted. For FFK to stand up and recognise his mistakes, this act of confession placed him on a platform no Nigerian leader has ever attained. It was in recognition of this that the NUJ categorically called on its members to cease fireworks over the matter.
Just when things were about to be resolved, a columnist with the Daily Trust, Mr Iliya Gadu, fired yet a scalding piece on FFK. Having followed the writings of Mr Gadu for quite a while, I felt totally let down. How could Gadu, an experienced writer that I have known for years, allow his worst moments to take advantage of him? I have known him so well to be adequately informed that he was nobody’s puppeteer. I am also aware that he would refuse to be bankrolled to pen such a piece that is far below the quality of his literary engagements.
I had a brief stint with the Daily Trust between 2007 and 2009, and can say with certainty that I am well acquainted with the gate-keeping processes adopted by the newspaper. After reading Gadu’s piece on FFK, I felt not only outraged by the content, I was in total disagreement with the writer’s use of mordant words in portraying the former minister.
I have spoken to both FFK and Gadu over the matter and wished the days ahead could bring final resolution of the problem. Though it is explicitly clear that the Calabar incident served as trigger to Gadu’s piece, it is apparent that on this matter, Fani-Kayode has been “most sinned against than sinning.”
While those who called themselves learned people may be engaged in legal fireworks, the best option in resolving the matter is not in the court but in the clear recognition that an infraction has been committed by both sides. With FFK demonstrating a repentant heart over the Calabar episode, it is expected that Gadu should also follow FFK and tender an apology over his column that contains some actionable portions.
Allowing legal minds to cause distraction for Fani-Kayode who has a strong national media presence cannot serve the interests of both the former minister and Daily Trust. There is always a silver lining in every dark cloud as the unseen divine force intervenes for a happy ending.
“Only (last) Tuesday, they gathered at a ministerial retreat clapping for doing nothing. The government is a colossal failure in all directions. Killing is now everywhere. Hunger has risen to an unbearable level.”
-Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus criticising the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government as not having anything to showcase.
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