Femi Adesina: Now that the phones are ringing…

Sunday Osanyintuyi

a trained journalist, I don’t take lightly issues around my first constituency,
media. I handle media issues and industry related matters with great passion.
It is so because our positions and thoughts have immense impacts on nation
building.  Among the first news items and
opinions read yesterday was an article by a senior colleague, Dr Reuben Abati,
(Media & Publicity) assistant to the immediate past president of Nigeria, Goodluck
Jonathan, PhD.

oga Reuben “
As spokesman to
President Goodluck Jonathan, my phones rang endlessly and became more than
personal navigators within the social space. They defined my entire life; dusk
to dawn, all year-round. The phones buzzed non-stop, my email was permanently
active; my twitter account received tons of messages per second.  The
worst moments were those days when there was a Boko Haram attack virtually
every Sunday.  The intrusion into my private life was total as my wife
complained about her sleep being disrupted by phones that never seemed to stop
ringing. Besides, whenever I was not checking or responding to the phones, I
was busy online trying to find out if the APC had said something contrarian or
some other fellow was up to any mischief”
Reading through the above, I was asking myself what
Egbon, Abati expected as a media manager to the most vilified Nigeria president
ever. No doubt, Dr Abati’s rich media experience, critical views and opinions must
have informed the choice of his boss, Jonathan. Surely, Dr Abati was and still
a competent media combatant. Clearly, Dr Abati lamentations of his phones
nonstop as a media manager shocked me. In this age and times, when every
citizen has become a “journalist”? To which extent are professional values upheld
in the practice of this new “journalism“? That is another issue for later
discussion. Other lamentations will be handled some other day. But the focus of
that office now rests on another senior colleague, Femi Adesina.
 To Femi,
another dogged media warrior, he needs to sentinel himself not only with the
necessary tools to deliver, but take due lessons from Dr Reuben Abati’s seeming
lamentations and failures.  Abati, though
very competent, but in his own words didn’t prepare or really know the demands
of his office when he said “Top of the task list was the management of phone
calls related to the principal. In my first week on the job, for example, one
of my phones ran out of battery and I had taken the liberty to charge it. While
it was still in the off mode, the “Control Room”: the all-powerful
communications centre at the State House tried to reach me. They had only just
that phone number, so I couldn’t be reached. When eventually they did, the
fellow at the other end was livid. “SA Media, where are you? We have been
trying to reach you. Mr President wants to speak with you” “Sorry, I was
charging my phone.  The phone was off.” “Sir, you can’t switch off your
phone now.  Mr President must be able to reach you at any time. You must
always be available.”  I was like: “really? Which kin job be dis?” The
Control Room eventually collected all my phone numbers. If I did not pick up a
call on time, they called my wife”

 I think this is a key lesson for Femi Adesina,
more importantly now that his phones will be ringing endlessly. He must set up
viable machineries in place to respond PROFESSIONALLY to issues as against what
he did sometimes ago which has made some refer to him as an “Apostle and creator of wailing wailers”. Sadly
enough, that lexicon has now found its way into our industry.  Let truth be told, 21st century
media managers must learn how to respond to those “wailing wailers” without
losing professional ethics and ethos.

 In my view, Femi Adesina, unlike Dr Reuben
Abati should admit for the period he will be on this seat, has no private life.
His statements will be credited as the views of the presidency he serves. Unlike
Dr Reuben Abati, Femi Adesina needs to master the techs of social media. His
expertise on social media usage is still far below average. As a media manager
serving Nigeria presidency, you cannot ignore young Nigerians who are more
active than ever. Also, you need the old horses of the conventional media. Balancing
the two is very germane.

 He should know, like Olumide Iyanda, publisher
of an online newspaper, Qed.ng, opines in his recent write up on “
For whom the phones have stopped ringing”  the phone will continue ringing as long as you cover
a “juicy beat” or are in a position to influence what goes into any publication
people reckon with.  The phone will
continue to ring as long as every journalist wants to have scoop or exclusive with
the presidency. Oga Femi Adesina should know the change promised by his boss;
Muhammadu Buhari will be demanded by Nigerians where and when it seems not
showing. The phones will keep ringing until Boko Haram insurgency, Corruptions,
weak institutions and abuse of power continue in Nigeria. Watching Femi Adesina
on Channels TV Sunday 26th July night responding to issues raised by
Seun Okinbaloye confirms his competency again. He was clear, lucid and details
on president Buhari’s trip to America just as he was in his write up on same
subject today.  But he needs to do more
providing online consumers with real time reportage, pictures and updates. If
he fails, unverified online news media may feed the gullible with half truth.

 But any journalist who has passed through the
newsroom will have tales of people who became social orphans as soon as they
were no longer in a position to write, kill or push a story of interest. We as
professionals must accept to live with this sad reality that people only relate
with or count you as useful when your presence or position benefits them.

While I agreed sometimes you can be defensive in
your approach as a media manager, but such is not to be always. You can make
your opposition sing your positive songs if you do the right things. Personal
attacking or naming calling as professionals should be avoided. Positions and
issues should be stated professionally, clearly with objectivity.
Till then, Oga Femi Adesina welcome to the “phones ringing arena”. And to Dr Reuben
Abati, I join Olumide Iyanda to welcome you to “
planet Earth”… whatever that means.

By Sunday Osanyintuyi