Three things I will do after leaving Aso Rock—Femi Adesina + Why his family don’t leave with him in Abuja

Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media & Publicity

Mr. Femi Adesina is the Special Adviser to Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari  on Media
& Publicity. A very spartan man like his principal. Humble, strict and
very intelligent. The News room guru who have spent over 3 decades as a media
professional was the former Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Daily Sun Newspaper in Lagos. Adesina who
has attended several conferences in America, London, Germany, Turkey and
several other countries around the world is equally the immediate past
President of the Nigeria Guild of
Editors
where he became the first Guild President to build a secretariat for
the guild in Lagos. His tenure as MD of Daily
Sun Newspaper
also saw the newspaper brand picking up and leading in the
market as one of the best and well read newspapers in the murky Nigerian media
industry. His appointment as Special Adviser to Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari came strictly on merit
and years of experience as a media guru. He was one of the first Nigerians the
President announced his appointment two weeks after taking over the reigns of
power in May, 2015.

On Monday, December 19, 2016, your
soar away Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog stormed Abuja the capital
city of Nigeria. The next day we requested that the Presidential Spokesman talk
to us about his job, lifestyle in Aso
Rock and his next plan. We had sent
an sms to his phone and we never taught he could take us serious. But he did.
Unlike other people who suddenly develop an arrogant posture immediately they
reach such peak, Mr. Adesina took
his humility to the corridors of power. Instead of replying us with a text, the
very articulate media guru made a call to our phone and asked that we wait
until his principal’s schedule gives a window for an opportunity to meet us.

Special Adviser, Media & Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Femi Adesina with Gbenga Dan Asabe of Asabeafrika

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He
asked that we constantly remind him with a text message. Knowing that we had a
very limited time in Abuja. He finally gave us appointment for the early hours
of Thursday, December 22nd. We arrived Aso Rock that morning and went through all the necessary security
checks from a team of State Security Services. We eventually made it. We made
it to Mr. Adesina’s office inside
the villa and the encounter began. We engaged the Presidential Spokesman in a
hearty-chatty encounter which bothers on his new lifestyle as Presidential
spokesman, his challenges and new aspirations. Mr. Adesina gave answers to all our questions without turning any
one down. It was a vintage Mr. Femi
Adesina
in his best element as he answered both critical and humble
questions from Asabeafrika. Get your
favorite drink and chips as you enjoy the exclusive interview with the
presidential spokesman.

The Presidential Spokesman explaining a point to the GDA

The former Presidential spokesman,
Dr. Reuben Abati said when he left this office, his phones stopped ringing. So,
what is happening to your telephones at the moment?
You know
before I came to this job, my phones were ringing. As I am on  this job now, they ring almost round the
clock. And I believe that when I leave by the grace of God, my phones will keep
ringing because I have not alienated myself from anybody as much as possible.

Mr. Femi Adesina to Asabeafrika….’My phones will continue to ring even if i am out of this job’

All those I knew before I came to this job we still relate. New friends and acquaintances  I have acquired,  we will still continue to relate. The volume
of the ringing may not be the same because when I leave this job, somebody else
will be there. So, they will shift their attention to that person. But then, in
terms of keeping friends and acquaintances, I believe that, we will continue to
be in touch.

What is the different between running
a news room as Editor-in-Chief of a Newspaper house and running the gamut of
public relations in the office of the first citizen of a nation?

Mr. Femi Adesina to Asabeafrika….’My work as Editor-in-Chief and Presidential Spokesman is almost the same thing. The difference is news and perception management’

You know
they are almost similar. They are almost similar. It is all about news
management, response to news and the only thing added to it now is that there
is also perception management. Image management. On the other side I was
concerned just about news, presenting it, reacting to it, responding to it,
breaking it. But here now, while yes, I still have to respond to breaking news,
I am also concerned about making sure that my principal is on the right side of
events. Whatever he does, people must be informed and if there are
misconceptions, he must  be defended. And
whatever he has done, if we need to expand on it, we need to do that. So, what
I have added to my former schedule is perception and image management. But the
two are similar. In fact, journalism prepares one for this kind of job.

L-R; Presidential Shooter, Bayo Omoboriowo, Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina with Gbenga Dan Asabe of Asabeafrika after the encounter

How many hours do you sleep now?


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I still
sleep. I sleep well, I sleep well. In fact, when my predecessor wrote an
article saying he found it difficult sleeping in Aso Rock Villa, I replied that I sleep, I sleep and I even snore.
(Laughter)

Mr. Femi Adesina to Asabeafrika….’I sleep in Aso Rock and i am yet to see a spirit disturb me like my predecessor alleged’

A lot of people said maybe you didn’t
see all those spirits your predecessor said he saw in his article because you
are a man of God?

The SA, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari speaking with the GDA inside his office

(Laughs
Heartily) I have not seen, I mean I have not seen any spirit. I have not seen any
spirit. So, anybody who saw evil spirit is the one who can explain and defend
what he saw. But for me, it is just part of life. What happens in the Villa and its environment happens
anywhere in the world. I work with a principal who is very organized, very,
very organized in terms of timing. Whatever he is going to do in a day has been
scheduled. So, we run that schedule. The ones that needs my presence, I am
there. The one that needs to be reported, we report. And if he needs to do late
evenings, as long as there are things that needs to be reported, I am there.
But you find that this is not an administration given to frivolities and
excesses. In some other administrations, they close and they begin to drink.
Not this one (Laughter).  Our President,
once he has his dinner and if one or two people are scheduled to see him and
they see him, he is going to bed. Then, I too can then go to bed. The only
thing that may disturb my sleep is journalists calling from all parts of the
world. And at anytime they call, I respond. Two, three A.M, I pick my call and
I respond.

L-R; Gbenga Olajobi, Mr. Femi Adesina and Gbenga Dan Asabe of Asabeafrika

How does your day start as the
Presidential Spokesman?
My day
depends on the schedule of the president. We have a weekly schedule of his
activities. So, before I leave the previous day, I would have looked at the
president’s schedule for the next day, it determines when I come. If he has an
8am appointment then I am here at 7am. If he has a 10 am appointment, then I am
here like 9am. So, his schedule determines my schedule.

Mr. Femi Adesina to Asabeafrika….’My schedules are fashioned after the President’s schedules’

I come in the morning
so that when he has events that are of public nature I am there. He has private
events, audiences that are private in nature, then, one doesn’t need to be at
those ones. But as long as they are public, I am there. And if it lasts through
out the day, I am there. Until it is finished, I don’t have the liberty of
leaving. So, his schedules determines my schedules.

The Presidential Spokesman telling the GDA all about his next plan after office

You have practically traveled with
him on some of his foreign trips, which of them would you describe as your most
challenging one?
We do always
travel, we have gone far and wide as long as China. But I will never forget one trip, I think it was our first
trip to Washington DC, build up to
that trip, we had been quite busy. So, by the time we landed everybody was
tired (Laughter). We just felt like going to sleep. So, when I heard that the
president was already at his first meeting, less than an hour after we landed,
I was shocked. (Laughter) I think it was Madeleine Albright, the former
America’s Secretary of State that he was meeting. The hours we spent getting
there, we were already weather beaten and I was like ‘ah, ah, how does this man do it?’ we that are many years younger
than him, we feel like sleeping, when this man is already awake fulfilling his
schedule. But by and large, we are very used to it.

The GDA presents ex-Minister of Science & Technology General (Dr.) Sam Momah (CFR) new book ‘Nigeria’s Break-Up: Grave Consequences & Solutions’ to Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina

What is the difference between your
office and that of Mr. Garba Shehu, I noticed that once the issue has to do
with business and diplomacy, we hear your voice but once it is politics, we
hear Mr. Garba  Shehu’s voice. Is it
deliberate?
No, we work
together. I am Special Adviser on Media, he is Senior Special Assistant. So, we
collaborate. Unfortunately before we came to this assignment, I have known Malam Garba Shehu for more than twenty
years. So, there was no need to tussle. No need to bitter over anything, we
have found a reason of working together and as far as I am concerned, we will
continue to work together.

You have stopped writing your regular
column for a while but once in a while you interject, could we be right to call
you an interventionist columnist at the moment?
(Laughs
heartily) Yes, you know that anytime I need to write, it must revolve round my
principal like what I am doing now. I cant just do social commentary like I
used to do before because anything I write now, they will say that is the
opinion of the president. So, I can’t do that. But then, from time to time,
when something happens and I think people should know about the president and
his schedule and what he is doing for the country, I write.

L-R; Presidential Photo Star, Bayo Omoboriowo, Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina with Mr. Gbenga Olajobi

Your Facebook account is almost very
busy daily and one wonders how you are able to quickly marshal points and
pictures from events with the President around the world and put on your Facebook
account in a jiffy?
Well, that
is the journalism of the now. If you are a journalist and you can’t function
like that, then, you are analogue. You are ancient. And you will soon fade
away. And by the grace of God, God should give us life, when this assignment is
over, I will return to journalism.

Mr. Femi Adesina amidst eminent Nigerians during The Sun Awards Ceremony

I was about to ask you that question.
There are opinions in town that you might do other things after power. Of
course some of your predecessors went back to the news room to become Chairman
of Editorial boards while others simply walked away. Are you sure you want to
go back to the news room after this assignment?
By the grace
of God, media work is what I enjoy doing. I will love to go back to it. Yes, I
may write books because I am a writer but I will always want to be in the
media. I am on leave of absence from  the
media and I intend to go back except God determines otherwise.

The GDA meets the Presidential Spokesman in Aso Rock

Will you be returning to Sun Newspaper?
Yes, in Sun I
am on leave of absence. The publisher of The Sun is not only my employer, he
is also my friend. (Laughter) So, all things being equal, I will still like to
work for him and with him.

The GDA with Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Mr. Femi Adesina’s ex-boss and friend for life

What is your relationship with your
former colleagues at the
Nigeria Guild of Editors?
You know you
cant do this work without having to interface with editors. So, I believe that
my relationship with them is smooth. Just about two, three weeks ago,
executives of the guild needed to discuss a projected I had wanted to do as
president but which I couldn’t accomplish because I came to this assignment.
They sent for me and I attended their meeting and I gave the perspectives of
what I have in mind. So, I still relate with them.

Mr.  Femi Adesina (2nd Right) with his ex-boss, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (5th Left) and other Eminent Nigerians during The Sun Awards

Sir, you are a veteran media
practitioner, with the trend of the social media having prominence in society
than the analogue media, do you think or do you fear that the print media will
suffer a disaster soon?

The GDA with the Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina

Yeah, the
digital media no doubt has posed a challenge to the traditional media but the
traditional media will always be there. Let’s go back in time. When radio came,
it was noise all over the world that ‘oh,
this will kill the printed word’
. But hundred of years after that, radio is
there and the printed word is there. Now, when television came, ah, the noise
was louder. That ‘this one is combining
vision and auditory, that you can see, you can hear, ooh, this means the
printed word is gone,  newspaper is dead’
.  Almost a century after, the television is
there, the newspaper is there. And then, when internet came, oh, they said ‘this is the final death knell for the printed word’. When I was still in the media I
had the opportunity to attend some international conferences. I think one of
them I attended in Hermburg, Germany, the conclusion was that ‘Yes, the social or the digital media
would challenge the traditional media but the consumers of media trust the
traditional media more than the digital media. so, that trust will also sustain
the traditional media’
. You find that when people read things on digital
media, they still wait for traditional media to authenticate it. So, the
traditional media will always be there. But the challenge is upon those who run
that traditional media to now be creative. You can’t just have one source of
income, the printed word. You need to have multiple streams of income.
Chief Dele Momodu’s wife,  Aunty Bolaji once told me in Accra that he is
a husband she hears his voice more than seeing his face. How is your work
affecting your family?

L-R; Presidential Photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo,Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina and the GDA of Asabeafrika

Yeah,
anybody who marries a journalist must be ready for it. (Laughter) before I came
to this assignment, I had been married for twenty four years. So, my wife
already knew that I have a challenging schedule. And now that I have come here,
twenty-five years into our marriage, she has come to understand. They live in
Lagos, I live in Abuja. So, that
means minimum of once in a month; and I can make it twice, I go to Lagos, spend a weekend with them and
come back.
Why are you not bringing them along
to Abuja?
Why I
couldn’t move the family is that our children had grown. My son is already a
pilot. My daughter has graduated from U.I. (University of Ibadan) and I just
have two of them. So, how can you start moving them at that age?

Mr. Femi Adesina to Asabeafrika….’I need not bring my family to Abuja any longer because my kids are all grown’

I will humbly urge you to kindly use
this opportunity to advise Nigerian Parents on skills they need to adopt to
raise well mannered and well behaved kids. Today, you see kids that are very
rude to adults, kids wearing horrible tattoos, killing their parent and sagging
their trousers. How can parent prevent this vices in their children?

Mr. Femi Adesina to Asabeafrika….’The Best Way to raise a well mannered child is through the traditional way of raising kids’

Well, it is
also a question of traditional and modern style. I think the traditional way of
parenting is still the way to go. You may take some things from the modern way
of parenting but the larger part of what you need is in traditional parenting.
The good book says ‘train up a child in
the way he should go and when he grows he will not depart from it’.
Make
sure you train your children very well. If you train them very well, there are
certain things they wont take to. Wherever you are in the world, you will be
confident that ‘my son or my daughter cannot do this because this is not the
way I brought him or her up’. So, upbringing is very crucial. That is why in
their formative years, it is very important the parents spends quality time
with them because that is the time you can inbuilt in them values and ethics
and principles that will put them in good steads later in life.

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