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Fani-Kayode shoots himself in the foot

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When a country is in danger of its freedom and liberty being threatened, bold men step forward, putting their chests out and stretching out their arms to form a rampart in protection of the citizens. We have a long list of them in this country. We had those who went to jail or were harassed for pressing for Nigeria’s independence.

In recent memory, we had Aka-Bashorun, one time president of the Nigeria Bar Association, irrepressible Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Femi Falana, Agbakoba, Bala Usman and their foot soldiers. We have seen Ayo Obe, Oby Ekwesili, Adiza Bala- Usman and Aisha Yusuf. In activism and the Arts, we have Professor Wole Soyinka and Hubert Ogunde leading. They rose to defend the people against terror and bad government. In the last few years, Femi Fani-Kayode, lawyer and two-time minister and party spokesman has risen admirably to be counted.

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In view of his conduct in Calabar last week, what lies behind his activism may be unraveled and by no one but himself—whether it is for opportunism or to draw attention to himself. His voice has intervened when necessary. For a great many, his push and commitment to restructuring of the polity raises hope. The age-long comrades in the trenches that is the Nigerian Press he has hit and hit hard. What happened? A Daily Trust reporter asked him a sensible question whether his tour of some states is being bank rolled. But Femi Fani-Kayode blew up, describing the question as an insult and the reporter stupid. He had been minister twice and he is a lawyer. He added what he never fails to regale his hearers with: He was at Cambridge, so was his father; so was his grandfather who was also a lawyer and great grandfather, a priest. His father was deputy Premier in the West.

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I am surprised he behaved that way and shot himself in the foot, given his exposure. Why does he think reporters are jailed and in extreme cases murdered? Is it not because they make governments and their senior functionaries uncomfortable with inconvenient and embarrassing questions? I would have thought he is familiar with BBC Hard Talk, and the missiles reporters throw at Mr. Trump at White House briefings. It is such that Mr. Trump has been boycotting the Yearly White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The Trust reporter and his colleagues should have insisted that Fani-Kayode answers the question. He is a lawyer, when last was he in court? What do you do that your pocket is inexhaustible? How many lawyers does he have in his chambers that he is everywhere yet the chambers run? Is he mandated by his party in Opposition to go round to assess projects? He should have been made to walk out on them. They treated him with kid-gloves.

The relationship between governments and powerful people has always been combustible. It is the place of the media to pound their targets hard to squeeze the truth out of them. Femi Fani-Kayode is experienced enough to know that no power can succeed in intimidating the Nigerian media. It is reassuring that the Daily Trust management has risen to stand by their reporter. Fani-Kayode too has done well by promptly apologizing.

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