By Olu Onemola
There is no doubt that Olusegun Adeniyi is a popular columnist. That is why one will expect that a writer of his caliber will not rush to join a mob in giving an opinion on an issue without proper investigation and full understanding of both the under-currents and the obvious points. Neither should he engage in using his column to settle personal scores.
At least, Adeniyi is known to be a journalist not a politician. And this is in spite of the fact of his history as an indigene of one of the towns in the southern part of Kwara State. However, his article last Thursday, March 1, 2019, titled “The Message from Kwara” was a mere rush to pass judgement on why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the Presidential and National Assembly elections in his state. The article appeared to be a pure betrayal of Adeniyi’s sentiment and partisan preference. It only shows his long-harbored elite feeling about “why should it always be the Sarakis alone?” This question based on envy and primordial sentiments have dominated Kwara politics in the last 41 years when the Saraki political tendency and structure has been in control of the state.
Though, one could concede Adeniyi’s right to take a stand on the politics of his state, it is just that he should feel comfortable and be honest to declare his stand, motivation and interest so that his numerous readers are not fed with disguised sentiments in the stead of pure journalistic analysis. What gave Adeniyi out is that the article under reference was a mere expression of bias and filled with falsehood, fallacies and misrepresentations that litter the write-up. An instance was his narrative about the visit of Mr Shawn Carter, otherwise known as Jay-Z to Ilorin in 2006. First, Adeniyi created a fiction which made it look like the American artiste was invited to Ilorin because Seni Saraki, the son of the then Governor has interest in music. Second, he wanted it to look like Saraki was frivolous in assigning government officials to receive a common, visiting musician, to Kwara, an illustration that he had no respect for elders serving in his government.
However, the fact is that in 2006, Beyonce Knowles was invited to Nigeria by Prince Nduka Obaigbena, who is Adeniyi’s employer, and other world renowned artistes for the THISDAY Musical Concert in Lagos. Her partner, Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z decided to accompany her to Nigeria where he planned to further his pet project, “Water for Life” being pursued in partnership with the United Nations which had appointed him as Ambassador.
As UN ambassador, the American rapper was charged with the responsibility to bring the worsening water and sanitation crisis to the attention of the world’s young people. Jay-Z’s multimedia “Water for Life” campaign, developed jointly with the UN’s Department of Public Information and MTV Networks, included a television documentary, an interactive website profiling the water problem in 26 countries and the distribution of free education resources.
The musician had chosen Nigeria and South Africa as countries he would visit in order to understand how African governments meet the clean water needs of their people and also to interact with ordinary folks. In Nigeria, he chose Kwara State as a place to visit. And this is based on reports that the state government was doing so much in the area of water provision to the rural populace and that it has a young, development-oriented leadership. The comments by the artiste during the visit also showed he was happy with the strides made by the state in the area of provision of social services to the people.
While his partner was in Lagos for the Music concert in Lagos, Jay-Z took time off to visit Ilorin. He commissioned a water project completed by the state government at Iponrin, a community at the outskirts of the state capital just as he witnessed the launch of a newly completed road project inside the campus of the Kwara State Polytechnic. He also shared his experiences across the world on challenges against provision of clean water and various methods being adopted in other developing countries with top government officials and opinion leaders.
The visit to Ilorin was designed to form part of the worldwide tour, for the musician that was to be chronicled by MTV and later turned into a special documentary series. The series titled “Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life” was aired on all MTV’s 50 locally programmed channels with a reach across 179 countries.
All these facts were known to Adeniyi as a member of THISDAY Board of Editors at the time. But he deliberately, for mischievous and partisan purposes, decided to either reconstruct the narrative or ignore them to suit a script that will make it look like the visit was planned for the benefit of the then 11- year old primary school boy, son of the Senate President. One had thought that even in playing dirty politics, Adeniyi should not have crossed the line of decency by dragging in an innocent child. After all, he is also a father.
Also, a man like Adeniyi who had served as spokesman to a Nigerian President should know that if a dignitary is the guest of a government, top officials whose assignment is connected to the issue, policy, programme or project that is the subject or object of the visit would be involved in welcoming, briefing and taking round the visitor. So, misconstruing and misrepresenting the presence of certain government officials whose portfolio was related to water supply and construction of the water project that was commissioned by the musician at the airport reception for Jay-Z as a disrespect for them is simply doing injustice to public service ethos. It can only be done by a writer who is filled with hatred for the subject of his writing and seeking to draw on irrelevant issues in order to perfect his painting of the object of his hatred.
Adeniyi in the article also claimed that he was not gloating. Of course, except he wants to redefine the word, that is what his article was all about. Ordinarily, I will not respond to him, if that was all he did. This is because the Senate President is capable of defending himself. However, one is compelled to respond to a columnist who chose to ignore the facts that he is well acquainted with and would rather want to bring in an 11- year old boy to script a tale by moonlight. This is not a good example to give to upcoming writers.
–Onemola is Special Assistant on New Media to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki