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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Demonisation and Blackmail as Official Policy

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Postscript  By Waziri Adio;   waziri.adio@thisdaylive.com

After the publication, last Monday, of a so-called rejoinder to one of my articles on this page, my initial reaction was not to dignify such claptrap with a response. But I changed my mind. And I did for two reasons. One is the need to set the record straight. The other is the imperative of properly outing the incipient but vigorous stratagem of this regime to frame, demonise, and blackmail those who express contrary views. The regime’s initial goal might be to censor those not parroting its favoured lines. But if not checked, this authoritarian streak could metamorphose into something more sinister, as the world has learned from the dangerous exertions of Joseph Goebbels in Germany and Joseph McCarthy in the United States. 

Mr. Henry Omoregie, supposed author of the rejoinder, said he was responding to my article entitled “Dasuki, Metuh and Boko Haram.” In case you missed it, my article contrasted Chief Olisa Metuh’s pathetic witch-cried-yesterday-child-dies-today logic and his potentially anti-Islamic and Islamophobic rhetoric on behalf of the ruling party with the “all-of-society” approach to fighting Boko Haram recently unveiled by Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), the National Security Adviser. Here is the link to my article: http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/dasuki-metuh-and-boko-haram/174452/.

Curiously, Omoregie said the centre-piece of my article was Reno Omokri’s alleged link to Wendell Simlin. I do not want to believe Omoregie is ‘dyslectic’. But someone who has a plum hatchet-job will safely choose to read a text upside down or even read it with eyes closed. One does not need to be an expert in text or discourse analysis to see the clear link between the opinions hawked by ‘citizen journalist’ Omoregie in his ‘rejoinder’ and the publicly expressed views of Metuh, Omokri and Simlin. He left it all hanging out, without even a lazy attempt to pass off the spit as his own. 

The rejoinder featured a cocktail of allegations against me, tendentiously tossed together to project me as a partisan and to blackmail me into silence. I do not owe flunkies like Omoregie and his bosses any explanations, but I will address those allegations nevertheless, and here we go. They said I am a long-term, paid consultant to Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. I am not. I run two businesses: a consulting firm and a publishing company. My consulting firm worked with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on public communication between August and November 2009, and that was it. When Sanusi was installed as the Dan Maje Kano in 2012, the organising committee asked my publishing company to coordinate the publication of a commemorative booklet on him, and that was it.

Of course, I know Sanusi in personal capacity. But I am not his long-term consultant, paid or otherwise. They said he “coincidentally” graced the cover of the magazine I publish. Yes, he is on the cover of the current edition of Metropole. But what Omoregie failed to disclose (since they have the means of finding out) is that despite my ‘closeness’ to Sanusi I had to run after him for more than a year to get him to grant the interview. And when he finally agreed, the interview was rescheduled three times and my photography team and I had to chase him from Abuja to Lagos before we could secure a rushed photo-shoot, all at my expense. But these minor details would not advance the sexed-up line of ‘long-term, paid consultant’ that Omoregie and those behind his mask want to trumpet.

They said I organised a media meeting for Sanusi in a $500 a night hotel in Lagos. Yes, I did. Before going more into this, I am curious why how much guests pay a night to stay at Intercontinental Hotel is an issue. But for pure mischief, does it matter if the meeting was held at Sheraton Lagos, Eko Hotels or even in a private residence? Anyway, back to the meeting. Long before his suspension, I discussed with Sanusi that he risked being remembered not for his achievements but for his many controversies and that he needed to start shaping the discussion about his legacy. He said some people were already working on something, but he agreed to a meeting with editors and asked me to facilitate it.

During the meeting, he spoke largely about his achievements as CBN governor, about how and why he got into the NNPC issue, and about his position on the allegations against him. No one was asked to report or write anything out of the meeting. And despite that the meeting was completely off-the-record, one publication ran the discussions verbatim. But since Omoregie and his bosses are obsessed with people ‘disrespecting the president’ they have to manufacture a convenient reality.

I facilitated the meeting for him as a friend, not as a client and I was not paid anything for doing it. Is it a crime for Sanusi to meet with editors or a crime for someone to facilitate such a meeting for him? As a columnist, I have deliberately not written a single word on Sanusi’s removal or his issue with the Financial Report Council (FRC). The last time I saw Sanusi, spoke to or exchange messages with him was on the night of that Lagos meeting. All these they can verify since they have their sources and they have resources for snooping.

They said I am “a core member of APC.” I am not even an ordinary member of APC, not to talk of being a core one. They said I participated in APC’s national summit in Abuja as a delegate and I coordinated event for the party. I was invited to the APC summit, and the invitation letter sent to me was the same as the one for other editors and columnists invited to the event. Is it a crime to attend the public event of a party and does attending such confer automatic membership? I did not participate in the summit in any way and I did not coordinate anything for APC. Omoregie and his bosses have the means of finding out the truth. But sharing the truth will not be sexy enough and will not help their demonisation game.

And in what they think is their trump card, they said I desperately lobbied the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to head the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Yes, I expressed interest in the CPC job because I believe it is an obscure but important agency where I could make a mark in the service of customers, fellow citizens and my country. Those who know me closely know that since 2003 I have been a firm believer in the centrality of the public sector to the growth and development of Nigeria. But that does not mean I am desperate for any job. I am not jobless. I have never been. In fact, I have been offered, and I have turned down, many public sector jobs that many will kill for.

This is what happened on CPC: a friend who is close to Anyim told him that he thought I would be a good candidate for the job. He later told me the SGF said he was surprised I didn’t mention it to him given that we had known for a long time and we had worked together before. We went to see the SGF and he pointedly told us the matter was out of his hands. Eventually, a name was announced out of the about eight people shortlisted for an interview that never held. So where was the immorality and where was the lobby and where was the desperation? Why would anybody lobby desperately for what would clearly amount to a pay-cut for him, or desperately lobby to head an under-funded and little-supported government agency? And what is there to be sour about?

And more importantly, does it mean that a citizen can no longer express his/her views again about his/her society because s/he has a relationship with someone, organised a meeting with editors for someone, attended the summit organised by a political party and once expressed interest in a job meant for Nigerians? If this is not blackmail, then nothing else is. Sadly, it falls into a clear pattern. Demonisation and blackmail are the default reaction and weapons of choice of this regime.

Instead of focusing on governance, they are thrashing about hunting for dirt on those with contrary opinions and they have an online army that targets dissenters. (One of them, remarkably named Fairgame, will make unrelated comments on my articles; another one called me a supporter of terrorists on Twitter.) But I have news for them: some people cannot be intimidated. I will continue to express my views here and elsewhere without let. Besides, they need to get over themselves. Not all those who disagree with them do so for pecuniary or political reasons. And while it may be irresistible, the paranoid impulse that sees every criticism as enemy action has little utility for them and for our country.

In his scatter-gun demolition job, Omoregie insisted that Omokri knows nothing about Simlin. Great effort.  But even Omoregie-Omokri cannot make the accusations against Reno Omokri go away. It is only Omokri that can say what Omokri knows or doesn’t know. And since he claims to be a pastor, I beg the real Omokri in the name of God to please say what he knows about Wendell Simlin. Thank you.
ThisDay

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