Wednesday, 4 January 2017

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

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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
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?
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.

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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