Posted by News Express | 1 October 2022 | 476 times
Sometimes in the middle 90s – around the June 12 period – the then Military Governor of Lagos State paid a semi-official visit to our publishing house. We were then publishing an evening paper at Oregun which is a stone’s throw from Alausa, the State Government’s seat of power. He spent the better part of an hour in my office during which we exchanged banters; we also exchanged views on the dynamics of publishing and public administration. He asked why I had never visited Alausa. I told him it was not my style. As he got up to go, he said he liked what we were trying to do and would want to help. He gave me a number. He also told his P.A. to be on the lookout. My Editors thought it was a good visit and urged me to take up the offer. After all, we were struggling to meet our financial obligations and this could very well be a lifeline. But I knew I would not visit Alausa for a handout or for anything that was not professionally related. The matter quietly died there. Many months later, I learnt an Editor was frequenting the place and getting small contracts from Direct Labour. While I empathised with him because of the financial pressure we were facing – delayed salaries and all – and this was far better than a Brown Envelope, I still needed to call him to order. I told him he could lose respect, not only for himself but for the paper he was editing. Worse, he could be compromised. Editors should be sought out. He should not be the one doing the seeking. I referred him to an experience I had in 1984 during Muhammadu Buhari’s first coming. General Tunde Idiagbon had invited senior media practitioners for what was possibly his first press briefing. Vanguard was just a few weeks old then and I had attended with my boss. After the briefing, we were asked to introduce ourselves. “Vanguard, which paper is that?” he asked condescendingly and rather derisively after I introduced myself. I recollect that senior colleagues like Segun Osoba and Tola Adeniyi rose to my defense. I told myself that I would never visit Dodan Barracks again until Vanguard became a household paper. (Vanguard became a household name within a year).
As much as I do not discountenance visibility, I have always believed that the strength of any professional is in the quality of his work. They say good wine needs no bush. I believe that. I also believe in the saying that familiarity brings contempt. Besides, the media that feeds on you can destroy you. It is in this light I wish people who have his attention could tell the Ooni of Ife to slow down on his many outside functions. I once met his predecessor, Oba Sijuade, shortly after he became the Ooni in the company of Chief John Odeyemi, a prominent Ife Chief. Oba Sijuade was a well-known and somewhat flamboyant businessman before he ascended the throne. But on this day, his gaze darted round his palace walls, and remarked that he was now a prisoner of ‘this place’. In a way, Obas are prisoners of their palaces. An Oba is expected to be met at his palace holding court. That is the tradition. That is the culture. It should take a momentous occasion for an Oba to venture out of his domain. It is part of the sacrifices an Oba has to make because too much visibility can destroy the mystique of the stool. Even the staff of an Oba is not something to be used often because it represents – or should represent – the presence of the Oba. Many modern day Obas tend to want to eat their cake and still have it. They want the stool of their ancestors but not the constraints and demands of the stool. And in so doing, they compromise the mystique and the mystery of the throne. Very few are forced to ascend the throne of their ancestors. Many in fact lobby for it. And if they want it so badly, they have to learn to take the whole package which includes being less physically visible.
The President is a different kind of Oba in the sense that visibility matters in their case – people want to press the hands of their President. But it should be visibility among their people not to the outside world. In my view, the same rule of familiarity breeding contempt holds when it comes to foreign travels. The more a President travels out, the less the mystique. Unfortunately, our Presidents love the grandeur of State visits. During electioneering, they promise to stay at home to tackle the myriads of local problems while their envoys led by the Foreign Affairs Minister, engage the world. But they renege on that promise as soon as they get into office and get lured into the allure of State visits. The most confounding is the current President who has neither the health, the depth, the charisma nor the oratorical prowess to engage the world but who hops on the plane ever so often to read prepared speeches that are sometimes out of tune with realities in his country. Besides all these is the cost of every foreign travel to the lean purse of the country.
Campaign for 2023 starts this month. Many promises will be made including limiting of foreign travels. I will not be holding my breath. Africans leaders just love foreign travels. They are the ones who take the most expensive accommodations at conferences. They are the ones with the large contingents – it’s ludicrous that leaders of beggar nations live larger that leaders of donor countries at international meets. (Is the case of an empty drum making the loudest noise?) They are the ones who love shaking hands and having photo ops with other world leaders. Yet a leader who hardly ventures out will be the cynosure of other leaders whenever he travels. He is also more likely to be respected and listened to. Especially if he is genuine in his desire to uplift the living standards of his people. A leader should not respond to every foreign invitation personally and thus become a two-for-kobo leader to the outside world. Simply put, African leaders should stay in Africa.
•Muyiwa Adetiba is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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