Nigerian senate president’s spokesperson appointment sparks controversy

Senate President Ahmed Lawan (Photo Credit: Punch Newspaper)
Senate President Ahmed Lawan (Photo Credit: Punch Newspaper)

A controversy is brewing over the appointment by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, on Tuesday, of Festus Adedayo as his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity.

Mr Lawan had also appointed Mohammed Aji as his Chief of Staff.

Betty Okoroh, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Administration, said the appointments were made based on merit, experience, track record, and competency.

Although Mr Adedayo had served as media adviser to a former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, and Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of Enugu State, his new appointment has triggered outrage mainly from loyalists of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

This, many said, is because Mr Adedayo has over the years been a strong critic of the APC and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

Adedayo’s previous columns

Besides serving as media aides to past governors, Mr Adedayo has also been a regular columnist for major newspapers including PREMIUM TIMES.

In his write-ups, he never failed to hide is disdain for the ruling party and its administration.

In one of his articles titled “Who will be Nigeria’s last president?”, Mr Adedayo criticised the federal government’s decision to establish a radio station “principally devoted to Fulani herdsmen”.

“I have this hunch that by the time President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office after his second term, there may either be no Nigeria as properly so called or the nagging questions of our existence would have led to the ultimate violent resolution of our identity and leadership crises,” he said.

In another piece, the Ibadan-based journalist condemned the trial of former Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen, describing it as President Muhammadu Buhari’s desperation for re-election into office.

“Buhari’s recourse to spitting on the constitution he swore to uphold, his desperation for a second term, as well as that of the hawks surrounding him – in whose veins blood does not flow – will certainly drag Nigeria towards Cote d’Ivoire and land Buhari on the laps of Gbagbo.

“If Chief Justice Onnoghen is guilty of all those fabulous allegations levelled against him, he certainly deserves to rot in the hottest part of hell. But, Buhari does not have the constitutional power to sack him,” he wrote.

Adedayo’s appointment ‘surprising’ – BMO

The Buhari Media Organisation described Mr Adedayo’s appointment as surprising “given his antecedents and his undisguised contempt for the APC and President Buhari.”

In a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, the group urged him to demonstrate loyalty and integrity on the job.

“In fact, we’re surprised that Adedayo would consider, let alone accept, an appointment under the APC after all he had done to denigrate and diminish the party before, during and after the February elections.

“This was a man who railed unceasingly at the APC and its Presidential candidate. This is the prophet of doom who predicted the imminent disintegration of Nigeria and that Buhari might be the last President of Nigeria,” part of the statement read.

The BMO recalled that the new SA Media to the Senate President had served two People Democratic Party (PDP) governors in the South-west and South-east and wondered when he became a “born-again progressive”.

“We hereby advise the new media aide to demonstrate his loyalty and commitment to the ruling party by immediately going to his Ward to register with the APC and become a card-carrying member of the party.

“We urge him to use his office to ensure that the bond between his new boss and President Buhari remains unbroken. We know for a fact that the Senate President has avowed his love and loyalty to President Buhari and has pledged a harmonious working relationship between the National Assembly and the President.

“Nothing must happen to strain or put that relationship in jeopardy”, the group added.

I didn’t ask for the job – Adedayo

Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday evening, Mr Adedayo said he did not ask for the appointment.

The journalist, who described himself as a professional “who writes what I feel about the need for a good society,” said most of those who were commenting mistook him for a politician.

“I have never been a politician. But if the politicians feel that it is their birthright, they can have the appointment; it is not a do or die thing for me at all. If I go there, I’m going there to serve the country,” he said.

When asked if he has accepted the appointment, he said he is still consulting with his family.

“As I talk to you, I’m a student of the Law School and it is a certificate that I’ve sought to own all my life. So, for me to abandon it, is an issue that I’m still battling.

“I have never done anything in my life other than in the media. I have been a reporter, features editor, opinion editor. The only ‘affiliary’ thing I’ve done is be a media adviser to two governors and in those respect, I did my job as a journalist and a professional.”

Mr Adedayo said although he had worked with PDP and APC governors, he had never been a card-carrying member of any political party in Nigeria.

“The Senate President, I reckon, wanted me on the basis of my professionalism but if politicians feel it is theirs for keep, so be it,” he said.

“I don’t have any apologies for the fact that I am not a politician. I never worked for any political party and I am not going to work for any political party. But I have an idea of what a good country needs. And I will always write about it all the days of my life.

“I didn’t canvass for the job. I didn’t lobby for the job. I didn’t ask for the job. If the Senate President in his wisdom felt that he needed me, so be it,” he explained.

He added that should he accept the appointment, it “can never change anything.”

“One which I always did with my principals in government was to walk up to them and tell them the truth. If I take this appointment, I will continue in the same mode.”

Different reactions

Members of the APC, as well as Nigerians on social media, have condemned My Adedayo’s appointment as the Senate President’s spokesperson.

Already, there is a hashtag #sackFestusAdedayo already trending on Twitter.

The senator representing Osun Central, Ajibola Bashiru, described his appointment as “unfortunate” while reacting to the announcement on the Senate president’s twitter handle.

Below are some reactions:

https://twitter.com/TheAphenomena/status/1141340058135478272

https://twitter.com/AdeBanqie/status/1141321667786002439

https://twitter.com/cbngov_akin1/status/1141240601574293504

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