The fever that is raging in Nigeria todayis “Wikileaks”. Yet as entertaining as these secret communications are the truth is that if you believe everything that you read in Julian Assange’s “leaks” then you will believe anything. I say this based on my own personal experiences.
So far I have been fingered twice by them and in both cases I can assure you that the stories were fabrications. They simply never happened.
The first story (which was published in an internet magazine called “Nigerians Abroad” with Wikileaks as its source) claimed that I had lunch with my father and traditional ruler his Royal Majesty the Ooni of Ife, his son Prince Tokunboh Sijuwade and the then American Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. John Campbell in the Ooni’s home in Lagos and that at that lunch we collectively “begged” the Americans to support President Olusegun Obasanjo’s bid for a third term in office. Yet the truth is that this NEVER happened.
The four of us NEVER had lunch together in Lagos or anywhere else at any point in time and we never had any other sort of meeting throughout the four years that I was in government, let alone discuss “third term”.
If there was ever any meeting between the Ooni of Ife, Tokunboh Sijuwade and John Campbell I was certainly not there but I assure you that even if such a meeting between the three of them ever took place the Ooni of Ife, being one of the most revered and respected traditional rulers in Nigeria, would never “beg” anyone for anything, least of all the Ambassador of a foreign nation.
If anyone doubts my assertion that the four of us never met I challenge them to ask the Ooni himself or Tokunbo Sijuwade. The second story was that I had a Virgin Nigeria airport manager beaten up by six state security officers when I was Minister of Aviation because he would not delay a flight for a Presidential aide.
They also said that I had the Virgin Airlines V1P lounge at Murtala Mohammed International Airport ransacked by “basebat wielding” security men because I wanted the lounge closed down. Again these events NEVER happened. As a matter of fact I was the one that approved the VIP lounge for Virgin at the international wing of the airport when I was Minister of Aviation and they continued to function there smoothly for over a year after I left office. Yet even though this was all bunkum this ridiculous story was recently published in a hitherto respected medium like Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London which quoted wikileaks as their source of information.
I have of course briefed my UK lawyers and I intend to sue the Times who did not deem it fit to ask for my side of the story before going to press and publishing this falsehood. They will now be compelled by a British court of law to prove that these events actually took place.
Again if anyone doubts my assertion that neither of these two incidents with Virgin EVER took place when I was Minister of Aviation they should reach Sir Richard Branson, the Chairman of Virgin or John Adebanjo, his representative in Nigeria, and ask them.
They should also get the name of the Virgin Airline manager that was allegedly “beaten up” and tortured by state security operatives on my orders, get the names and description of the officers that did the beating, tell us exactly what location, what time, what day, what month and what year this event took place and finally get the assaulted and tortured manager himself and the former Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria to give a press conference and tell us exactly what happened. The problem is that Nigerians always like to assume the worst about their leaders but when it comes to allegations that appear in wikileaks we have to be very careful and far more circumspect.
This is because simply because an event was reported to have happened by a low ranking American embassy official, the Consul-General or the Ambassador himself does not always mean that it is true.
They are human beings as well and not angels and sometimes they embellish stories, fabricate lies, exaggerate events, sensationalise discussions or just base their reports on fake stories and idle gossip that they have been fed by their desperate, ever-ready and ever-eager to please local informants.
We should stop being so gullible when we are fed these sensational reports and we should learn to be far more discerning than we are. Not everything that American diplomats and spies file and write in their secret reports to Washington is true. I know this from my own personal experience and the libellous falsehood that they wrote about me.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was the spokesperson to President Olusegun Obasanjo; he subsequently became Minister of Tourism & Culture & later served as Aviation Minister.