By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA — Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and National Chairman of All progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday, traded blames on the concept of leadership by example.
The two leaders were at each other’s throats at the official presentation of “The Big Interviews,” a book written by the immediate past Managing Director of Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Eric Osagie.
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The event which had in attendance journalism’s finest hands including Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka, business mogul, Alhaji Isa Funtua, among others, started in earnest when Oshiomhole was called to make a few remarks before the unveiling of the compendium.
In his characteristic manner, Oshiomhole drew applause from the crowd with his delivery, as he called on media practitioners to be more courageous, particularly when taking on men in power.
Citing an instance with a foreign journalist’s encounter with a former Nigerian President he didn’t name, on population issues, Oshiomhole said the ex-President was the wrong man to have spoken on the subject matter, considering what he called his poor handling of marriage and family institution.
Flaying Nigerian journalists for often asking men in power questions they enjoyed answering, the APC chair said the journalism profession would lose its spark if it was stripped of its power to probe and unravel tough issues.
‘Timid Nigerian interviewers’
He said: “When I watch interviewers abroad, I see fearlessness, I see courage. When I watch any of the international cable networks, I don’t hear any of the interviewers interviewing President Trump (Donald) say, Your Excellency.
“This is not because Trump is not particularly excellent. Even excellent Obama, I never heard or watch any media man interviewing him or asking him a question, say, Your Excellency. All they say is President Barack Obama.
“But in Nigeria, journalists make you feel that you are already super-human. And he will ask you questions that, sometimes for me, are quite patronising. And you get away with so much half-truths without the right to interrogate even obvious lies.
“President Muhammadu Buhari would be the easiest person to interview. I watched an interview with a former President and I believe that many of us here watched it. The host of Hard Talk, that popular BBC programme asked a Nigerian President, I won’t mention any name but Governor Nyesom Wike knows the person.
“He has associated with the person and he has been groomed under the person and he is still being overseen by the person. He was asked two questions at two different interviews.
“The man started by giving lectures as he had always done. He said the problem of Africa is lack of population control. He said the population was growing at three per cent and the economy at far less than that and that was why poverty was endemic.
“In terms of looking at a holistic approach to the African situation, he said it could not but focus on the question of population growth. And then this fearless professional BBC Hard Talk host asked him: “Since you were the President of Africa’s most populous nation, how did you contribute to the population? How many children do you have? And how many wives have you married, all your life?’
“Leaders should not preach what they are not doing? You can’t be on record as having so many wives both registered and unregistered, several children, some in dispute and then you go to the Queen’s land and lecture about population.
“You ought to have married one wife and maybe two children and then you use yourself as an example. If you were part of those who helped to create the problem, you then become a role model to the younger one.
“The second one was the same big man who writes letters a lot. They asked him that there was a lot of corruption in his government (Nuhu Ribadu will testify to that). And he said: “Did they say I am corrupt?” “You superintended over a government that, according to Transparency International, was very corrupt.
“You didn’t fight it, even though you set up formal institutions,” his interviewer continued. He tried to make a distinction between the President and the government. But the man told him: you have a responsibility to enforce law and order.
“You made those laws, you did not enforce them. I am trying to imagine if anyone here could have asked him such questions and find his way home.”
‘Practice what you preach’
Governor Wike, who thereafter took to the podium to give his goodwill message, tackled the APC boss headlong, saying “I agree with Oshiomhole that leaders should practice what they preach and not to preach what they do not practice.
“I remember during the chairman’s (Oshiomhole) second tenure as governor of Edo State, he came to the Villa to thank the then President for One Man, One Vote. Today, do we have one man one vote?”
The audience chorused a resounding NO!
Continuing, Wike said: “I expected that when he had the opportunity to thank the President, he would have carried it along with him to make sure One Man, One Vote continues to count. So preach what you practice.”
The governor, apparently basking in the euphoria of the moment, continued: “Remember during their own time, they had what they called Occupy Nigeria. Nobody was arrested, nobody was sent to jail, but today, today, today… Are they practising what they are preaching? We cannot be deceived, all of us know, we are not progressing, rather we are retrogressing.”
In what was clearly a salvo fired in the direction of his former principal who was once captured in a video that went viral, declaring his distaste for money, Wike said:
‘Dislike for money’
“You know a cabinet member said he does not like money. Who does not like money? Without money, can you pay your children’s school fees?,” he queried and again the capacity-filled auditorium chorused, NO!
The governor also took the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, to the cleaners.
The NIMASA boss had in his earlier remark, called on journalists to portray Nigeria in good light in their reportage.
According to him, investors could easily look away from Nigeria if reports by journalists continue to paint the country in bad light.
Responding, however, Wike said: “Without the states, there can be no Nigeria. You want people to speak well of the country but you are running down your own state. Practice what you preach.”
Peterside had, however, left the venue when the governor stated this, having earlier excused himself to attend to “some important official issues.”