BY BANYO TEMITAYO
The name Femi Adesina rings a bell across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Many may link this to the fact that he is the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, and should, ideally, be known to all as the mouthpiece of the Number One Citizen. But many others also know that he has carved a niche for himself in the media industry, even before he was named Presidential Spokesperson in 2015.
As the Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Newspaper, one of the frontline newspapers in Nigeria, Adesina held the tenets of the profession very high and ensured the continued relevance of the paper even in the face of keen competition. At the time, many referred to him as a complete gentleman, whose columns radiated knowledge and set agenda, especially as regards very important issues in the nation’s polity.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors, under his watch as President, also received compliments from colleagues across the nation, especially with respect to his handling of salient issues concerning the guild, welfare of members and newsrooms across Nigeria.
But Adesina did not rise to the top in one day. He started his career in journalism as a writer for Radio Lagos, after which he joined Vanguard Newspapers. The Presidential spokesperson wrote for Vanguard Newspapers and National Concord before joining The Sun, where he rose to the position of Editor-in-Chief.
He served a two-year term as President of the NGE and was re-elected for a second term. He, however, stepped down as President, NGE and as Editor-in-Chief of The Sun when he was appointed Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity. He was sworn in on August 31, 2015.
Though his foray into mainstream governance has exposed him to knocks on behalf of his principal and on behalf of himself, not a few colleagues maintain that this presidential aide remains one of the best in the media industry.
Those who argue in his favour say he has demonstrated the key ingredient of success in any position – loyalty – enough to earn him consideration for bigger assignments.
I was Editor of Punch at a time when we struggled to get things done, and I recognise stars immediately I see them. Femi Adesina is a star, regardless of what anyone thinks now as a result of some positions against the current government”
According to them, Adesina has defended the current administration’s unpopular policies with enough conviction as an individual beyond what many would describe as “merely serving the interests of his pay masters”.
“As the President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Adesina steered the ship very well. He was always on the side of integrity, and the Guild was well respected. He is an amiable fellow who understands the terrain very well. He is one of the finest journalists we have in this clime. I was Editor of Punch at a time when we struggled to get things done, and I recognise stars immediately I see them. Femi Adesina is a star, regardless of what anyone thinks now as a result of some positions against the current government,” Alhaji Nojeem Jimoh, a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors says.
“He is very humble and respectful, and this is what I hear from senators and other top officials of government, including his bosses in the media. He picks my calls immediately, and if he is in a meeting, he would return the call and apologise. As far as I am concerned, he has delivered on his mandate as the Spokesperson for President Buhari efficiently,” he adds.
For the Editor-in-Chief of Leadership, Azubuike Ishiekwene, Adesina is a man to have in your corner in good and bad times.
He says he is passionate about everything he does and not pretentious about his loyalty and his faith.
“I have known Femi for 29 years. He is passionate about everything he does and is unpretentious about his loyalty and his faith. He’s a man to have in your corner in good and bad times,” Ishiekwene, a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, notes.
How has he continued to maintain a balance between professionalism and his spokesperson job in spite of criticisms?
“There is no one who will handle this kind of assignment, and not be criticised. It comes with the territory. But I’ll say my staying power is the grace that God gives and the fact that I’m serving a man I genuinely like. I’ve always admired him since he was a military leader in the 1980s,” he told The Point