President Buhari's spokesperson, Femi Adesina, reportedly lost his cool, screamed his lungs out and threatened a reporter. All in a day's job. - The Naija Weekly

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

President Buhari's spokesperson, Femi Adesina, reportedly lost his cool, screamed his lungs out and threatened a reporter. All in a day's job.




Mr. Femi Adesina who is President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, reportedly screamed at Punch reporter, Mr. John Ameh, while threatening to bar the journalist from covering the State House--Nigeria's seat of power--in the future, according to a Punch story.
“What was that rubbish you people wrote on Saturday?”, Adesina reportedly asked in a fit of unbridled rage, while referencing a story published in The Punch of Saturday, September 14, 2019.

In the beginning

The Punch had run a story with the caption: ‘Tribunal: Buhari retracts, confesses he was under pressure.’ 
In the story, the newspaper had contrasted the president’s separate reactions to the election petition tribunal ruling of Wednesday, September 11, 2019. 
Soon after the judgment, the presidency had released a statement to say Buhari was not perturbed by the outcome of the ruling. 
“A good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along, because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated,” Buhari had said through his media aide Adesina.
However, when governors of the APC paid him a courtesy call at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Friday, September 13, Buhari confessed that the cabinet meeting of September 11 was a welcome distraction for him on the day. The president confessed that he could have been traumatized otherwise. 
The tribunal judgment and the cabinet meeting held on the same day.
“On this judgement, again it was a fabulous coincidence that it came almost the same time the first Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of this government was taking place. It is a very interesting coincidence and I thank God for it because I would have been in trauma or something of that sort. So thank you very much for sharing the glory with us,” Buhari had said.

'If you want to last here'

Adesina’s anger stemmed from the slant Punch handed the president’s second response to the tribunal verdict.
According to the spokesperson, Punch made it look like the first reaction which was issued by Adesina, was not approved by the president.
“Did you say that Mr. President did not approve the statement? Let me tell you, if you want to last here, you had better be careful!” Punch quotes Adesina as telling Ameh at the Press Gallery of the Presidential Villa.
According to The Punch account of events, “the presidential aide then walked away before our correspondent could utter a word in response.
“Our correspondent gathered that Adesina had also threatened to bar members of the State House Press Corps from ‘open coverage’ of the President’s events.”

The Facebook rant

Before the reported harassment of the journalist, Adesina had taken to his Facebook page to ridicule the reporter and his newspaper.
Adesina had written the following: "Referring specifically to judgment day by the tribunal, which coincided with the maiden meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), President Buhari had said: “It was a fabulous coincidence that it came almost the same time the first FEC meeting of this government was taking place.
“It lasted about the same time with the judgment. I thank God for that because I think I would have gone into trauma or something. So, I was busy trying to concentrate on the memos.
“An elementary understanding of the English language shows that President Buhari was talking specifically of the day and time of the court ruling, not before.
“Saturday Punch went further to say that the president’s remarks amounted to a retraction of his earlier statement, in which he said he had been unperturbed about the judicial challenge to his electoral victory.
“I was unperturbed all along... Was that referring to judgment day? A simple comprehension of English language indicates otherwise. It referred to the many months the case lasted in court.
"To further show malice and evil intent, the newspaper indicated that the president may not have been privy to the earlier statement that emanated from his media office. Who does that, for such a landmark development, without the consent of the principal? 
“As a piece of information, the president personally approved the statement for release, as the FEC meeting was winding to a close. If stories end up being dumped in Saturday Punch without the editor approving it, then the newspaper should not use such pedestrian standard in judging the media office of the President.
“If the Punch reporter and the editor (if he, indeed approved the mischievous story for publication) had so much challenge with the English language, they could have opted to write in their mother tongue. It could have served them better.”
Adesina was not immediately available for comments when Pulse rang his mobile for a reaction to Punch's account of events.

Punch and The Villa

It is the second time in the Buhari era that a Punch reporter has received a raw deal at the hands of presidential villa staff.
In April of 2017, another Punch correspondent, Mr. Olalekan Adetayo, was expelled from the State House press corps by then Chief Security Officer at the Villa, Bashir Abubakar.
Abubakar had claimed that two stories in the Punch with the captions: ‘Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari’s poor health’ and ‘Seat of power’s event centres going into extinction,’ as written by Adetayo, were uncomplimentary.
Abubakar had summoned Adetayo to his office, briefly detained him and compelled him to write a statement before directing that his accreditation tag be withdrawn. He also ordered security operatives to escort the journalist out of the villa.
At the time, Adesina played peacemaker between the newspaper and the Villa.
The spokesperson had reiterated what he described as President Buhari’s commitment to press freedom.
“We weren’t consulted in the media office by the CSO before he expelled The Punch reporter. President Buhari is committed to press freedom.
“An amicable solution would be found to The Punch’s reporter matter. President Buhari does not intend to muzzle the media in any way,” Adesina, a former Managing Editor at The Sun, had blurted.

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