Saturday, August 29, 2020 1:55 pm
By Bayo Adeyinka
During those heady days when Lautech was shut for a long time, I led the #FundLautech Initiative to crowdfund N1b in 90 days to pay the striking lecturers. Together with a team of four committed and dogged ex-Ladokites, we brought a national awareness to that issue through a series of initiatives. We produced jingles, made quite a few catchy infographics, engaged in some advocacy among other interventions. We also started the #FundLautech Internship for Lautech undergraduates who were home. We linked them with partners who gave them the opportunity to intern and learn various skills rather than sit at home doing nothing. We didn’t succeed in raising N1b- but we raised N9.4m which we donated to the University via a very transparent process.
Now, here’s my story. I got a call from a highly placed member of the State Cabinet during that period. When I picked the call, the caller was livid. He poured invectives on me for leading the initiative which to him portrayed them in bad light. Switching between English and Yoruba, he accused me of embarrassing his principal. While he railed, I was mute. I didn’t utter a single word. Then, he said words I will never forget. “Do you know I can get you sacked? It will only take a single call from my Principal to your MD to get you fired”. Those were his parting shots to me.
I attended the same primary school in Ibadan with this same fellow who threatened my daily bread- though he was about 2 classes my senior. His junior sister was in the same class with me and we all grew up together. I know every member of his family. But you see, power changes people.
I didn’t utter a single word that day not because I had nothing to say or I was afraid. I was shocked truly but I was calm as he unravelled before me. I saw him at his weakest, his most vulnerable moment. My shock evolved into pity for the man of power. Pity because he is the weakest of men who has to resort to threats to pass across his message.
This was the story in my head as I watched that FFK (Femi Fani Kayode) video and his response to that seemingly innocuous question, “Who is bankrolling you?”. The lowest point to me was when he said, “I will report you to your publisher”. I am not writing this to address FFK’s vainglory- too many have done that. My response is about Eyo Charles, the poor journalist that many have derided for not having the ‘liver’ to stand up to FFK or further rub his question in. It was truly a pitiable sight seeing the journo say “I am sorry” as he was pilloried- even though his silence allowed us to see FFK unravel so badly to his eternal shame.
It’s a matter of economics. Most journalists are not well paid- that is if they are paid at all. This is common knowledge. Some of them are paid from the adverts they are able to source for their publications. Who knows for how long this journalist trekked all over before securing this job? Maybe he has a wife and kids to feed. Aged dependants. Mounting bills. And you want him to stand up to a conscienceless man of power who was drunk on his own vanities? As FFK asked the original question, the journalist must have thought to himself too, “Who is bankrolling me?” If he stands up to this bully and anything happens, who will support him?
Do you think he cannot be fired? If he is, he will be the ultimate loser. He cannot afford to fight in court. Our judicial system is weak and where it works, it may take years for him to get justice by which time it is needless. The public that would initially have applauded his courage to stand up to a bully would have moved on and left him to his fate. Here in this clime, it is dangerous to be courageous-if you don’t have the power of economics. The Yoruba proverb that says if your hand is not on the gilt of your sword, you will never have the courage to ask about how your father died is trite. May our loyalty not be tested. Especially by hunger.
The response of the journalist should be a wake up call to address the issues facing that sector. As long as they are poorly paid, their self-esteem will always be affected. And it will be unfair to compare them to journalists in saner climes who work under better conditions and are protected by the law as they go about their professional vocation.
Back to my story- my ‘friend’ is out of office now.
Power is transient. Everything that has a beginning must have an end.
-Bayo Adeyinka, a banker, writer, public affairs analyst and social entrepreneur, writes from Lagos