Nigeria’s former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode,, last week got into trouble with the news media. Again, his unbridled tongue got the better of him. Since July, he had been touring States controlled by his former governing party, PDP. Last month, he was in Cross River State. As usual, at the end of the tour of ‘development projects’, Aug. 22, Fani-Kayode called a press briefing. Until then, the journalists had been ‘nice’. No hard tackles, until a Daily Trust reporter asked who had been “bankrolling” the tours. Knocked off balanced, the former minister recovered quickly enough to tell the reporter that he was “stupid”.
“I am saying this on live TV. What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to? I will not take any questions from this man,” he said. “What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Go and report yourself to your publisher! Please, don’t insult me here. I don’t want to take any questions from this man.” Fani-Kayode fumed. “I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that. Who do you think you’re talking to. Bankroll who? You think I am one of those ones you… from who, when, how? You have a small mind, very small mind. Don’t judge me by your own standards.”
Daily Trust came quickly in defence of its reporter after the video of the confrontation leaked and described the verbal assault on the journalist as “reprehensible”. The newspaper said Fani-Kayode’s outburst was symptomatic of his “disregard” for the Nigerian media. “That Fani-Kayode attacks a reporter doing his job is an indication of the chilling disregard he has towards the media, and its work in investigating and reporting on issues,” it said in a statement. Before then. his outbursts had been condemned nationwide. That pressured him to issue a halfhearted recant.
Failing to apologize directly to the reporter, Eyo Charles, Fani-Kayode said, in a tweet, he regretted his outburst and hoped that his remorse “will assuage the pain and anger of anyone that was hurt or offended by this ugly episode. I met with my advisors; I wish to say the following. I hereby withdraw the word “stupid” which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar.
“I have many friends in the media who I offended by losing my cool & using such words. I hereby express my regrets for doing so. I would never seek to physically harm a journalist. For the last 30 years, I have defended & worked with journalists & fought for the right of freedom of expression. I am also very close to many in that profession. I would be the last to seek to disparage those that are honourable and noble within its ranks.”
It is ironic that Fani-Kayode chose to take on the same news media that gave him the platform that helped to put in the limelight. This has got into his head, making him believe that he is now a Colossus “bestriding the world” and everyone must crawl, in fear, between his giant legs. In his frenzy, the former minister forgot that you don’t bite the fingers that feed you and expect to be at peace with yourself. He only needs to go down the memory lane to realize his folly. Then it may already be too late to undo the damage done to his overly bloated ego. We only feel sorry for him.