Written by: Femi Adesina
He is the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity. A member of Most Influential Nigerians’ Board of Advisors, he also wrote the foreword to Most Influential Igbo Personalities – MIIP. He was the former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of one of the leading newspapers in the country, The Sun, and was also the President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors.
They were called the unsmiling duo. In his first incarnation as Nigeria’s leader, the then Major General Muhammadu Buhari was paired with another top brass military officer, Babatunde Idiagbon, who was the number two man. Smiles were alien to their lips, laughter,a total stranger. They had a job to do, which was to rid the country of corruption, crime and indiscipline, and anybody who didn’t fall in line was liable to being dealt with. And summarily too. Laughter was, therefore, a distraction.
Buhari was reticent; Idiagbon, taciturn. A fearful and fearsome combination. Do the crime, serve the time was their motto. Manifest indiscipline, even in something as pressing as answering the call of nature, urinate by the roadside, and you can’t tell anybody it was the work and of the Devil. They would tell you the Devil does not pee. Vandalise public utilities? Twenty years in jail. Traffic in cocaine? Goodbye to the world. Nigeria was being whipped into line, and no mistake. But that nirvana lasted only 20 months, and forces of reaction struck. The regime was toppled.
Along the line, Idiagbon went the way of all flesh. But 30 years later, Providence brought Buhari back to the number one position. Did Nigerians who were of age forget the reticent, ramrod straight man from Daura? No. The mental image they had (and still have) of him, is that of a man of iron and steel, a new sheriff in town, who whips all malefactors into line. A forbidding man who rarely smiles and who never enjoys the music of the soul: laughter. Such frivolities are for the flippant and unserious. True? Not so. Yes, there is iron and steel in President Buhari, which makes him able to set his face as flint against the corrupt, no matter who such person is. The iron makes him abhor indiscipline, the steel compels him to crave order and decorum at all times. But is the man all iron and steel? Follow me, as I let you into another vista, another side of the essential Buhari. The human side: flesh and blood.
By Wednesday, June 1, it would be exactly a year that I started working with the president as his adviser on media and publicity. And I have seen him in many moods: sober, pensive, business-like, and light, yes, easy, jocular mood. This president enjoys good laughter, and, indeed, has a rich sense of humour.
On resumption day, I met the president at Defence House, his temporary outpost, while the Aso Rock presidential villa was being renovated.
“Chief Adesina, welcome,” he said, as he extended his hand to me. We both burst out laughing. Of course, I was no chief. Simply Mr. And the president knew it. He was only pulling my legs.
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