The Evangelist News edition, Wednesday, January 10, 2024. By Anietie U S E N

Segun Ayobolu, respected journalist, author and perfect gentleman is my contemporary in what used to be called the Lagos-Ibadan press axis. Festus Adedayo, another journalist and media consultant, belongs to the same axis but is little known to my generation of editors.

There is however a fine thread that connects Ayobolu and Adedayo. They have shared some long standing friendship, dining and wining together in the process. In fact, Ayobolu was a generous benefactor of Adedayo at a point and gave him quite some professional and material push in times of need.

In January 2022, Ayobolu, now the Editor-At-Large of the Nation Newspaper, had a reason to write about Adedayo, in the Premium Times, the most respected Online Newspaper in Nigeria. It was a write-up that many passed for a testimonial, truthfully testifying to Adedayo’s character.

In the curious testimonial, Ayobolu made reference to Adedayo’s “proclivities for misdirected mischief”. He questioned his “character and moral integrity” having “served as a media aide for eight years in an administration accused of some of the worst forms of corruption and violence against opponents” in Nigeria.

It is against this backdrop that the recent media outlash by Adedayo against Akwa Ibom people, the former Governor Udom Emmanuel and his successor, Governor Umo Eno, can be understood and appreciated. Obviously, from what he wrote about Akwa Ibom, the 53-year old journalist has “proclivities for misdirected mischief”. Not only that, Adedayo, with due respect, tends to also exhibit additional proclivities for dishonesty, intemperate language and disrespect for facts.

The first thing that struck me about Adedayo’s write-up was the indecency and gracelessness of his language. Right from the first sentence of his write-up about the International Worship Centre, ICWC, published in The Cable, a respected online newspaper, on January 7, 2023, Adedayo, for no just cause, labelled Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State as “a self-styled pastor”.

I was instantly alarmed because I knew from experience that this writer either lacked relevant communication skills or was all out to do a demolition job or both.

“Self-styled” is a hyphenated compound word that refers to someone who gave a title to himself. Adedayo did not bother to crosscheck and ascertain the fact that Governor Eno is not “a self-styled pastor”, but a publicly ordained pastor of The Apostolic Church Nigeria, TACN, since 2003, before he founded the All Nations Christian Church International, which is still an affiliate of the TACN?

Adedayo went ahead in other parts of his worship centre story to run rampage against Governor Eno and former Governor Emmanuel, describing both gentlemen severally as “charlatans” and “enemies of the people” for no other cause than building a worship centre for the State. Unwisely, Adedayo, in the process also left many trails as a man with strong links and in the firm grip of haters of former Governor Emmanuel and Governor Eno.

I will return to that later. For now, it would appear that Adedayo’s outlash was not really aimed at the worship centre per se, as it was a personal attack on Emmanuel and Eno, through the backdoor of the worship centre.

More sobering for me was the massive insults that Adedayo heaped on Akwa Ibom people. He said repeatedly that Akwa Ibom citizens are house boys and house girls and “the most sought after candidates for menial jobs of gatemen and house-helps…in slavish captivity in many homes across Nigeria”.

If it is true, as some people say, that Adedayo was paid by Akwa Ibom enemies of Udom and Eno to do the dirty job, I would suggest they ask Adedayo for a refund. This is because Adedayo obviously dropped the ball. He went beyond the brief he got and stooped low to insult every Akwa ibom person, including his paymasters. He bungled the job. They hired the wrong hand, who fumbled and forgot that the free education policy introduced by former Governors Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio, had turned the tide in favour of Akwa Ibom children who were in “slavish captivity”.

According to Adedayo: “aside (sic) unemployment”, Akwa Ibom is buffeted with “prostitution, cultism, vandalism, political thuggery and hooliganism…”. Of course, many would reject Adedayo’s opinion as too far from the facts and devoid of the truth on ground. Akwa Ibom, to the contrary, is a renowned oasis of peace and serenity in Nigeria, voted for six consecutive years now as the cleanest State in Nigeria by the National Technical Study Group (NTSG).

Not only that, Akwa Ibom State has been named as one of Africa’s Cleanest subnationals, as reported by The Cable online newspaper. In a listing tagged “Top African Cleanest Cities, 2022” by the highly influential on-line site “Inside Africa”, which tracks environmental and tourism issues, Akwa Ibom State was the only state in Nigeria named in the report. The report also listed Kigali, the Rwandan Capital as a top African Cleanest City alongside, Cape Town, South Africa, Tunis, Tunisia, Port Luis, Mauritius, Johannesburg, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, Kumasi, Ghana, Gaborone, Botswana. Dares Salaam, Tanzania, and Windhoek, Namibia.

“The listing of Akwa Ibom State in the report is a manifestation of the great developmental strides, especially in tourism and infrastructure, and the huge resources expended by the Governor Udom Emmanuel led- administration in preserving the environment and making the State livable and free of environmental hazards,” The Cable quoted a government official to have said in reaction to the report.

I would advise Adedayo to check out the Nigerian Security Index in the office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA. In that index, Akwa Ibom is rated as “one of the most peaceful States in Nigeria”. Without a doubt therefore, Adedayo did a great disservice to Akwa Ibom, and even for Nigeria, with his jaundiced story.

Turning attention to the worship centre, Adedayo described it as a product of ‘religious bigotry”. What is bigotry? Bigotry against who? Akwa Ibom State is 99.80 percent Christians. In fact, the name of the State in English means Almighty God’s State. So bigotry against who? Or is it bigotry against witches, wizards and Atheists, which Adedayo took sides with for challenging the construction of the worship centre in the court? Is Adedayo also among the wizards?

I suggest that Adedayo should leave the battle to the witches, wizards and atheists. The rest of Akwa Ibom is on the Lord’s side and deserves a central interdenominational and united Altar for their God. I don’t want to belabour the spiritual, economic and social benefits of such a world classworship centre. Suffice it to mention the recent remark of Wills Phlise Wills, the CEO of Wills Nigeria Limited and a Niger Deltan from Delta State: “The way this Akwa Ibom is going is beyond a State. Akwa Ibom behaves like a nation of their own. Am proud of them”. This was in reaction to my post on the same, ICWC, that Adedayo vilified.

In Adedayo’s condescending story, he also wrote about “self complex” and insinuated it was the reason for the worship centre. He compared Akwa Ibom with “a man who is buffeted by a huge self complex and tries to impress others by doing the unthinkable”.

Yes, I agree with Adedayo that Akwa Ibom is doing the unthinkable as Wills pointed out. But is this gentleman suggesting that the Nest of Champions Stadium, built by former Governor Godswill Akpabio, the only FIFA approved Stadium in Nigeria, a product of complex or that Ibom Air, the best Airline in Nigeria in various categories, initiated by former Governor Emmanuel is a product of complex or that the Airport itself, some of the finest hotels and road networks in Nigeria put in place by former governors Victor Attah, Akpabio and Emmanuel, are all products of complex?

If all these world class projects that Akwa Ibom is now renowned for, are the products of complex, we love this complex and will urge Akwa Ibom to suffer more from this type of beautiful self complex so that the future generations of Akwa Ibom people will not remain in “slavish captivity in many homes across Nigeria”.

Perhaps the worst part Adedayo treaties was his sweeping fallacies of generalisation and gross disrespect for facts or both. He compared the ICWC with the Yamoussoukro Basilica in Ivory Coast and rushed to the conclusion that it is a “similar edifice”. Similar?

Here are the fact about the two worship centres and how “similar” they are. The Basilica of Our Lady Of Peace in Yamoussoukro was built in the remote, deserted, rural birthplace of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the first president of Ivory Coast, accounting for its near desolation. The ICWC, which I nicknamed “Akwa Ibom Basiilca” in a detailed features I wrote for Thisday Newspapers, is built in the centre of the State capital, sandwiched between the sprawling Banking District, the 21-storey Dakada Towers, the tallest building in South-South Nigeria, the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment complex, the Unity Park, the Ibibio Museum, the 10-Lane Ring Road, with the Nest of Champions and the five-star Ibom Icon Hotel & Golf Resort, just a few minutes drive away. How similar are the two edifices?

The Yamoussoukro Basilica, listed by the Guiness Book of World Record as the largest Church in the world, has a capacity for 18,000 worshipers, inside the main hall, while the esplanade can accommodate a crowd of 300,000. Akwa Ibom Basilica has a capacity 5,000 worshippers only. How similar are the edifices?

The Yamoussoukro Basilica is 158 metres tall and a look-alike of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, while the Akwa Ibom Basilica is 49.36 meters tall, with a distinctive, original and uncommon architectural shape and features. How similar are the edifices? The Yamoussoukro Basilica is a single denomination cathedral for Catholic Church, while the Akwa Ibom Basilica is an interdenominational facility, providing a befitting place for religious type events and a podium that is sizable enough to host international conferences.
How similar are the edifices?

Comparing Yamoussoukro Basilica with Akwa Ibom Basilica, as a cover to insult Akwa Ibom respected and cherished leaders, shows how limited Adedayo’s knowledge of the two Basilicas are.

Furthermore, Adedayo misinformed and disinformed Nigerians, nay the global community by outrageously claiming that “the worship centre is said to have gulped a frighteningly N32billion”. “Said to have”? Who “said” it “to have gulped”? Can Adedayo name one authentic source, who gave him this humongous amount or is it just a figment of his imagination?

Let’s be serious, Mr. Adedayo! If N32billion l frightens you for a world class public facility that is a delight to the owners, what did N109billion pocketed recently by one corrupt man in government do to you? Killed you? As Akwa Ibom Commissioner of Lands, Retired Captain Iniobong Ekong said recently when an Uyo based community newspaper criticised the government for spending “a whopping N10billion” on the project: “What are they talking about? Are they saying that N10billion is too much for God”?

Perhaps, part of Adedayo’s misgivings stems from what he himself referred to as “envy” in his story. Yes, it is a fact that success sometimes breeds envy. But it is better to be envied than to be pitied. Akwa Ibom has been pitied enough for 36 years. Akwa Ibom cannot fold its arms any longer and sit idle anymore, so that it would not be envied by sulking politicians and their media consultants like Adedayo. Akwa Ibom is arising even higher to be envied never to be pitied.

Which brings me back, in conclusion, to the subject of media consulting job, which seems to be at the root of Adedayo’s onslaught against Akwa Ibom. I am not against media consultancy. “Man must wack” as we say it colloquially in Nigeria.

But Adedayo, who is known to have been scheming for a media role in the National Assembly since the 8th Senate, must note that media consultancy is sometimes like diplomacy. It must be graceful. It is, as they say it, the arts of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that he would look forward to the journey.

Not brash or rash. Nor referring to President Tinubu, as a “serial forger” of certificates, as Adedayo did recently, not minding the fact that he worked for President Tinubu’s company in the past.

Without doubt, I respect the claim by Adedayo on his social media profiles to be a man with “inexplicable anger”. It is a perfectly legitimate idea to be “inexplicably angry”. Yes, be angry; but sin not, as the Holy Book says.

I look forward to hosting Adedayo in Akwa Ibom at his earliest convenience.

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