Some weeks before the total lockdown of Nigeria and the rest of the world, two journalists found their way into the regal office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where they were privileged to speak with the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Chief Femi Adesina.
ThankGod Ofoelue, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Jungle Journalist Media Limited, and his counterpart, Chidipeters Okorie, who is the Publisher of Time Africa Magazine met with Chief Adesina, where he entertained them to a one hour story about his life.While the interview went on, they had the rare opportunity of meeting with the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who breezed in to have a brief chat with the Media Adviser.
Adesina told a lot many things about himself that is nowhere else in the public domain.
Here, Jungle Journalist Media Limited reproduces word for word, the adventures of Femi Adesina, from birth to present, narrated in 60 minutes.
Some people look up to you, especially we that are new in journalism. May we know who Femi Adesina is?
(Laughs) You want me to tell the story of almost 60 years in how many seconds? He is a Nigerian journalist, hails from Osun State, schooled in Osun. Then it was Western State, then it became part of Oyo State, then it became part of Osun State.
I went to the university in Ife, and went into journalism and since then,1986, I have not done anything else. Though I have not been in the newsroom since 2015 when I came to work in the newsroom, but I see what I do now as an extension of the journalism.
On the other side, I was involved in news processing, managing a newspaper, but now I am a content provider for the media. That’s Femi Adesina.
Tell us about your childhood
My childhood- my father was a principal and my mother was a school teacher. You know when an educationist brings you up, it’s tough. Our house was like an extension of the school. My father tell stories of how tough he was. Just as he was tough in school, so was he tough at home. But it worked together for our good, because today, we are thankful he bought us up that way. We are five boys and two girls. If he didn’t bring us up that way, we may have got out of hand.
Where is he now?
Gone. Gone the way of all flesh. My father died in 1995, he was 70 and my mother died in 2013, she was 75.
What exactly would you say you captured from them?
I want to also believe that the discipline helped me in life. I wouldn’t call myself someone that lived carelessly. My parents thought us to always be focused and to stay in line. So it reflects in everything I do. And I like the personal discipline he gives you.
For instance, people ask me what I admire about President Muhammadu Buhari. It is personal discipline. If you see him, it’s patterned lifestyle. In some ways he reminds me of my father, those are some of the things I admire about him among many others. In terms of integrity, in terms of incorruptibility, my father was well known for those qualities.
What was your university days like?
We had a very tough father so going out of the house to school was like liberty. All the things we couldn’t do under him, we began to do, all the things young men will do. But what changed the direction of my life was that I got born again early. Immediately after National Service, we got born again so it kept me in check.
In the university up to national service, if you wanted to see anybody that could organise a party, it was me. But fortunately, I got born again and so didn’t burn my candle at both ends.
What did you study in the university?
English, and then I later did professional studies in journalism.
You have any regrets from that past?
No I think I was lucky that I didn’t dance too far. I danced enough but not too far.
At what point did you meet your wife?
I met my wife in 1988, the same year I got born again. I actually met her when I was going to a crusade, and she sat behind me when I got to that crusade. It was at that crusade that I gave my life to Christ. One thing about me is that once I decide a thing, I don’t look back. Once I answered that altar call, my life changed. In fact, all my friends with whom we did all the things we did together couldn’t believe it.
What particularly attracted you to her?
I wouldn’t know, I remember, you see, she is a twin. My sister was living in a house along with her twin. They are not directly identical but they have some similarities. I was walking along the road and then I saw her. I thought it was her twin and we greeted. After I walked down and she had walked down, I wanted to look back to be sure if she is the one I know. As I looked back, she also looked back and we caught each other in the act. So later at the crusade, she came, sat behind me and that was how we started talking.
One thing about me and her is that we can talk. We can talk and talk for hours, and it has helped us in the marriage. We have been married for 29 years, but because we talk about everything, it has really helped us.
What is your family like?
I have two kids, grown now because my son is 27 already and he is a pilot. Then my daughter studied French, she runs a French Training Institute, and am glad that both of them are doing very well.
Tell us about your job experience
I left university in 1986,and went to serve in Lagos State Television. In my secondary school, my teachers, I dint know what they saw in me and will either say that I will be a journalist or a lawyer. So eventually I opted to go into journalism. I would have read journalism direct but Ife didn’t offer it then. So I studied English. Then I went to LTV, then to Radio Lagos, then Vanguard and from there I went to Concord Press and then to Tribune and was in the editorial board. Then to the Sun. I was the founding editor of Daily Sun.
What has the road being like? Rough?
No, I take pride in the fact that I climbed every rung in the profession. I started as a cub reporter, and then I became s staff writer, then a senior writer. Then I became Chief Correspondent. From it I became a Deputy Features Editor, then Features Editor. Then I became Editor at the National Concord all the rings of the ladder I climbed, and when Sun was established, I became the Founding Editor. After five years, I became Executive Director of Publications. After that, I became Deputy Managing Director/Deputy Editor in Chief. Then I also became President, Nigeria Guild of Editors.
So if there is any position in journalism, I have held it all.
Currently, people are beginning to say that Adesina is becoming too ‘pen arrogant’ in terms of addressing issues. What do you think of this?
I really don’t know what they mean by that, but one thing about me, my father used to say ‘Femi will always say his mind’. I told you my father was tough but it didn’t stop me from saying my mind. Even now as I work for the president, if there is anything to say, I say it he way it is. Am the type of person that says my mind, and I can say it to anybody with joy being rude or disrespectful.If some people interpret that as being arrogant, it’s because they don’t understand who I am.
What is the work like at the Presidency?
I am here today because I admire the person I have come to serve. If it were not President Buhari, I definitely wouldn’t be working in government. All my career from the day I left school was in the private sector. I didn’t plan to ever work in government. But because I had always admired President Buhari, right from when he became the military Head of State, I was already a 3rd year student in the university when he cane and so you can’t call it hero worship, I knew my mind. I was old enough to know what I wanted and I began to follow him since that time.I love his discipline, his simplicity, his accountability, integrity. He is not like the average man who lets it eat into his head, he holds power with simplicity. All the things I like, all the things I admire are found in him, so the offer now came to come and work with him, I took it.At that time, I was MD/Editor of a thriving newspaper, I was president, Nigerian Guild of Editors, I didn’t need a job. But because it was Muhammadu Buhari, I took it. I was not looking for a job, I didn’t want it, I didn’t want to work in Government. But because it was Muhammadu Buhari, I took it. If it was somebody else I would never have accepted it. That was not what I wanted for my life.
What is the one thing you don’t like about Mr President?
There is no human being alive that is perfect. But when you have people who have virtues that outstrip their failings, you easily overlook the failings.
My next question is multi-headed: how do you cope working in the presidency and managing to be with your family?
My family lives in Lagos and it’s a big sacrifice. Before I came to work in Government, I had been married for 25 years, I have never separated from my family except when you travel as a journalist and you know we travel often. But to live apart, it has never happened. So for the first time, 25 years into marriage, I had to come to live in Abuja and it’s not easy.
There are lonely days and lonely nights, but fortunately my children were already grown when I came to work in Government. My son was already a pilot, my daughter was in final year. If they were younger, I would have moved them to Abuja. But I try to go to Lagos as often as possible, minimum once a month. My wife spends all her vacation here and my son, because he is a pilot, anytime he stops over in Abuja comes to stay with me.
I remember when you lost your sister and I read your lamentations
It was very painful, every time I remember it. She was a professor in dramatic arts and she was travelling from Ibadan to Lagos, she had an accident and died. It’s still very painful. Don Williams said ‘some broken hearts never mend. In that area, all Adesinas broken hearts are not mended, but we still trust in God and have moved on.
What is your regret in life?
I can’t think of any rather there is plenty to count, really plenty. I think the reason I have no regrets is that I got converted early. So all the mistakes I could have made, I didn’t make them because God was guiding my steps. My only regret now is when I fail God.
What time do you have to write all the things that you write?
I have one grace, and it’s because writing flows in me naturally. I can write anywhere – in the plane, car, anywhere. In fact as a reporter, most of my best stories were written on the road. On the express, I will be writing. When I get to the office and submit it to the editor, it will lead the paper and people will not know they I wrote it on the highway.
So God has given me that grace, and that’s why I still can write despite the nature of the job I do.