OPINION: Oni Nkan koo, Akorede gbaa! - Tribute to a seasoned spin doctor. By Tunji Ajanaku
Dr Femi Akorede is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. He also holds a doctorate degree in related discipline from Cardiff University, in the United Kingdom. The Offa-born journalist and scholar is a highly intelligent and loyal aide to a fault. Prince Tunji Moronfoye, a former information commissioner and Akorede's colleague on the job, was another spin doctor. Prince Moronfoye, graduated from Unilorin. The gentle giant, Moronfoye, it was who said on radio that when dredging of Asa river was completed, fishing trawlers and oil barges would use the river. One should not be surprised at his optimism for oil barges since the administration had already "discovered a huge deposit of crude oil" in Aran-Orin. It's just a matter of having oil pipelines from Aran Orin to Asa river in Ilorin. Great dreams. The government neither completed the dredging of Asa river nor commenced the drilling of their fake oil well from Aran Orin as at May 29th, 2019.
Dr Akorede is fluent in Queen's English and flows perfectly in Yoruba. As the media aide to Gov Ahmed, he had all the answers. I doubt there was ever a time he said 'let me get back to you' on any subject. He's so cerebral that he can deliver a very convincing answer to every question on state affairs, at least according to his judgement. He once denied the existence of a Paris club payout to Kwara State, even when Kaduna State's Nasir El Rufai had announced that his state was paid only (for Akorede) to come back and announce the payout in the following week without any reference to the earlier denial. Dr Akorede is a perfect example of loyalty to a boss and to an establishment. He would defend his boss to the last drop of his "blood". And to the dynasty, he was committed. He would praise the leader in Yoruba - "Awon Olola wa, Olori Asofin Agba, ti afi t'owo t'owo da'ruko won Dr Bukola Saraki." He would answer questions on the policies of the Governor he served as well as that of the Senate president and, of course, the question would arise as to whether his job extended to the National Assembly or his mandate had no limit. When Dr Akorede gleefully announced the release of the 8th season of the TV series "Game of the Thrones" on facebook, I quickly concluded in my mind that he got inspiration for extreme loyalty from watching this movie and perhaps "House of Cards" too.
He was the most powerful SSA Media, that ever reigned in this state. His office dwarfed the office of Chief Press Secretary and that of Commissioner for Information - the latter literally did not exist for like 4 years. Akorede controlled the State owned Nigerian Herald, Radio Kwara and Kwara Television where he was the Sole Administrator. Unfortunately, he failed to make these state owned media houses shine. Too much power and zero delivery.
The SSA became more infamous during the salary backlog crisis that began in 2015. The Governor, a cerebral individual who potentially should have been able to move mountains in Kwara state but got all these potentials slaughtered on the altar of blind loyalty and inherent weakness, tried as much as he could to explain why we found ourselves in this mess but finally gave up and passed the mess to the poor SSA media. It got to a point that he had to borrow the excuse of APC at the centre and blamed it all on the 16 disastrous years of PDP, a party the Governor left barely "24 hours ago" and eventually returned to.
"The state is not owing the civil servants any salaries" rented the air. Be it on whatsapp chat, radio chat, facebook chat or TV, Dr Akorede got stuck to this rather nauseating statement. The state government paralyzed the local government through their obnoxious Joint local/state account and the joint project account, thereby rendering them useless and powerless even to pay salaries. To this, the SSA would tell you it's a matter of law that the KWHA has legislated the joint account into existence and there's nothing anyone could do until and unless it was repealed. With this asphyxiation of the third tier of government, payment of LG salaries was usurped by the state, using phony consultants. Yet the SSA would tell whoever cared to listen that no worker was being owed. The tertiary institutions suffered a terrible fate under the government of AbdulFattah Ahmed in terms of salaries, monthly subventions and all but the SSA would spin all kinds of data and analysis and tell you it's all lazy smoke and no fire. The same SSA, who repeatedly said that Kwara state was not owing any civil servants, also had the "unpleasant" responsibility of reporting that state government had released XYZ amount to offset a backlog of unpaid wages to LG workers, all in a desperate bid to woo electorates to their side. He would defend government projects with so much vigour, even when the citizens believed the project was not feasible or not serving the people's interest. For example, he boasted that Megida would complete and commission the new secretariat on Ahmadu Bello way when it was obvious that within the time left it was not feasible. In his words, he said, "Maigida will complete and commission the secretariat. Bookmark this". In the end, this did not happen.
However, when the armed thugs of the dynasty decided they were not getting enough from leader and murdered 33 innocent in broad daylight in exchange for less than N10m heist from banks in Offa, the SSA media was a bit sober. He didn't come on media to rant about this. Naturally, it should be expected since the armed robbery took place in his native Offa town. The soberness became more necessary when the noose was tightening around senior aides in the Government House. But no sooner had this died down than he resumed his loyal duties of spinning.
A professional to the core, Dr Akorede would take all insults on radio, on facebook, on whatsapp but would never return the insults. With his mastery of language, I think if he wants to insult anyone, he would do it so well and it would stick so perfectly and the opponent would agree that he has met a better match, but Akorede would never insult a soul. The easiest conclusion anyone can draw about him is that he lies but he will rather challenge you to come and check the records, visit the website and stuff. That's all he would say but would ignore the fact that you called him a liar. That's how refined he is.
My first physical encounter with this gentleman was at a gathering at Mustapha Akanbi Foundation Hall during the launch of the Fresh Insight, an opposition newspaper. Of course, he knew it was a paper that was meant to attack his constituency, although he probably did not believe that it was going to be one of the instruments that would bring down their government. He was invited and he attended. He was everyone's friend, even if you didn't agree with him. He has a smile that is seemingly plastered on his face. He hardly wore a tight face. When you say hello, there was a smile already on that face waiting to receive you.
Dr Akorede did his job to serve and promote his boss. He was recruited to defend his boss and the political party that propped us his paymasters. He was not hired to make anyone happy. If you thought he would release a statement that would make you jump up for joy, forget it, unless as directed by his principal. He would describe protesters as hired hands and if asked to address them in front of Government house, he would only break their hearts because he was serving a government that could never go wrong. Undoubtedly, this blind defense never helped his masters. If only for once he told his bosses that they were wrong, maybe he could have saved them from the certain collapse coming to them. The people rejected the government but Akorede put them on his head and was hawking them. He has never run for office, so he didn't realise that the owners of the political office holders are the electorates (Oni nkan) and there's no way he could convince them that their son was marketable when they knew him not be a good product.
The late Ilorin born music maestro Alhaji Odolaye Aremu hailed the legendary Adedibu, the king of amala politics in Malete, Ibadan for his notoriety for harboring the dregs of the society. "Oninkan koo, Adedibu gbaa - the owner disowns him, Adedibu admits him," sang the maestro. Adedibu kept and fed the thugs, thieves and societal rejects who were his henchmen for doing dirty jobs for him. It never mattered that their families didn't want them anymore; Adedibu would accept them. Even when Kwarans said No to the administration of Gov Ahmed AbdulFattah an, Akorede would never join the "mad crowd". He did his job to the satisfaction of his paymasters. Whether his job helped in sustaining them in power is a different matter entirely. I remember Lere Olayinka and his Fayose boss. Interestingly, they both went to silence mode after their decimation by APC's Kayode Fayemi. Will Akorede and his boss go quietly into the night after May 29th 2019 like the Ekiti duo? We wait to see. It's indeed an "otogelised" end of an era. But we will surely miss Akorede a great deal.
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