In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five days, I’ll bring you up to speed: Sometime last week, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was answering questions from journalists at a roundtable in Calabar, and Eyo Charles of the Daily Trust asked one regarding the ex-minister’s national tour of sorts.
I believe it was something like ‘Sir, you didn’t disclose to us who is bankrolling you…’
Needless to say, it’s a perfectly good, rational question to ask a politician who’s been on something of a ‘national tour’.
But shocking no-one, really, Fani-Kayode erupted with so much rage, venom, and spite.
A shaky video, which the one-time minister released on one of his own social media handles, showed what must have been a traumatic experience for the reporter Charles, as he was repeatedly assaulted verbally, and even threatened.
Ridiculous as that all was – including zingers like ‘stupid!’, ‘brown envelope-collecting’ etc. – it got worse: The video was edited to make Charles look like a ‘rude’ journalist, an angle which some online platforms hopped on gleefully.
And why not? When the other reporters on the scene just sat there like sheep, without a word or gesture of protest, or even intervention.
But that’s by the way.
The video of Fani-Kayode, perfectly in-character, and assaulting Charles went viral, with his echo chamber made up of fellow bullies and trolls spreading the false narrative of a ‘rude journalist’.
But thankfully, that was short-lived, as many strong, influential bodies began to make statements regarding the disregard Fani-Kayode exhibited against journalists doing their job, so he posted an apology.
If one could call that an apology, that is.
It was loaded and dripping with many things, none of them good.
What stood out is perhaps what was already evident in the video: a person grappling with hubris, loads and loads of it, thick and viscous.
It proved to be the attempt of a person who feels above many people, even with stark little to prove that delusion.
Then online, again, another video surfaced with jarring similarities to the Calabar misadventure’s, showing yet another of Fani-Kayode’s tirades against a journalist who must have asked a question His Royal Bully-ness must have found offensive.
Again it cut a picture of an individual with a deep-set disdain for journalists, or indeed anyone who asks probing questions, or ‘stupid’ (apparently his favourite word, which is ironic) questions.
Both videos also repeat tropes of someone trying to reassert his status, or what he imagines it to be. Repeatedly.
And I remember the description of someone who repeatedly does something while expecting a different result.
But I digress.
Fani-Kayode’s social media personality is, according to people who say they know him, almost identical to his actual one, which is dramatic and outspoken, sometimes to comical levels.
But there’s nothing funny about a powerful individual assaulting another he perceives as powerless, for doing his job.
There are many names for that kind of behavior, none of them palatable.
I don’t know him that well, but the little I know from his social media activity, frankly, I find boring.
It’s repetitive to the point of being inane. And to be honest, it’s not all his fault.
Many Nigerians on social media have been feeding his ego fat over the years, particularly on Twitter.
With almost a million followers there, one would think he would utilize it for good.
I mean, with great power comes great responsibility and all that, right?
But like I said, the blame rests on many Nigerians online, who applaud him when he engages in tweet-fights and cyber-roforofo fights.
They cheer him on, and attack anyone who dares think in the opposite (and more reasonable) direction.
With all that, and between trolling, bullying, and a rapidly growing trend of cancel culture, people like Fani-Kayode have unfortunately found a niche.
Loud and abusive? Check.
Ex-something with a chip on his shoulder? Check.
Blindly angry statements informed by political baggage? Check.
And that’s it: He’s suddenly the patron saint of internet trolls and bullies!
But here’s the rub: You cheer and laugh when a powerful individual tramples on the rights of another perceived-weaker one, and you exchange hi-fives when a lion goes for the throat of what it feels is an antelope.
Even if the antelope’s horns could end up injuring the lion – like in this case – it still makes you complicit, and responsible for whatever monster is created.
Which brings me to speak, again, to the subject of Fani-Kayode’s ‘apology’, throwing his own words back at him: ‘It’s insulting!’ Then don’t get me started on his ‘Do you know who I am?’ question, because I have the answer.
We know who and what he is, which is tiresome.
We all (and I mean sensible Nigerians) should not allow the kind of rubbish that happened in Calabar to Charles ever happen to anyone again.
Fani-Kayode’s show of shame shouldn’t be quickly forgotten, so it doesn’t fester and spread further.
We should stand up for what is right, and what is decent.
We should not enable bullies and petty tyrants ply their trade wantonly, online or anywhere else.
But in the process of doing all that – I implore you – do it like Charles, like a prince, with class and calm.
It showed who is indeed of higher pedigree in the whole circus.
As for myself, and as an individual with high regard for the honorable profession of journalism, and also as a practitioner of same, I say the following in response to Fani-Kayode’s half-baked, ego-ridden ‘apology’: Not accepted.