How I became Buhari’s Special Adviser – Femi Adesina

Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, has revealed how he forged a relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, which led to him being appointed to the Presidency.

Adesina, who is a respected journalist, was until recently, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun, says he has believed in Buhari as far back when he was a military ruler.

He stated that his unsolicited writing and articles about Buhari over the years, was particularly what made Buhari, reach out to him for the position of Special Adviser when he became President.

Read below excerpts from Adesina’s interview with Punch Newspapers:

“The President is somebody that I have admired for a long time since he was a military ruler. When he was a military ruler, I was already in my third year in the university. So, I can say I knew him and his style and I liked it. I felt sorry when his government was overthrown. So, when he came back into partisan politics in 2003, it was something that was very exciting for me and since then, I have been supporting him. I am a journalist and I write a weekly column. I have been pointing Nigerians in his direction since 2003.

And whenever I wrote anything in his (Buhari’s) support, he would call me on the phone and we would discuss and he would thank me. I remember in 2009 or thereabout when Prof. Tam David-West wrote a book on Buhari and it was to be presented at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. I was the master of ceremony of the occasion so we got to speak and know each other better.

That was the first time I would meet him (Buhari) in person. Thereafter, he ran for President in 2011 and I still wrote in my column that I thought he was the best person to rule Nigeria and bring a change. Whenever I wrote those things, he would call me and he would thank me and we would talk.

So, eventually, in August 2013, I lost my mother and we needed to do her funeral. So, I sent Buhari an invitation card. The service was in Lagos and lo and behold, before the service started, he drove in. It was a pleasant surprise. It was a Christian service and he sat through it. Those who had said that he was a religious bigot were shocked. This was a Muslim man that came for a Christian service and attended the full service and yet they were saying he was a religious bigot.

So, that act cemented our relationship because after the event, I phoned him the next day and thanked him but he said he was the one that should be grateful because he had never given me a kobo and yet I always gave him all the support. He said there were people that could pay me millions of naira for such support but I had decided to pitch my tent with somebody that could not give me anything. So, that cemented our relationship.

You know, in 2011, he said he would not contest the Presidency again but in the run up to the 2015 election, I felt he should still run and I wrote that the fact that he said in 2011 that he would not run again could not be carved in concrete and he could change his mind if he wanted and the rest, they say, is history. He changed his mind, he ran and he won. Significantly, on the night that he was declared the winner, my phone rang around midnight and one of our leaders in the media called and said, ‘Please hold on for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’. I was shocked and when he spoke to me, he said he appreciated my support throughout the campaigns and now that victory had come his way, he just wanted to say thank you. So, that was how it played out.

How did you get the appointment? Did he call you or were you interviewed?

After he had been declared winner and after he had called me on the telephone, I deliberately stayed away from him for two reasons. The first was because I knew he would be under a lot of pressure. A lot of people would be calling to congratulate him and probably seeking one thing or the other. So, I think from that night, which was March 31, I deliberately stayed away from him because I did not want to add to the pressure that would be on him and secondly, I didn’t want it to be that I was seeking a position in his government.

I am a born again Christian and I want anything that happens or comes my way to be what God has ordained. I don’t push anything; I don’t lobby for anything so I kept my distance from him. But then, people around him kept talking to me and kept telling me that they believed I was the best person to be the spokesman for the incoming President. However, I did not give any commitment for two reasons. The first, as I said earlier, was that I didn’t want to lobby and secondly, I have a job that I enjoy doing: Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of one of the leading newspapers in the country, The Sun, and then I was also the President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors.

Those are high calibre jobs and responsibilities. So, I wasn’t looking for a job but then people around me kept talking to me till eventually, there was some sort of interview but I would not say it was a direct interview but people singled me out to say, ‘Well, if you are invited to serve in government, will you serve?’. My conviction had always been that I would never serve in a government except one headed by Muhammadu Buhari. So, when they singled me out, I told them I didn’t think I wanted to serve in the government but since it is Muhammadu Buhari, I will consider it.

But I also reminded them that I also have a job and I have to consult with my publisher (Orji Uzor Kalu) and I have to seek his blessings. Reluctantly too, my publisher gave his blessings. He told me that they would not know the sacrifice he had made by letting me go but since it is a service to the country, I have his blessings. So, I got back to them and told them yes, that I had sought my publisher’s blessing and the next I heard was the announcement that I had been appointed Special Adviser on Media and Publicity.”

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