By Olalekan Adetayo
The old Banquet Hall of the Villa which has now been renamed the State House Conference Centre looked different on Thursday. The decoration in the main hall was superb. Those present also made the venue look more like a university campus. They were mostly youths who were busy for the most part of the programme taking photographs with celebrities using their smartphones. Skimpy and not too skimpy dresses were on parade. There was enough music supplied by the likes of Dare Art Alade as well as Simi and Falz. Kaffy also led a group of dancers.
The event was a three-in-one stuff. The major one was the public presentation of a pictorial book, “Buhari: A new beginning.” The book, or call it album, is a product of the President’s personal photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo.
Before the commencement of the book presentation, however, guests were treated to an exhibition that featured 24 pictures of the President as documented by the youthful Omoboriowo and 24 artworks by young Nigerian artists. All the 48 works on display were also compiled in a 41-page glossy brochure for those who attended.
The brochure opened with the photograph of Buhari acknowledging cheers from a crowd as he visited Kano to attend the coronation of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II on February 7, 2015 and his photograph while talking on the telephone with former President Goodluck Jonathan who called to concede defeat in the 2015 presidential election.
Other photographs of the President in the exhibition included the ones he took in his farm in Daura, Katsina State; the one taken with a delegation of Anglican bishops; and others taken inside his office, in his official residence with members of his family or during his foreign trips among others.
The second leg of the evening event which saw those who attended glued to their seats till a few minutes after 11pm was tagged “The Conversation: An evening with creative youths.” That segment was moderated by a popular actress, Joke Silva. It had “Creative youths as drivers of the change agenda” as its theme.
Panelists at the conversation with the President included a musician, Cobhams Asuquo; a photographer cum musician, TY Bello; an artist, Adenrele Sonariwo; an entrepreneur, Adaora Mbelu-Dania; an actor, Ishaq Sidi Ishaq; a fashion designer, Lanre Dan Silva Ajayi and a writer, Wana Udobang. They all engaged the President on ways to encourage the youth and make the creative industry more productive. Buhari also responded by promising his administration’s support for the industry.
With that segment done with, then it was time for the book presentation. The book was reviewed by a veteran photojournalist, Sunmi Smart-Cole, who clocked 75 recently. Although Alade who anchored the programme gave him only three minutes to do justice to his assignment, Smart-Cole did not forget to thank Buhari for sending a congratulatory message to him on his birthday.
The book reviewer got ribs cracking when he said Buhari, in the birthday message, described him (Smart-Cole) as a national asset. He then expressed the hope, though jokingly, that he would not be sold. He drew the joke from recent statements credited to the Federal Government that some national assets would be sold as part of strategies to tackle the nation’s economic recession. Those who got the joke roared in loud laughter.
The reviewer became very blunt at a point. In listing the sources of some of the photographs in the book that were not taken by Omoboriowo himself, he had said the author got some of the pictures from a former photographer in the Ministry of Information who he called Baba Shettima. He then alleged that the man left government service with the negatives of all national photographs he took from a particular period till the nation’s capital was relocated from Lagos to Abuja. This, he said, forced the author to buy some of the photographs from Shettima. “Baba Shettima should be made to return the negatives of all those photographs,” he said apparently to Buhari who he knows hates such behaviour.
The Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who stood in for a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was then called to present the book. After reading Tinubu’s speech, the governor recalled how Omoboriowo participated in his campaigns as well as that of Dr. Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State.
The governor said Tinubu offered to buy a copy each for 300 youths who were the President’s guests at the event without disclosing the cost. Nobody made any public donation. Pledge forms were simply passed around for them to indicate their donations. It was announced that the author promised to use part of the proceeds from the presentation to buy books for Internally Displaced Persons currently being housed in IDP camps.
Although no amount was disclosed, the array of guests ranging from state governors to captains of industry was enough evidence that the evening was a success.
While I was away…
It is good to be back on the beat after my annual vacation. Like I wrote while signing off, I spent the vacation at home and that gave me enough opportunity to keep abreast of developments at the seat of power, although from a safe distance.
While I was away, the Federal Government inaugurated the national re-orientation campaign tagged “Change Begins With Me.” Buhari said at the event that before Nigerians demand to see the changes he promised them, they must first change their own attitude by shunning corruption and other social vices.
The President had said, “Our citizens must realise that the change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms are not a theoretic exercise. If you have not seen the change in you, you cannot see it in others or even the larger society. In other words, before you ask ‘Where is the change they promised us?’ you must first ask, ‘How far have I changed my ways? What have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society?’”
For me, that was unfair to Nigerians. The change promised Nigerians was unconditional at the time of promise. Why should it then suddenly become conditional? Is this not a case of shifting the goal post when the game is almost midway?
Still on the “Change Begins With Me” campaign, a change that the President will not want to begin with him ended up almost embarrassing him. He was accused of plagiarising a part of the speech he delivered at the event from United States President Barack Obama. The Presidency had since admitted the offence and said that a deputy director had claimed responsibility.
While I was away, the debate on the recession also continued. The National Assembly came up with an advice to the President to sack the relevant ministers or at best redeploy them. The federal lawmakers had also called on Buhari to find time to address a joint session of the National Assembly on what are being done to tackle recession. Will the President honour such invitation? Time will tell.
Happy new month and Independence Day to you.