By Femi Adesina
A popular saying tells us that ‘there’s no good in goodbye.’ Really? I’ve been turning it round in my head, and I think there may actually be some good in goodbye. In fact, a lot of good. Let’s go.
I recently wrote about my ancestors and forebears in the presidential media office, those who have served since the 1970s. They did their best, and left. A board sits on the wall in the office, with their pictures, and the time and period they served. Another picture joined the pantheon yesterday, with the inscription: Femi Adesina, OON. Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, June 2015-May 2023.
Gbam! My job is done, my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go. When I step out of the Presidential Villa on Friday, May 26, 2023, it would be the last as an insider. If I ever return, it would be as a visitor. My name would have to be first sent to the lobby station, I would go through security screening, before being granted access. And that is a place I’d driven in and out from freely in the past eight years. Yes, the only thing constant in life in change. I leave happily, fulfilled, and I say there’s a lot of good in goodbye.
After this edition of From the Inside, a weekly column that ran for many years, there’ll be only one more. Next week, by the grace of God. Next time you will read from me, after a while, it would be from the outside, on another platform. Yes, that’s the way we roll.
They say there’s no good in goodbye. Daniel John O’donoghue/Mark Anthony Sheehan/James Barry, wrote a song with that title. And it was performed by a group called The Script:
Where’s the good in goodbye?
Where’s the nice in nice try?
Where’s the us in trust gone?
Where’s the soul in soldier on?
Now I’m the low in lonely
‘Cause I don’t own you only
I can take this mistake
But I can’t take the heart from heartache.
The songwriters believe there’s no good in goodbye. However, that is only a side of the coin. There’s good in goodbye. Lots. As another saying goes, ‘some things have to end for better things to begin.’
If you don’t say goodbye at some stations in life, you begin to vegetate, atrophy, deteriorate, decline and wilt away. In fact, you become a problem, rather than part of the solution. In life, you always need new challenges to fire yourself up, and make more wins. For me, after eight years as spokesman to a President, I must need move on. Happily. There’s good in goodbye, as I sign off on this platform in another week.
I’ll never forget the words of His Eminence, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar 111, as we met at the Presidential Villa in my very first week in office in 2015.
“Kulikulii (as he used to call me and still does till today, after my email address) you have come to do a difficult and thankless job. It happened to a good number of your predecessors, but with you, it shall not be so.”
I said a resounding amen. And eight years later, the amen still resonates, and I am leaving happy, thankful, fulfilled. There’s a lot of good in goodbye.
In London two weeks ago, I and some of our media colleagues in the State House had asked the President what he would miss most when he leaves office. His response: “I’ll miss good people that we have worked together in the past eight years, like some of you here.”
Yes, we have served our principal to the best of our abilities, through thick and thin, through sweet and sour. No regrets. And that is some good in the goodbye. We came, we served, and have been commended by our master. Well done, good and faithful servants.
I have made good friends, and lost some good ones over the years. Bob Marley sang it in ‘No Woman No Cry.’
“Good friends we had,
Oh good friends we’ve lost
Along the way
In this bright future, you can’t forget the past
So dry your tears I say…”
Yes, in serving Muhammadu Buhari, the honest Fulani man, deliberately misunderstood by some people, and who refuse to yield any ground, I’ve lost good friends, family people, brethren in the church, who couldn’t understand why I was loyal to a jihadist, a nepotist, and a Fulani herdsman. When I tell them the man is not that way, in fact, the very opposite of what they think, and they refuse to budge, I go my way. Peacefully. I give them a wide berth, which they deserve.
But in their places, I’ve made new friends, countless, who I share the same things with. Love for Buhari, the patriot, the good man. And as I leave now, those new friends are part of the good in goodbye.
There’s something like overstaying your welcome. If you doubt it, ask Ibrahim Babangida and his attempt to sit tight in office. Ask Sani Abacha, if you can see him. Ask Olusegun Obasanjo and his third term gambit. Ask Muamar Gadaffi, if you can also see him. It all ended in infamy, even death. But we are leaving peacefully, after spending the maximum term the law of the land allows. There’s plenty of good in goodbye.
This delightful one. That band of caviling people, who never see anything good in whatever government does. Head or tail, you never win with them. They make noise about everything, so much that you would think pepper had been put in their sensitive parts. I called them Wailing Wailers, and the name stuck. We were at one another’s throats for eight years. Now I leave for them, happy, fulfilled. And they can pick on the next person, their regular trademark. A lot of good in goodbye. Lol.
My predecessor in office (read, ancestor) Dr Reuben Abati, had alleged that Aso Villa is haunted, and should be turned to a museum. Abandoned. True? I didn’t see any of his rather wild claims, not in eight years.
In a piece he titled The Spiritual Side of Aso Villa, Abati had postulated:
“I am ordinarily not a superstitious person, but working in the Villa, I eventually became convinced that there must be something supernatural about power and closeness to it. I’ll start with a personal testimony. I was given an apartment to live in inside the Villa. It was furnished and equipped. But when my son, Michael arrived, one of my brothers came with a pastor who was supposed to stay in the apartment. But the man refused claiming that the Villa was full of evil spirits and that there would soon be a fire accident in the apartment. He complained about too much human sacrifice around the Villa and advised that my family must never sleep overnight inside the Villa.
“I thought the man was talking nonsense and he wanted the luxury of a hotel accommodation. But he turned out to be right. The day I hosted family friends in that apartment and they slept overnight, there was indeed a fire accident. The guests escaped and they were so thankful.”
Fire accidents in the Villa? I lived there for eight years. And not even a knockout exploded. Reason to be thankful to God. A good in goodbye.
Hear Abati again: “Around the Villa while I was there, someone always died or their relations died. I can confirm that every principal officer suffered one tragedy or the other; it was as if you needed to sacrifice something to remain on duty inside that environment. Even some of the women became merchants of dildo because they had suffered a special kind of death in their homes (I am sorry to reveal this) and many of the men complained about something that had died below their waists too. The ones who did not have such misfortune had one ailment or the other that they had to nurse. From cancer to brain and prostate surgery and whatever, the Villa was a hospital full of agonizing patients.”
True? False. To the glory of God, I never experienced anything like this. Human beings normally face one vicissitude or the other, it is part of life. But God equally spares His own. No ailment to nurse, other than things typical of aspiring senior citizens like me. And nothing died under the waist. Lol
Let’s hear Abati again, before we finally weigh anchor: “I really don’t envy the people who work in Aso Villa, the seat of Nigeria’s Presidency. For about six months, I couldn’t even breathe properly. For another two months, I was on crutches. But I considered myself far luckier than the others who were either nursing a terminal disease or who could not get it up.
“When Presidents make mistakes, they are probably victims of a force higher than what we can imagine. Every student of Aso Villa politics would readily admit that when people get in there, they actually become something else. They act like they are under a spell. When you issue a well-crafted statement, the public accepts it wrongly. When the President makes a speech and he truly means well, the speech is interpreted wrongly by the public. When a policy is introduced, somehow, something just goes wrong…I am therefore convinced that there is an evil spell enveloping this country. We need to rescue Nigeria from the forces of darkness. Aso Villa should be converted into a museum and abandoned.
“I never slept in the apartment they gave me in that Villa for an hour.”
Well, I slept in my house in the Villa for eight years. And I snored, even so loudly to wake myself up. So, it’s really different strokes for different folks. And it really has nothing to do with Aso Villa. Yes, sound sleep is another good in goodbye.
The final hurray, the au revoir next week, by the grace of God.
° Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity