NIGERIA’S online Sahara Reporters’ feisty journalist Adeola Fayehun shot to prominence after she humiliated President Robert Mugabe at Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration eaon May 29, when she walked right up to him and bombarded him with questions demanding to know, among other things, when the 91-year-old would finally quit and allow Zimbabwe to move forward. This angered government with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa claiming twice in parliament, first on June 17 and then on June 24, that Fayehun had formally apologised for her “disrespectful” behaviour, but she scoffed at the claims.
This week Fayehun (AF) responded to questions sent to her by Zimbabwe Independent reporter Wongai Zhangazha (WZ) on that and various other issues.
WZ: Zimbabwe’s Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record saying you have since apologised to the Zimbabwe government, “in a long letter” that you sent to the Nigerian government, for your behaviour and the embarrassment you allegedly caused your country by accosting Mugabe and asking when he would quit. Is it true that you apologised and if so, why?
AF: Of course I did not apologise and I did not write any letter to any government as I said in Episode 169 (of my weekly satirical show Keeping it Real with Adeola). I stand by the basic facts as I have presented on my show several times. Mugabe was definitely a hero for the old Zimbabwe, but he has been a failure for the new Zimbabwe. And he should give way to new blood to rejuvenate the country that was once full of promise.
What Vice-President Mnangagwa said in parliament can be called an urban legend (a story that appears mysteriously and spreads spontaneously in various forms and is usually false) and left at that were it not that it is very sad. It is symptomatic of what is wrong with those ruling Zimbabwe at the moment, as well as many African leaders. They are so scared of their shadows.
They dread reality; so they create their own alternative reality with hype to go with it and believe it. Then, they go about pushing it down the throats of their people. They are confusion masters — they need it to deflect the stench of failure swallowing them and the very people they are sworn to lead.
WZ: Let me take you back to the day you confronted Mugabe. Did you at any time feel threatened or afraid of Mugabe’s security aides who tried to block you speaking in Shona, a Zimbabwean language?
AF: My primary goal at that moment was to ask the questions I feel all Africans should be asking the likes of Robert Mugabe.
The security men were doing their job, and I was also doing my job. So no, I didn’t feel threatened; if anything, I was upset that the security men prevented him from answering my questions because he definitely wanted to say something. I am familiar with the antics of these men and women, because I experienced intense pushing and pulling when I interviewed President Goodluck Jonathan on the streets of New York City when he came to the United Nations. So I was ready for anything so long as I get to talk with Mr Mugabe.
WZ: Some people say you crossed the line and violated ethics of journalism by asking Mugabe “when are you stepping down”? Do you agree?
AF: I don’t know of any line associated with asking legitimate questions, neither do I know who drew the line. Also, I don’t see how asking questions violates the ethics of journalism. I stood there on behalf of the common people of Zimbabwe who have endured so much under Mugabe. As far as I know, I was trying to ask the questions that I think some of them might ask if they have the opportunity I had. That was the only driving force behind what I did. So, my answer is “when are you stepping down?” is a legitimate question.
WZ: Have you ever been this aggressive with any other head of state?
AF: I’m a journalist, and I go about asking questions to government officials from presidents down. Those willing to grant me a sit-down interview, I sit down with them and pose questions. But for those who are unwilling, I go out of my way to ask them the questions whenever I get the chance. An example is the case of Jonathan that I have alluded to.
WZ: If Mugabe visits Nigeria again would you aggressively try to interview him again?
AF: If I’m there in Nigeria and have an opportunity to ask Mugabe questions, I will ask him questions. It is my job.
WZ: Last year you made fun of Grace Mugabe’s PhD. If you were to meet her would you ask her about the doctorate?
AF: That would be a dream encounter for me. Among African first ladies, Patience Jonathan, Grace Mugabe and Paul Biya’s wife, Chantel, are the most fascinating characters I would like to meet. Collectively, they have shown that the men may be bad, but the women are not blameless. They collectively make mockery of the hope that wives will help their husbands to make life better for the majority of their people. Their only concern appears to be how to exploit their positions and influence to advance selfish interests.