My attention has just been drawn to an attempt in a section of the social media to credit President Goodluck Jonathan with what he did not say about my book, ‘Against The Run of Play’, in order to discredit me.
Yesterday, President Jonathan said: “I have just read Segun Adeniyi’s new book, ‘Against the Run of Play’ which has so far enjoyed tremendous reviews in the media. My take on it is that the book as presented, contains many distorted claims on the 2015 presidential election by many of the respondents. There will obviously be more books like that on this subject by concerned Nigerians. However, I believe that at the right time, the main characters in the election including myself will come out with a true account of what transpired either in major interviews or books.”
The respondents President Jonathan was referring to are the people who spoke to me and whose claims he apparently disputes or disagrees with. This should be clear enough to those who did not choose to read his statement with a tendentious accent. But apparently, it is not. President Jonathan did not say I distorted his views and the fact that others may have presented him in ways he doesn’t like cannot be taken as an indictment of me or of my work.
For the record, after my first conversation with President Jonathan, I asked for his email address and promised to send him the raw text of our conversation which he could then amend as appropriate. I sent it to him that very day. When I went for a second meeting, I took along a printed copy which we both went through line-by-line. Whatever he wanted to be removed, reworked or rephrased was done while in some areas he provided further context to what he said.
Incidentally, a few hours after our second conversation, President Jonathan called me that he felt uncomfortable about a certain response he gave to a particular issue. He told me what to do and I reflected it immediately. I went into all that length because he is a man for whom I have tremendous respect and my intention was/is not to embarrass him or anybody. I just wanted his side of the story told in a way he is comfortable with.
I went through this same process with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Senate President David Mark, APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, former NGF Chairman and current Transportation Minister, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, former Niger State Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu and a few other principal actors who all have in their emails the raw text of our conversations.
The reason I did that was so I would not misquote, misrepresent or distort the views of any of the people who spoke to me on trust. My intention was not to ambush or set up anyone. This is why I gave them the opportunity to go over what they told me again before putting it in print. Fortunately, none of them has come out to say I distorted their views. Besides, I left out so many things in my book so as to avoid unnecessary controversies. For instance, President Obasanjo made some strong remarks about former Vice President Atiku Abubakar which I decided to remove even after he (Obasanjo) had approved it for publication. I did the same to some of the things others told me that I believed could raise unnecessary dust or distract from the story at hand.
Therefore, I did not distort President Jonathan’s view and he did not say I did. Now that he has reaffirmed what he told me that he is writing his own account, I will enjoin Nigerians to wait for his book. I hope others will join him in writing their own accounts so that we can have the complete story of the 2015 presidential election. The more accounts and the more perspectives we have, the better for our education and learning. In the same vein, I will also implore all the key actors in the major historical junctures of our national life to documenting their experiences for the present and for posterity.
Meanwhile, I am aware that hackers have succeeded in breaking the code to the online edition of my book and are already circulating the book online. I have received it from different sources, even on WhatsApp. Though sad, it is a familiar story for me. In the case of my earlier book, ‘Power, Politics, and Death’, it actually went viral on the day of the presentation. So, that I enjoyed three days of grace this time is a bonus.
While I feel pained losing the revenue that could have accrued to me from online sales, I wrote the book because I believe it is an important story that should be documented and widely read. I have a feeling this book will be widely read, though at my expense and that of my publishers. But I am comforted by the fact that we are succeeding in dispelling the myth that Nigerians do not read. Nigerians do read. It is our task to write on what will interest them and present and package such in ways they will find appealing.
That said, however, I am more worried for people in creative arts and sciences, especially those in Nollywood, who are practically at the mercy of hackers and pirates. The authorities should do more to protect their works from the antics of people who reap where they do not sow. When creative people in both the arts and sciences cannot be guaranteed the legitimate benefits of their sweat and investments, they lose the incentive to take the risk to create and innovate. And when that happens, the whole society loses. Protecting intellectual property is therefore good for all of us, not just for the artistes and the inventors. We will all be the better for it.