PMB Town Hall

These are no ordinary times. In the annals of Nigerian history, this time is a terrible period of want, insecurity, economic upheaval and social failure. Nigerians need to be inspired and enthused. No leader, no matter how well intentioned he is, will succeed if he can’t make himself understood, if he does not pay attention to what his people think, and does not care that dialogue is an integral part of democracy.


In politics, communication must be effective to generate and sustain a psychology of support. A government cannot get economic, social and cultural capital if it fails to engage and generate political interest among the governed. The Buhari administration, despite its retinue of communication aides, is woefully deficient and thoroughly incompetent at feeling the public pulse, selling its programmes and carrying the people along. The communication gang is notoriously arrogant and disdainful of optics, bereft of empathy and stripped of any sense of shared sacrifice. A country facing buffeting economic, religious and ethnic headwinds poses significant challenges to policy makers and people saddled with communicating such policies to the public. Nigeria’s difficult political and economic space suggests the need for a differentiated policy approach that takes account of social structural inequality and diversity. Yet, we are seeing no such sophisticated response. Instead, we are subjected to the dismissive rhetoric of Femi Adesina or the disjointed, ill-crafted and often petulant releases of Garba Shehu.

Effective communication is a vital component in politics and in the political process. A good communication team exercises control over the direction and activities of the government. They work assiduously to incorporate certain opinions and preferences in the policies and laws of the land. Having an effective organisation and congenial ideology are a must. How we long for the days of Alex Akinyele! If we must feel the pain, we do not need someone who will poke our wounds or pick the scabs like Femi Adesina, who seems to relish mocking Nigerians, does. We elected Muhammadu Buhari to set Nigeria straight, we chose him to prevent the unrestrained looting of our commonwealth, to help in an equitable distribution of our scarce resources for development and to commit Nigeria to the goals of development, progress and greatness. We know the tasks cannot be done by talking, we know we all have to be in the trenches working and making sacrifices. We are doing our part, keeping the bargain but we often get shafted. We do not get progress reports from all sectors of the economy. We are not acknowledged for our efforts and we are not treated with the respect we deserve. We don’t need anyone who thinks lowly of us or who thinks they owe us no explanation.

We elected President Buhari, not any of his aides. It is his name and legacy that is in jeopardy, not that of his aides. I hope he gets aware of this early enough; that is if it is not too late. Good communication has helped launch and make political careers and it has buried or unmade many promising ones. Politics is not only about finding the right policies for the time, it is also about persuading the people that the policies are right. Politics is about having a vision, setting the vision before the public and making people believe in the vision. Politics is asking people to share your vision and creating a common bond for the purpose. Nigerians are good and very understanding people. Generally, they will accept hardships and make sacrifices if they know what the ultimate prize will be, and they are carried along with respect and understanding.

Certainly, Nigerians do not deserve an angry or impassioned presidential aide. The best politicians know that good communications is essentially the ability to listen to constituents, to members in an audience, and to political opponents. A good politician addresses the concerns of listeners and is ready to learn from them. An arrogant know-it-all or a dismissive pendant will find out that without the people, his position does not exist.


These are no ordinary times. In the annals of Nigerian history, this time is a terrible period of want, insecurity, economic upheaval and social failure. Nigerians need to be inspired and enthused. No leader, no matter how well intentioned he is, will succeed if he can’t make himself understood, if he does not pay attention to what his people think, and does not care that dialogue is an integral part of democracy. Communication is broad and it must be employed in its broadest sense. We need weekly briefings; townhall meetings; we need discussions with small, friendly groups of admirers and in front of larger, not-always-friendly crowds; interviews on television and the radio; on the Web, and in print.

Politicians and their handlers must choose their words carefully. In public life, presentation matters. Good communicators must be enthusiastic and energetic, and speak with conviction. Why should we believe someone who does not believe himself or what he is saying? Certainly, Nigerians do not deserve an angry or impassioned presidential aide. The best politicians know that good communications is essentially the ability to listen to constituents, to members in an audience, and to political opponents. A good politician addresses the concerns of listeners and is ready to learn from them. An arrogant know-it-all or a dismissive pendant will find out that without the people, his position does not exist. Even political opponents are important because any public policy debate will have good points on both sides, and the best perspective can come from the opposing camp. Democracy is a reciprocal system of give and take. Democracy does not thrive on drawing lines in the sand. The question is; who will teach these tricks to the impervious pendants of Aso Rock?

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for the PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo