A Pack of Crayons for Jonathan, By Jaafar Jaafar
Since the government of Nigeria employed the services of international public relations firm, Levick, to bring back it’s lost image, there is a general outcry among Nigerians as to why the firm would be given the sum of $1.2 million for the PR sinecure.
Not just the enormity of the amount Nigerians keep haggling about but the logic behind FG’s decision. What is the rationale behind dismissing calls from local activists long before the situation went out of hand? Why should the FG raise doubt over the issue in the first place? Why or how will the opposition party kidnap the girls in order to make the president unpopular? Why shouldn’t the FG take action until the global catcall?
In the past few months, the traditional media and the new media focused their attention on Nigeria over the Chibok girls, who were abducted three months ago while sitting for secondary school certificate examinations. Chibok kidnaping obviously stirred up the hornet’s nest, letting the world see the many shortcomings of the Jonathan presidency.
Nigeria’s problems are worsening by the day. The attacks have become a daily recurrence — competing in the realm of certainty with sunset. Under emergency rule and Jonathan’s inept government, the terrorists are gaining grounds, kidnapping hundreds, getting more arms, capturing more towns and declaring an Islamic state.
Much as I do not believe the pedestrian theory that Jonathan’s government is behind Boko Haram terrorism, I also do not believe the vague notion that the opposition party is sponsoring the terrorists. I can only blame the president for lack of commitment, much as I will accuse the opposition of wanting to exploit his failures in this regard for political gains.
Now let’s come back to the issue of Jonathan’s image crisis, which necessitated the Levick contract. One credo in public relations is taking proactive measure as against reactive measure. It’s peculiar with Jonathan presidency that action is not always taken until a situation deteriorates or captures the attention of the world.
President Jonathan’s inability to show commitment to fight against terrorism made him suffer a huge image crisis, blighting almost beyond recognition his local and international outlook. I suppose redeeming an image so tarred is perhaps the most difficult PR drudgery Levick has ever attempted. What lies will Levick tell the world about 480 defecting Nigerian troops? The underlying factors that led to their action clearly indicate failure of Janathan’s government either to provide them the required motivation or firepower. It will surely motivate our troops at the battle line and increase Jonathan’s image rating if he spares some hours off his frequent Europe junkets to visit and motivate them. Perhaps if this proactive measure was taken, there wouldn’t be any crossover, mutiny or desertion.
Levick must also made the president understand that blame game doesn’t solve a problem. It rather lowers the estimation of the Jonathan administration in the eyes of Nigerians and international community. The more he blames without taking action, the more he is seen as a weakling. Rather than blame the opposition or Northern elders of sabotage, the president should expose the ‘perceived saboteurs’ and bring them to book.
Shortly after Malala Yousafzai’s plea and the president’s consent to see the Chibok girls’ parents, Jonathan’s publicists blamed the opposition for stopping the Chibok community from seeing the president. The opposition queried back: Who stopped the president from seeing the distraught parents and community leaders for three months? You see the response blame game elicits?
Levick should made Jonathan understand, treat and see terrorism as a national issue not that of the North alone. As celebrated journalist Funmi Iyanda aptly put it, “Treating Boko Haram as a ‘Northern problem’ is like treating Ebola as a First Consultant Hospital problem. Utterly, dangerously senseless”.
Levick should also caution the president against the use of religion to gain political capital from a section of the country. Jonathan should ask his party and it’s spokesmen to refrain from accusing the opposition party of religious bias.
As a PR strategy, if I were President Jonathan, I will have a number of people from a religion different from mine to be my image handlers. An average Muslim in the North sees Jonathan’s government as having ethnic and religious bias. Nigeria’s dichotomy and division is no longer the issue of the South versus the North. The chasm created by religious differences is now the in-thing, and has become a mine where votes can be ploughed out easily.
Despite some implied actions and inactions denoting use of religious card, the ruling PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Oliseh Metuh, first fired the salvo in January, saying the APC exco was abrim with Muslims. Rising in defense, APC’s all-time spokesman Lai Mohammed says his party’s 35-man exco was evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Why all this? In the first instance, invoking religion into political war is defeatist.
Already a division has been created. What is now needed is the remedy. The rattling lot of Labaran Maku, Reuben Abati, Doyin Okupe, Reno Omokri, Mike Omiri, Frank Mba (now Emmanuel Ojukwu), Chris Olukolade, Marilyn Ogar, who are directly or indirectly the spin masters of Jonathan administration, should not be all Christians. I say this not because I am a Muslim but as the ideal way to shore up the president’s image rating in the North. It’ll be a good PR gimmick at this moment.
Levick should tell the president that his shadow propagandists like Edwin Clark, Asari Dokubo, Femi Fani-Kayode and Ayo Oriysejafor are creating more enemies than supporters for his government. Every time Femi Fani-Kayode opens his wide mouth to abuse the North and it’s people, Jonathan loses a wide range of supporters in the North.
I have a screenshot of a tweet from the President’s Special Assistant on Social Media, Mr Reno Omokri, in which he said the North is parasitic. No action was taken by the president over this insult. The same person also once sent an article with his infamous nom de plume, Wendell Simlin, linking the present emir of Kano to Boko Haram. The presidency didn’t take action. As a way to disassociate itself from Omokri’s action, the president should have relieved him of his appointment immediately. Levick should tell Mr President that refusal to do so signifies approval of the presidency.
A few days ago, Mike Omiri blamed Borno State government for missing Chibok girls. Forget the fact Borno State is under state of emergency, protection of lives and property of the people is the primary responsibility of the Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Only recently, the spokesperson of Department of State Service (DSS) Marilyn Orga also went partisan, saying when APC wins election, Boko Haram doesn’t detonate bombs. Statements like these do harm mainly on the president’s image.
By and large, Jonathan is the architect of his own image problems. Levick can help him redraw the image, using the locally made crayons highlighted above.