The President and Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan PhD, seems like a nice guy! There, I have your attention. There have been many rejoinders to the rejoinders of articles emanating from the Presidency on the perceived financial profligacy of the current administration, so I will not add my voice to them. However, a certain aspect of the entire ‘show’ is to me very deplorable. This is the part that concerns the performance, in the strict sense of the word, of Mr. President’s supposed image launderers. They come in different sizes, shapes and most importantly, titles. I must confess that I had to do an internet search of the exact description of their titles. We have the Senior Special Assistant for Public Affairs, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the Special Assistant on New Media, the Honorable Minister for Information and a number of other guys that come up once in a while, speak for the Presidency and then withdraw again.
I want to give Mr. P the benefit of doubt that each of these titled men has different job descriptions. I have no doubt however that their overall aim is to in the best possible manner, intimate the public of the administration’s policies and obtain feedback on such.
It is only logical that if I were to choose a person to speak on my behalf, it will be someone my audience would listen to and who most importantly will communicate my actions in an acceptable manner. Companies understand this concept so well that they earmark huge sums of money for public relations consultants, advertising agencies, human relations departments, customer care units etc. People’s perception of your service is actually as important, if not more, than the service you actually render. Despite the fact that a lot of customers have lampooned Research in Motion the manufacturers of BlackBerry phones on the many flaws of its products, the company still churned out $4 Million for advertisement during the super bowl on 3 February 2013. I will concede that this might justify Mr. P’s expenses on a retinue of image makers.
Public communication boils down to the right choice of words, body language, diction, aura, physical disposition and a lot of other attributes that are actually taught in schools. It is not only the ability to weave together a couple of English words that makes you a public communicator. I do not doubt the individual qualifications and achievements of Mr. P’s titled men but they have done everything but positively launder his image. I am not aware of the brief Mr. P gave each of them upon engagement but with their daily utterances, it seems like all they thought they were coming in to do was notify us of Mr. P’s travels, his meetings, dinner dates and decisions. It is now so bad that anyone that questions any of their press releases or criticizes the acts of the Presidency immediately becomes a member of the opposition, sponsored interest group or a political jobber. In response to such people, they each release an article, a press statement or tweet that says basically the same thing.
I agree that Nigerians can be very rude and annoying in communicating their thoughts. While I try not to justify this bad attribute, can you blame them? No one will experience what Nigerians go through each day and not get aggressive. As a matter of fact, you cannot imagine the level of aggression Nigerians exhibit towards one another on a queue, in a danfo bus, in traffic, on twitter and a host of other places. What do you then expect when they converse with people they are of the opinion are the cause of their woes. What stands you out as a good communicator is not getting drawn into the frustration of your audience and responding alike but sifting the salient issues and addressing them. Name calling, mud-slinging and shameless comparisons are not professional ways of fulfilling your mandate as a person’s spokesperson.
The funniest of the titled men is the assistant on new media (basically Facebook and Twitter). On Twitter, he interestingly follows only 232 people and has at the time of this article a little over four thousand tweets. Seriously? I would think he would be following the most people on Twitter to efficiently sample opinions and to civilly engage them. If he is not calling someone a wicked step-mother today, he is talking about how someone was homeless yesterday and a lot of comments that are otherwise beneath a secondary school student. Another titled man actually enjoys being called an attack dog. A google-search of any of their names since they joined the administration yields no positive post. Despite the fact that he had to defend many policies that the public were against, Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr. in his capacity as Minister for Information from 2003-2007 communicated the Federal Government’s position is such a civil, gentlemanly and decorous manner as would make you have a rethink about your stand on the policy.
No company will engage a PR organisation that has lost its credibility. Why can’t we run government like a company? No matter the extent of abuse rained on a customer care operator, he is NEVER allowed to abuse the customer. I mean, customers are always right. As the mouthpieces of the President, I would have expected very creative forum for public interaction and not just the sarcasm ridden, abusive articles and once in a while derisive tweets they send out. They communicate every little achievement of the government like it is a favour done us. We are not begging for these things. You are there at our behest. When they intimate the public of what the government is doing, rather than talk about the project, they first go around abusing their ‘haters’ before passing across their message in a “soon you will say we are not working” manner. These people need to change the “it is my time in government” mentality and get really professional in performing their duties.
The truth is, it doesn’t take too much to win Nigerians over. The Super Eagles can testify to this. Governor Raji Fashola SAN of Lagos State in my opinion has not done anything spectacular. All he has done is to employ a part of the vast resources coming to the State and put them into visible projects while consistently articulating and updating the citizens of the progress, impediments, decisions and projections of the government. In the face of stringent criticisms, when he addresses the State, there is the appearance that he indeed respects the sensibilities of the people and this has earned him the title of the People’s Governor. President Jonathan might be doing some things right but the manner of communication by his titled men is sincerely not helping. Oh, and this manner of referring to Nigerian as ‘ordinary Nigerians’…*sighs*… Are there super-Nigerians?
I know you can never please everybody and Nigerians are perhaps the most difficult people to govern but dear Mr. President, it seems your titled men have all slept and faced the same direction.
Demilade Olaosun is a media and entertainment lawyer that provides strategic advisory services to practitioners in the Nigerian entertainment industry. He had previously practiced law in one of the top law firms in Lagos State, providing various local and foreign clients with services in the areas of electricity law, tax forensic investigation, transaction support and general project advisory services. He is a director at Ribbon & Blue Maverick Media, a media and entertainment business advisory and transaction support firm. Follow him on twitter @OlaosunD.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of UnilagLss