Twitter users have had a field day trolling Chude Jideonwo, the publisher of YNaija magazine, who said God revealed to him that He would “change Nigeria,” suggesting President Muhammadu Buhari could be the change.
A recirculated 2015 article by Mr. Jideonwo —which coincided with nationwide protest against the Buhari government— sent hundreds of mostly Peoples Democratic Party supporters into a fury, with most directing vitriolic jeers at him.
Mr. Jideonwo, 31, disclosed details of his divine interaction in an article published May 30, 2015 when Mr. Buhari’s inauguration was being celebrated across the country.
He started the article with a recollection of how his public communication firm, StateCraft Inc., supervised Mr. Buhari and the All Progressives Congress’ media strategy during the campaign.
He described the electioneering as the “most emotional” in his life during which he and his associates had “sleepless night” devising strategies for the APC.
But the part that attracted his detractors was Mr. Jideonwo’s anecdote of how his support for Mr. Buhari and the APC was largely a matter of personal and spiritual move rather than strictly business.
“One day, as we prayed, in an office on the Lagos Island, I was so overwhelmed with despair I fell down on the floor and began to speak in frenzied tongues, tears streaming from my face, banging furiously on the cabinet in front me.
“My heart was desperate; just desperate for something to give way.
“I didn’t know my friend, Kola, had the gift to interprete (sic) tongues. But then he began to interpret what I was saying. And it frightened me, because he was absolutely right.
“He captured the fears in my heart, and the requests I was making. He said, paraphrased, ‘God says He will change Nigeria. It looks like it won’t happen, but He will do a new thing and it will spring forth. We won’t understand how He will do it, but He will,” Mr. Jideonwo wrote at the time.
But with minimal progress recorded for the nearly two years since Mr. Buhari assumed office, critics now wonder if Mr. Jideonwo was honest with the article or if he was suffering from the hangover of the campaign platitudes.
Other than the lingering economic crisis, the anxiety that has gripped nation after the president extended his medical vacation until further notice also prompted Mr. Jideonwo’s critics to dig out the article and use its content to launch disparaging remarks against him.
The attacks came almost exclusively from PDP members and supporters.
A Twitter user, @nigeriasbest, was amongst the initial PDP handles that recirculated link to the article on the microblogging platform days ago.
“Of all the reasons I’ve heard for supporting Buhari, I never knew there was one that involved speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues,” the user said in a February 6 tweet.
Another critic, Onye Nkuzi, said Mr. Jideonwo’s piece highlighted how inexperienced he was.
“The best spin on this article is that it exposes the dangerous naivete of young Nigerian social media influencers,” Onye Nkuzi, who tweets under the handle @cchukudebelu, said.
He also accused Mr. Chude of pretending to be an advocate of youth development in Africa when, in actual fact, he had been sucking up to politicians for financial gains.
“You can’t collect large sums of money from corrupt politicians for image laundering; then promote yourself as the ‘turning point generation,'” Onye Nkuzi said in an apparent reference to Mr. Jideonwo’s 2014 book titled: ‘Are We The Turning Point Generation?: How Africa’s Youth Can Drive Its Urgently Needed Revolution.’
As the attacks raged, Mr. Jideonwo shared on Twitter a new article he authored in which he appeared to decry the emergence of older generation in recent elections from Africa to America.
Mr. Jideonwo told PREMIUM TIMES the piece actually “defended the emergence of older people in recent elections and noted that it is inevitable for now, until the youth get resources”.
But critics saw the piece as not only hypocritical but an attempt by Mr. Jideonwo to strategically reposition himself as the face of the younger generation for financial gains ahead of 2019 elections.
This is because Mr. Jideonwo supported a 72-year-old Mr. Buhari two years ago, he also worked for the septuagenarian Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, as recent as December 2016.
Mr. Jideonwo dismissed the allegations as “senseless,” stating that he only expressed disappointment in the Buhari administration but not necessarily regrets for backing the APC.
“The attack just doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Jideonwo told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Wednesday night. “I am disappointed in the way things have turned out since this government came to power, but I have no regrets for subscribing to the change message in 2015.”
Mr. Jideonwo said although he usually separates professional activities of his firm from his own choices, in 2015, the “interests collided.”
“What we usually do is to take clients that meet our company’s values and keep our personal interests out,” Mr. Jideonwo said while declining to comment on the “speaking in tongues” controversy. “But with the Buhari and change message, the interests collided.”
While defending himself against attacks on social media, Mr. Jideonwo had an unusual ally in Ayokunle Odekunle, a social media enthusiast.
Mr. Odekunle, known for his strong anti-Buhari views on Twitter, said Mr. Jideonwo should not be harangued for his legitimate business decisions.
“I am going to get a mouthwatering brief from Buhari’s family and I’ll turn it down because I don’t like Buhari abi,” Mr. Odekunle said. “It is business, not personal.”
“Some briefs are too good to turn down. If not for the money but for boosting your company’s profile. These briefs come once in years,” Mr. Odekunle added.
Editor’s Note: This report was updated to reflect Mr. Jideonwo’s comment about an article he shared.