Nothing has shown how lean President Muhammadu Buhari’s media team is like the effect of the relatively old conspiracy theory about the president’s supposed body double rumored to be at the helms of affairs in Aso rock. The conspiracy theory first came to light when Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the separatist IPOB group, said the president had died and had been replaced by a certain Jubril from Sudan.
Although the theory didn’t gain much traction when it surfaced as it was confined within the circles of IPOB members and their online apologists, it dominated social media timelines weeks ago and then newspaper pages days ago when a prominent cleric made allusion to it during a sermon, quoting “authoritative” sources.
Much has been said about the incident and many have condemned those who peddle the narrative. But something fundamental has not been addressed: why the rumour thrived in the first place. Perhaps what many columnists do not want to say is that the rumour thrived because of the lean nature of Mr Buhari’s media team.
Now I must make it emphatic that the point here is the lean (say ‘inadequate’ if you wish) nature of the team and not their competence or otherwise on the job. Of course a team can’t be said to be incompetent if it parades Tolu Ogunlesi, one of Nigeria’s most gifted columnists; Femi Adesina, model journalist and editor; Garba Sheu, ace journalist and media trainer; Bayo Omoboriowo, celebrated photographer and many others. So the operative word is ‘l-e-a-n’ and here’s why.
Mr Buhari, known for his austerity, operates some of leanest media team on this side of Africa. Of course, there is no better way to detect corruption than by merely looking at the size of a president’s media team. So in keeping with his mantra of change and frugality, the president maintains just six media aides. Just one, two, three, four, five… six. Just six, aside Mr Omoboriowo and his team. They include the trio of Messrs Ogunlesi, Adesina, and Sheu; Laureta Onochie, Shaaban Sharada and Bashir Ahmad.
I have always known that those guys would have their necks choked because of their lean size and that’s happening already as we see in this case of ‘Jubril from Sudan’ conspiracy theory––which the small team, apparently, couldn’t contain and spin effectively.
Now, frankly, there is a part of me that is tempted to suggest that Mr Buhari’s perennial absence and annoying insouciance created the atmosphere for the Jubril theory to flourish in the minds of Nigerians. The president, no doubt, has alienated himself so much from the people that they can believe anything written against him since they don’t see him anyway. Since he assumed power, he has had just one media chat. He speaks to Nigerians only through foreign media, often when in United Kingdom or some other European countries, and crawls back into Aso Rock upon arriving Nigeria. Mr Buhari’s ‘invisibility’ created fertile ground for the mischief.
On the flipside, SATIRE SATURDAY opines that such rickety conspiracy theory wouldn’t have blossomed if plotted against, say, a Yemi Osinbajo. The VP has been jumping from one market to another all over the country, sharing cash to traders, warts and all. Pray, how would anyone confuse traders who saw and interacted with the vice president last month in Oje market, Ibadan, that he is not the real Osinbajo but some Ukeyepeirereh from Mozambique? It’s almost impossible.
But again, this column opines that because Mr President, at least among his e-supporters, is infallible, we cannot claim that he erred. So the root cause still remains the lean presidential media team. And for God and country, it is important that the media team is beefed up so that Messrs Adesina et al would have aides that could help ease their works. And, trust me, they all need new aides, all of the media aides. I will explain.
First, Mr Garba Sheu is one of the most senior among the aides. But the man didn’t get the position based on mere seniority; he earned it by his professional antecedents spanning decades. And what stands Mr Shehu out among the lot is his strategic thinking: how he creatively thinks through a communication problem and solves it effortlessly. Take for instance the “rat invasion” of Mr Buhari’s office used as alibi sometime ago; reports traced it to Mr Shehu––the ingenuity of that idea had no other person’s trademark. And, boy, it worked wonders! So you imagine what has happened to Mr Shehu’s famed strategic prowess on this Jubril Al-sudany theory only to realise the man must have been overworked and got carried away by other concerns.
And so, SATIRE SATURDAY suggests that he should be provided an aide whose role would only be to remind him whenever there is something important to spin. Like this body double issue, which he didn’t notice. The new aide, whose gender is irrelevant, only needs to wield a placard with the small caption: “It’s time to spin it…it’s time to spin it.”
Mr Adesina, on his part, has shown that he has the most engaging aura in the media, both on television and radio. Beyond his gift of writing flawless prose, he has shown how effectively he can engage journalists and presenters on issues. But because there are so much to do with no assistance from anywhere, due to fatigue, whenever he appears on air, Mr Adesina sometimes wants to make you shut down your television set with his logic. Curiously, on Jubril Alsudany, he hasn’t said anything remarkable thus far. That’s some good news.
SATIRE SATURDAY only hopes that that culture of dignified silence he has maintained, especially on some issues his responses are capable of worsening, could be sustained. To ensure total compliance, one hopes that an aide would be hired to help with routine advice and instructions. The new aide’s role every morning would simply be to wield before him a placard carrying the inscription: “Please don’t talk…you do less damage when you don’t…please don’t talk…”
Mr Ogunlesi is easily one of the most engaging of Mr Buhari’s aides, especially on Twitter where he wields considerable influence. The problem with him is that he is the only media aide that does not speak. He only tweets. There is a tendency that he does not understand the relief his little interventions do to public perception. SATIRE SATURDAY thinks it is apposite to suggest that he gets new aide who would advise him on why he would do better for his principal by speaking up often. What about an aide tasked with the responsibility of sending him a message with the words “Please speak out more… speak out… speak out” every morning?
Bashir Ahmad, the president’s aide on digital media, does not really need an aide. Maybe just someone, anyone, to remind him always that Nigeria is bigger than his twitter page and that’s all. Ditto Mr Omoboriowo.
By far the president’s media aide in most need of another aide is Mrs Onochie, the presidential media aide on fake news… no, sorry, on social media. We can never tell but it appears Mrs Onochie’s discreet job description upon being appointed is to officially throw the nation into chaos with fake news, insensitive broadcast and uncouth languages.
Not once, not twice, she has been busted sharing fake news and she never apologized, suggesting it was deliberate. It’s quite an irony, however, that security operatives have hounded other Nigerians over what they categorized as “injurious contents” yet Mrs Onochie, who should ordinarily be a regular guest, has never been apprehended.
But more importantly, SATIRE SATURDAY opines that the woman needs help. And, for God and country, the presidency must intervene and help her. A starting point would be to supply her an aide whose only job would be to help monitor her online engagements. But because of Mrs Onochie’s stubborn love for pedestrian narrative and gutter language, the aide––preferably a man with deep, husky, scary voice––would not use placards and inscriptions. Neither would he have to send text messages. Mrs Onochie’s case, more than anyone else in the media team, is beyond dire. So to attain much more impact, this column would suggest that anytime Mrs Onochie wields her phone, the new aide would be tasked to scream, in his husky and scary voice: “This is fake news… fake news destroys…this is fake news!”
For God and Country.