Doyin Okupe says his appointment as Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan does not suggest conflict or friction in the Presidency’s information management process.
Mr. Okupe spoke at a joint media briefing with the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, at the State House.
He said his office is saddled with distinct assignments from those of Mr. Abati and the Minister of information, Labaran Maku.
Mr. Okupe refuted the insinuation from some quarters that his appointment by the president was to usurp the functions of Mr. Abati’s office.
He assured that both of them would work in synergy and unity of purpose in interfacing between the Presidency and the public.
“The position of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs is not in any way conflicting with the job of the Special Adviser to the President. The Special Adviser to the President remains the presidential spokesman.
“All official policies and statements emanating from the president are released through him.
“Anything that is official and has to do with what the president has spoken about will be spoken of by Dr. Reuben Abati.
“My job is public affairs. Later this afternoon, Dr. Abati and the president will be travelling to Trinidad and Tobago, while they are away, issues become current, debates surface and somebody in Trinidad and Tobago cannot be the one at the same time engaging the public.
“So, my department which is not going to be in the Villa is to engage the public on issues that are current and of national importance.
“I am also to monitor development both in the media and the nation and to advise the Presidency and other relevant organisations as to what we are hearing. We are to interface between the Presidency and the public, that is the job,’’ he explained.
Mr. Okupe also argues that he was “not hired as an attack dog” as speculated in the media, but that he was appointed to engage and enlighten the public, and particularly the opposition on the activities of the administration.
“If President Jonathan hires a 60-year-old man as attack dog, then he is employing a weak attack dog. I am not an attack dog. My job basically is public advocacy.
“We need to engage the public; we need to engage opposition to deepen the understanding of the opposition on what government policies are,’’ he said.
Earlier, Mr. Abati who spoke in the same vein said Mr. Okupe is joining the team with a lot of experience which would help in moving the administration forward.
“He comes to this team with a lot of confidence in the Jonathan project.
“One thing we both have in common is that we both have a passion for Jonathan’s transformation agenda and we believe in President Jonathan that he deserves the support of all Nigerians,” he said.
Mr. Abati added that the team would wax strong in the dissemination of information about the government’s programmes and activities and the engagement of members of the public on its policies.