FACTCHECK: Jonathan’s aide championed controversial #BringBackJonathanIn2015 hashtag

Doyin Okupe, an aide to President Goodluck Jonathan on public affairs, was one of the masterminds of the controversial #BringBackJonathanIn2015 hashtag which the President disowned Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

Mr. Jonathan had earlier today ordered the removal of banners and billboards bearing messages containing the hashtag adapted from the hugely popular #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

It is not clear at this time who created the #BringBackJonathanIn2015 hashtag, but Mr. Okupe was one of its earliest users and promoters.

Some Nigerian Twitter users indeed believe it was Mr. Okupe who created and launched the hashtag but PREMIUM TIMES is unable to independently verify that at this time.

Mr. Okupe could not be reached Wednesday to explain why he created or promoted the hashtag and whether he is now contrite after his action was deemed inappropriate even by his boss. He did not answer or return calls.

The hashtag was, however, among four different campaign hashtags the presidential aide aggressively promoted between August 20 and August 22 using his handle @doyinokupe.

On August 22, Mr. Okupe tweeted:

Earlier on August 20, the presidential aide had promoted three other hashtags. They are:

But of the four, it was the #BringBackJonathanIn2015 that caught fire on Twitter.

And before long, people believed to be presidential aides and promoters of Mr. Jonathan’s reelection bid began to use it to create campaign banners and billboards for the president.

The banners and billboards, displayed at strategic locations in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, triggered swift reactions in Nigeria and abroad, with critical articles appearing in international media outlets, including the BBC and the Washington Post.

The #BringBackOurGirls Twitter hashtag was coined to help galvanise international support for the release of nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted April 14 in Chibok, Borno State, by extremist sect, Boko Haram.

While more than 200 of the girls remain in captivity, the campaign became a rallying point and is deemed amongst the social media’s most popular campaigns yet.

Washington Post’s columnist, Ishaan Tharoor, described the #BringBackJonathan2015 hashtag for a government that has failed to rescue the girls nearly five months after, as likely the “most inappropriate hashtag of the year”.

“It’s not clear whether Jonathan has officially endorsed the new hashtag, but its seeming ubiquity suggests that he is not opposed to it,” Mr. Tharoor wrote.

In Nigeria, the anger was more, particularly, on the social media.

When the criticism became unbearable, the president’s office released a statement Wednesday saying Mr. Jonathan found the banners “offensive and repugnant” and had ordered they be immediately removed.

The statement said, “President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has directed that the #Bring Back Jonathan 2015 signs and banners around Abuja which he and many Nigerians find offensive and repugnant be brought down immediately.

“President Jonathan wholly shares the widely expressed view that the signs which were put up without his knowledge or approval are a highly insensitive parody of the #Bring Back Our Girls hash tag.

“While President Jonathan appreciates the enthusiastic show of support for his administration by a broad range of stakeholders, he condemns the #Bring Back Jonathan 2015 signs which appear to make light of the very serious national and global concern for the abducted Chibok girls.

“The President assures all Nigerians and the international community that his administration remains fully engaged with efforts to rescue the abducted girls and that he will not knowingly promote any actions that will fly in the face of the seriousness of their plight and the anguish of their families.”

It is not clear whether President Jonathan has cautioned Mr. Okupe over his action.

The Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs, Reuben Abati, could not be reached Wednesday to comment for this story. He did not answer or return calls.

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