By Tunde Olusunle
Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President, was not a happy man on Monday June 27, 2022. Students of “body language methodology of governance, administration and communication,” know what I mean. It was invented into the lexicon of contemporary Nigerian political discourse, following the ascendancy of the Buhari presidency, in 2015. It is a “theorem” which enables aides of the president and government functionaries, deduce from the non-verbal attitudes, dispositions and signs of their principal, what he expects them to do in every situation. The idea is to reinforce the fact of the president being a man of very few words, certified taciturn actually, who expects people to “borrow themselves brain,” as the Nigerian day-to-day expression, says. They are thus expected to get cracking on their briefs in whatever ways, without the benefit of a conversation or exchange of ideas in some form, with their principal. How this has profited the country in Buhari’s over seven years in office, is subject of another treatise.
At other times, Buhari indeed reinforced this characteristic of himself, in his public outings. A visiting French president, Emmanuel Macron in 2018, entertained a press conference in the State House, Buhari his host, flanking him. When the question about the nationwide menace of herdsmen was raised, Buhari looked the other way. It was so visible even on television. He surely was not comfortable with that poser. His spontaneous reaction spoke volumes. You should have also read his discomfiture as he sat in the state box at Eagle Square the other day, at the presidential primary of his political party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC). He wore this kind of “You guys get this thing done quickly so I can get out of here” visage, for most of the programme.
The night of Sunday June 26, 2022, Buhari received an unexpected correspondence from the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad. He had notified the president in his mail, that he was retiring voluntarily from office, “with immediate effect,” an expression loaned from our several decades under military rulership. Muhammad pleaded faltering health as the grounds for excusing himself from office. Ordinarily, he was due for retirement in 2023, by which time he would have attained the retirement age of 70 years, for jurists in the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Professors in Nigerian universities are also given such latitude, against the backdrop of the peculiarity of their professions as human storehouses of irreplaceable knowledge, expertise and experience.
Muhammad’s decision caught Buhari by surprise. He had just returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, (CHOGM) in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, a country which is fast displacing Nigeria as most preferred events destination in sub-saharan Africa. Tanko Muhammad was tactically procured early 2019, by functionaries of the Buhari administration. He was primed the foremost, statutory judicial enforcer of the re-election of Buhari, March 2019, two months away. It was glaring, from the abysmal, multisectoral failure of the subsisting administration which was voted into office in 2015, that Nigerians had totally lost patience with the regime. The party which produced the president, wouldn’t be humoured with a second term in office. Buhari’s strategists, all downstream beneficiaries of his government, spun a spurious narrative to force Muhammad’s predecessor, Walter Onnoghen to resign from office.
The fable was that Onnoghen was in bed with Buhari’s major opponent in the 2019 polls, Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP). Onnoghen was rumoured to have held an offshore meeting with Atiku at the latter’s Dubai abode after the PDP presidential primary, late 2018, which Atiku won. As the spin doctors couched it, Atiku would seek legal redress after being trounced by Buhari at the polls. Onnoghen would subsequently deploy his position as CJN and allied judicial instruments, to rule in favour of Atiku and enthrone him president.
As legal proceedings progressed, however, it was the APC government whose security operatives hounded the PDP “Situation Room,” which had all the results of that election, direct from every polling unit across the country. The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), hurriedly pulled down its server which stored the authentic poll results, swearing it never had one. Such was the frenzy Buhari’s associates got themselves into, attempting to legitimise the grossly illegitimate election results. History will yet unravel the complicity of many present public officials in that subterfuge when the time is right.
Tanko Muhammad was therefore elevated to upstage Onnoghen his senior colleague. He functioned first in an acting capacity, beginning from January 25, 2019, when he was first appointed. He became substantive CJN July 24, 2019 and concurrently Chairman, National Judicial Council, (NJC), after discharging his primary task, that of returning Buhari as president. His appearance before the senate for clearance saw him commit an unforgettable howler. His response to the question about whether the apex court under his jurisdiction will rely upon the merits of cases, or technicalities to adjudicate, gave him away as half-baked, possibly mediocre. His analogy about his suitability to “drive an aeroplane” or not, reinforced notions about his suspect capacity.
US-based Nigerian attorney, Emmanuel Ogebe, has proffered that “Tanko came to office with a palpable integrity deficit. Ogebe advanced this in his post-disengagement tribute to Muhammad, which he titled “Justice Tanko’s Resignation: End of an error.” What was to follow, Ogebe noted, “was further proof of his competency deficiency. The judge who couldn’t define “technicality” in his senate confirmation hearing, apparently was technically unfit to be Chief Justice of Nigeria,” Ogebe submitted. Sadly, Nigeria’s “rubber stamp” legislature, led by the never-to-be consensus presidential candidate of the APC for the 2023 polls, Ahmed Lawan, confirmed his nomination with aplomb. This was in total obeisance to the “body language” of the president. Not even the fact that Muhammad studied Islamic law and not conventional law, was questioned at that outing in the Senate.
At the inauguration of Muhammad’s successor, Olukayode Tajudeen Ariwoola, Buhari devoted ample time celebrating the outgone CJN. He noted he was reluctant to accept Tanko Muhammad’s correspondence, because he was confident the former CJN would outlast his own administration and retire December 31, 2023, months after his exit. Buhari extolled Muhammad’s dispensation for ensuring “landmark, jurisprudential and policy decisions by the Supreme Court.” Tanko was praised for dealing “firmly with the issue of reckless and indiscriminate grant of ex-parte orders, which was assuming serious dimensions.” History, Buhari observed, “will be kind to Justice Tanko Muhammad for his modest contributions to Nigeria’s judiciary, the strengthening of our democracy and national development.” He subsequently conferred on Muhammad, the second highest national honour, that of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON).
Tanko Muhammad’s stint as CJN, was dogged by controversies in various forms and shapes. Under his superintendence, the home of Mary Odili, the next in rank and seniority in the Supreme Court to Muhammad, was stormed by agents of government in Gestapo fashion, October 29, 2021. Whereas the stormtroopers pretended to be executing a search warrant, the raid was generally perceived to have been designed to maim and kill the target, Mary Odili. It re-echoed a similar invasion of the homes of some judges in 2016, in Abuja and Port Harcourt, respectively. The earlier raid was carried out by operatives of the State Security Services, (SSS).
For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, a total of 14 out of 16 justices in the court, authored a jointly signed petition, days before Muhammad’s resignation. They decried abysmal working conditions under his leadership. They drew attention to the homelessness of many judges and the unsavoury conditions they had to work in. The judges listed non-replacement of their aged official vehicles; denial of training opportunities for capacity building and the decrepit condition of the Supreme Court clinic, among other challenges.
They highlighted the cancellation of their foreign summer holidays consistent with international best practices, whereas the CJN regularly obliged his family and personal aides, these privileges. Things as basic as non-payment of subscriptions for internet services and satellite television, also featured on the list of irritants of the Supreme Court Justices, under Tanko Muhammad’s leadership. The Justices equally complained of being forced to exit their chambers by 4pm every day, owing to frequent power outages and the skyrocketing costs of maintenance of diesel generators. Simply put, the correspondence was a tacit vote of no confidence in the leadership of the former CJN. Muhammad allegedly introduced a new tradition of judicial laziness into the operations of the Supreme Court. He was reputed as lacking the basic ability to comport himself to write well-reasoned judgments. Rather, he was notorious for commandeering cases, preempting and dictating outcomes and disallowing dissent.
Indeed in May this year, a former Supreme Court judge, Ejembi Eko, alluded to the festering sleaze in the judiciary, under Tanko Muhammad. In his valedictory address upon retirement, Ejembi Eko spoke about the “vandalisation of the budget of the judiciary, culminating in the lack of basic needs of justices.” He expressed his bewilderment about the pauperisation of the topmost rungs of the judiciary, despite remarkable increases in budgetary allocations. Eko invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), to investigate the accounts of the Supreme Court. Such has been the quantum rot and decay in the nation’s uppermost court in recent years, especially under the jurisdiction of Tanko Muhammad.
The former CJN reportedly spent recent weeks in recent months being variously scrutinised for all manner of malfeasance. There was a report to the effect that Muhammad was queried by the SSS over a $10 million bribe reportedly collected on his behalf by one of his children, for a favour requested by Aliyu Wamakko. The erstwhile governor of Sokoto State and ranking member of the upper parliament, who was said to have made the payment, reportedly squealed when his request was not being prioritized nor addressed.
June 22, 2021, Messrs Malcolm Omirhobo and Co, legal practitioners sent a correspondence to Muhammad, requesting for “certified true copies of certain public documents.” The attorneys said they were acting “pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2011.” Among others, they requested “proof of receipt of total funds disbursed by the National Judicial Council, (NJC), to the Supreme Court, since January 2019.” They equally requested the Financial Statements of Accounts of the Supreme Court; Proof of the Total Expenditure and Payment Vouchers processed by the organisation, since 2019. Omirhobo and Associates, equally requested information about Internally Generated Revenue within the period; Proof of Expenditure; Salary payments and so on.
Arising from the dust and whirlwind of petitions, complaints and controversies thrown up by Muhammad’s regime in the Supreme Court, the Senate has shown interest in interrogating the tenure of the former CJN. Senate committee chairman on judiciary, human rights and legal matters, Opeyemi Bamidele, brought this up as a “Matter of Urgent Public Importance,” on the floor of the uppper parliament, Tuesday June 28, 2022. Irrespective of Muhammad’s resignation, complaints against Muhammad will be investigated as part of efforts to restore the integrity and public confidence in the judiciary. Himself an attorney, Bamidele is concerned that at no time has the credibility of the judiciary being so mindlessly rubbed in the myd and rubbished as it has in recent years.
Almost immediately after the inauguration of Ariwoola as acting CJN, Monday June 27, 2022, the ever sleepless social media threw up a collage of photographs. A particular photo shot pitched the president’s mien at the inauguration of Tanko Muhammad three years ago, with his facial expression at Ariwoola’s. While it was an uncharacteristically bright, bubbly Mr President, flashing a gap-tooth smile of accomplishment at Muhammad’s swearing-in, it was a visibly, evidently dour, drawn president, who shook hands with Ariwoola. That sense of loss of a trusted ally, a handy hatchet man, was inscribed all over his face. Motion pictures of the event captured a president who almost couldn’t wait for press photographers to complete their job, so he could retire to his trademark closet. A new CJN from the south of the country for that matter, may be bad business ahead of 2023.
Sadly, history cannot be fair to Tanko Muhammad, the way the president desires, irrespective of the “GCON” necklace he was adorned with. His legacy of laziness, imprimatur of ineptitude and trenchant treachery, did not cover him in gloss at all. A very bitter Ogebe has advanced that: “The worst president of Nigeria appointed the worst Chief Justice of Nigeria…That Tanko would be a failure was expected. How disastrously he failed, was the surprise. Never in the history of Nigeria’s legal system have all 14 justices in the Supreme Court, petitioned the CJN this way.”
Hopefully, Tanko Muhammad will be guest of a number of intelligence and investigative agencies and bodies, in the coming weeks and months. That is hoping there wouldn’t be a reenactment of the “off the mic” episode during the House of Representatives inquisition into the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), not too long ago. Such media trials have become the trademark of our corruption and crime-busting departments. And whether such bodies will be sufficiently courageous as to dispense appropriate penalties and sanctions, as deterrence for future offenders is another matter.
Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE).
Re: Kogi East Senator Isah Jibrin, Killer Squad, Echocho Boys, Launches Violent Attacks on SDP Supporters
When the news of Senator representing Kogi East Senatorial District, Jibrin Isah Echocho was published in several online platforms on September 28, 2023, “titled: Kogi Guber: Kogi East Senator, Jibrin Isah Killer Squad, ‘Echocho boys’ launches violent attacks on SDP supporters”, it aroused my interest and of course, any other person who has flair for investigative journalism would have waded into such dastardly act by a sitting Senator with a view to making news headlines.
Ajiolo Ojaji is a community in Dekina Local Government Council and home to the two term lawmaker. Before now, Echocho has ‘cult-like’ followership because of his antecedents when he was working in the banking sector. His magnanimity and philanthropy earned him respect not just among his contemporaries, elders, and youngsters.
His commitment to philanthropy over time influenced the choice of some families naming their born male children after him, “Echocho” . It is paramount to know that when he was in the banking sector, he was into his philanthropy without envisaging that he would one day delve into politics.
His professional background forms part of his decency and decorum after he had made foray into politics, first as a Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2011, when he contested for governorship primary and won before the turn of events at the time of the former governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. In the past eight to nine years he became active in politics, he has never been associated with political violence not even at a time that injustice was done to him.
Thus, the “Echocho boys”, as it were, are names named after him in admiration of his lofty contribution to the development of the communities in and around Dekina Local Government Council and were never evil intended as being portrayed in some sections of the media.
Though, it is understood that at this political period, politicians of his standing are vulnerable to media vituperations by the opposition and those harboring empty grudges, hence one is not taken aback over reports alleging that he has killer squad as findings revealed that the altercation at Ajiolo Ojaji that led to violence was a usual fall out among brothers.
It was also discovered that those who were involved in the fracas, and the victims were once members of the same political family in the past, but have now divided interest, a development that has led to the nursing of animosity among themselves.
Despite the accusations and name callings, Echocho visited the victims, and cautioned the youths , as a Father.
More worrisome is the fact that one of the alleged victims, who was captured in their publication laying on the stretch was never part of the saga, but pretended to have been attacked and he was reported in the media to have been receiving medical attention in the hospital as a result of the crisis. All these were their desperate intention to damage the sterling reputation of the Senator.
It was clearly affirmed that the article was deliberately written and sponsored to project the Distinguished Senator in negative light, but unfortunately, they failed.
Interestingly, from our investigation, we have unveiled the pseudo name behind the libelous article to be one, Yusuf Abubakar.
We would follow due process as our lawyers have been briefed to ensure that justice is done through court processes. Those involved behind the scene will be summon soon.
– Atekojo Samson Usman, a journalist, writes from Abuja.
Edo 2024: Obaseki’s ‘divine’ forgiveness of Shaibu’s ‘political follies’
By Ehichioya Ezomon
“He who is begged or pleaded with is king,” is an adage that the average Edo person doesn’t take for granted, mostly if the act for which forgiveness is sought is committed publicly – such that the aggrieved feels slighted and injured – and the mollification is also displayed openly.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki aptly symbolically assumes a kingly position lately, as he exhibits the spirit of divine, to forgive Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, who’d “erred” by aspiring to succeed Obaseki in 2024.
It’s Shaibu’s inalienable right to aspire to be governor in an off-season election in September 2024 to round off Obaseki’s eight-year tenure in November 2024. But Obaseki reckoned the act as in bad faith and taste.
Deputy governors aren’t satisfied with playing second fiddle, and they begin plotting how to become the Chief Executive the day after their swearing in. To justify their aspiration, some deputy governors boast of influencing the governor’s pick for the position.
But woe beside the deputy governor, who thinks the influence of their godfather will carry them through after the governor has assumed the full powers of office. Most times, their political benefactors become their first victims.
In Nigeria’s brand of democracy in which the Constitution clothes the governor with powers of overlordship that subsume other authorities – ancient and modern – the deputy governor is laughably a “spare tire,” who owes his stay in office to the benevolence of the governor, and thus should be heard and not seen, or they risk being rendered redundant in the scheme, or hounded out of office when they want to assert their authority.
A deputy governor can hardly survive risking relationships with their principals on account of aspiring to succeed them. It’s either the governor engineers the mostly pliant members of the State House of Assembly to impeach the deputy governor over nebulous allegations of “gross misconduct,” or their powers are curtailed, and access to the governor and state activities limited or frozen.
Such was the fate that befell Shaibu in his undisguised ambition to be governor in 2024. To clear all roadblocks, he filed suits in courts to pre-empt Obaseki deploying the State Assembly to impeach him and scuttle his ambition.
Obaseki felt that Shaibu had gone about the project in a manner that betrayed their cordial relationship since they came together in a joint ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2020.
To Obaseki, who’d dealt with his acclaimed political godfather and predecessor in office, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole – culminating in the now Senator for Edo North being sacked by the courts as National Chairman of the APC – Shaibu’s a small fry to make mincemeat of.
Thus, he cut communications with, and barred Shaibu from accessing him; stopped him from certain official activities, and relocated his office to outside the Government House, Benin City, via a two-para memo dispatched by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie, dated September 15, and received on September 19.
The memo, “Relocation of Office Accommodation,” reads: “I write to inform you that His Excellency, the Governor, has approved the relocation of your office accommodation to No 7, Dennis Osadebey Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City.
“You are therefore requested to ensure your compliance in line with Mr Governor’s approval, please.”
Surprisingly, Shaibu, after resuming in the new office, tendered his apology to Obaseki.
The months-long political feud between Obaseki and Shaibu had the potential to threaten the peace and security of the proudly homogeneous Edo State dubbed the “Heart Beat of The Nation”
Particularly on the verge of getting dragged and enmeshed in the murky waters of politics and personal ambitions were the people of Edo South and Edo North, where Obaseki and Shaibu hail from, respectively.
But before Obaseki could twist the screw further, well-meaning Nigerians stepped in to engender truce, leading to Shaibu’s withdrawal of his writs in the courts, and offering “sincere apologies” to Obaseki for whatever his follies.
Shaibu told journalists in Benin City on September 21 that: “I will use this medium to appeal to Mr. Governor, if there is anything that I don’t know that I have done, please forgive me so that we can develop our state together.
“If there is any mistake that I have made as human, is (sic) not an act of maybe wickedness, because I’m not wicked. I have a very clean heart.
“So Mr Governor, please, if there is anything that you think I have done, I am sorry. I need us to work together to finish well and strong because that is my prayer for you.”
Shaibu vouched for his loyalty to Obaseki, and said he’d taken a personal vow with God to support the governor, stressing that, “If I have a vow with God, there is nothing that will change it.”
He hoped for a return of the good old days with Obaseki, saying: “And I can only wish that the relationship that we had, in the next few days and weeks, I know it will come back… We’ve been the envy of the entire country; it (cordial relationship) is still possible.”
Exactly one week after, on September 28, Shaibu’s prayers were answered, as Obaseki, touting himself as a “person of faith,” said he’s “under obligation to accept the apology”
In a letter, “Re: Public Apology By The Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu,” Obaseki said: “I have noted the public apology made by the Deputy Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu. This apology followed an aberrant behaviour that contradicts what the people of Edo State stand for.
“To name a few, the Deputy Governor needlessly filed unfounded petitions in the Nigerian courts restraining me, the State House of Assembly and Security agencies from a non-existent impeachment process, followed by repeated breaches of protocol; unwarranted and unprovoked attacks in the media on my person and the State Government.
“The media frenzy as a result of the above and more, provided an impression of crises that has been precarious and distasteful to Edo people in the State and across the world.
“Although these unwarranted provocations caused me severe personal discomfort, as a person of faith, I am under obligation to accept this apology because as they say, ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine.”
“In good faith, I trust that the public apology as expressed by the Deputy Governor is genuine and followed by contrite steps to improve his conflict resolution skills.
“I also enjoin the Deputy Governor to guide his proxies to act in accordance with his piety.”
“It is my sincere hope and that of my other colleagues in government and all well-meaning Edo people, that these rhetorics will be put to an end forthwith to enable this administration finish strong and deliver the dividends of democracy to the greatest number of Edo people over this final twelve (12) months.”
Governor Obaseki deserves some plaudits! Yet, the swords sheathed and the guns silenced, the lessons learned should endure, as political ambition dies hard. For Shaibu – and many in his shoes – the ultimate is to be in full control as the executive governor, despite being deputy for eight years. Nothing else suffices!
So, unless the “terms of the truce” for apology and forgiveness include the total surrender of Shaibu’s ambition, the battle may be over, but the war will continue until September 2024. And it’ll be epic in proportion and ramifications on both sides!
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria
Communicating the President
By Tunde Olusunle
I was opportuned to serve in the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar administration at the beginning of our Fourth Republic. Obasanjo was a rather controversial personality. The media had stereotyped him as unfriendly and adversarial over time. The very fact that he opted for a medical doctor in Doyin Okupe as his very first spokesperson, broadened the hiatus between Obasanjo and the press. Okupe cut his dentition as public communicator, when he was the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention, (NRC), one of the two political parties established by the regime of former military President, Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, in the run up to the actualization of Nigeria’s botched Third Republic. He was a good communicator in his own way. Fortuitously, a critical core of Obasanjo’s appointees were tested and respected journalists who added steel and spine to presidential communication in the nation’s nascent democracy.
There were Onyema Ugochukwu, Emeritus Editor of Business Times, West Africa and Daily Times newspapers and Stanley Macebuh, (of evergreen memory) whose footprints straddled several publications, including The Sentinel, The Guardian and Post Express. Haroun Adamu, former university scholar and proprietor of the rested The Nigerian Economist magazine and Ad’Obe Obe who succeeded Ugochukwu in West Africa in London, were also in the loop. Younger elements like Steve Itugbu and yours sincerely contributed to making up for observed lacunae in the management and communication of the voice of the president. I was in my 30s. We made friends for him. Tunji Oseni and Remi Oyo both accomplished professionals, (both sadly transited), occupied Okupe’s position at various times during the Obasanjo presidency, adding perspectives to presidential communication.
The preceding parade of presidential communicators was consistent, actually upgrades in instances, on the qualities of previous holders of the office. They were hitherto referred to as “Chief Press Secretary” to the Head of State, or the President, as the case might have been. Alex Nwokedi who was spokesman for the defunct National Electricity Power Authority, (NEPA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), was Obasanjo’s spokesman in 1976. He was succeeded by Charles Igoh who was once Sports Editor of the Daily Times, upon the ascent of President Shehu Shagari in 1979. Wada Maida who later became chief executive of the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN), was appointed into the position when Muhammadu Buhari became military ruler in 1984.
Duro Onabule had served as Editor of the now rested National Concord one of Nigeria’s best selling dailies in its time, before he was appointed to the same office by Babangida. Sola Atere who retired a few years ago from the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) as Executive Director, occupied the position during the brief stint of Ernest Shonekan as Head of the Interim National Government, (ING). David Attah a former federal parliamentarian who also had editorial and management stints in the Daily Times, Standard and The Voice newspapers variously was appointed to the position by Abacha in 1993. Haruna Mohammed, a former managing director of New Nigerian Newspapers served in the position during the 11-month transitional rule of Abdulsalami Abubakar as Head of State.
Equally vibrant and respected professionals like Olusegun Adeniyi, chairman of the Editorial Board of Thisday and Reuben Abati, former Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian were spokesmen for former Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, respectively. Femi Adesina was Editor-in-chief of Sun newspapers after working with the Vanguard and Concord newspapers before becoming spokesman to Muhammadu Buhari. Garba Shehu was managing director of Triumph newspapers at 37. Adesina and Garba were both Presidents of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE), the umbrella body of Nigeria’s topmost media professionals.
It is compelling, even impelling to establish the foregoing trajectory to properly situate the professional quality, cognate experience and broad network expected of a potential presidential spokesman. Bola Tinubu, present occupant of Nigeria’s topmost political office desires to be seen as very pan-Nigerian in the complexion of his administrative apparachik. He also wants to be portrayed as a believer in the capacity of the youth as important contributors to the Nigerian project. These considerations must, however, not be sacrificed for merit and experience. While attorneys may be assigned to administer the nation’s capital, or a seasoned journalist deployed to the solid minerals schedule, presidential communication requires a lot, lot more. It is neither for greenhorns nor for apprentices. The output of the current holder of the office thus far is at best amateurish, randomly unprofessional and notably un-presidential. The margins of error in this job are thin and minimal.
On two occasions in less than two weeks, Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu’s spokesman has played the ultimate propagandist. He dished out false narratives and had the unpleasant task of doing a recant on both occasions. While reporting the highlights of Tinubu’s engagements with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) about a fortnight ago, Ngelale told the world that the subsisting visa ban on Nigerians travelling to the UAE had been lifted! It turned out to be embarrassingly false. Officials of the country put out a disclaimer. A few days ago, the overly excitable Ngelale told us that Tinubu was the first African leader to ring the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, (NASDAQ) bell in New York. This again turned out a hoax. Jakaya Kiwete a former president of Tanzania rang the NASDAQ closing bell in 2011. Fact-checking has long been simplified by information technology.
Presidential communication is beyond press statements which seem to be Ngelale’s forte. Even here, he is not in the least impressive. His releases are wordy and characteristically riddled with grammatical errors. Sentences wriggle and wind around and about in serpentine motions. Writing is a very intricate vocation guided by strict rules and regulations. Press statements are all about keeping it tight, sticking specifically and holistically to the facts without unnecessary embellishments and gerrymandering. Leave that to us creative writers and essayists. I should know having written quite a handful in my communication handling career on behalf of Abubakar Audu, Paul Omeruo, Bzigu Afakirya all former chief executives of Kogi State for whom I was spokesman at various times. Not forgetting my years with Obasanjo in Aso Villa.
Sentences are best kept laconic, at manageable lengths not exceeding three dozen words. There must be symmetry between the sound and semantics of the written word. Reclining into the big-manism of having press officers generate drafts for his blind endorsement is unacceptable and dangerous. Ngelale needs to get off his buttocks and face the job very squarely. He must forget the fawning aides around him opening his car door and making his coffee. That is if he’s convinced he truly has quality to offer. With every alacrity, he needs to mitigate his wobbling and waffling which are anathema to information dissemination at the highest levels.
Ngelale comes from the background of the electronic segment of the media. He launched out from the African Independent Television, (AIT) and crossed over to Channels Television. He was on the media team of Buhari in 2019 and was rewarded with an appointment as a presidential aide on public affairs. He also functioned on the Tinubu presidential organisation which culminated in his current recognition. At 37, he must be the youngest occupant of the Office of Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, if I’m correct. If he desires to retain his brief and flourish in it, he must deliberately avail himself of the quantum residual wisdoms of previous handlers of the schedule. Growth and perfection come by deliberate humility and diligent questing. Can Ngelale turn a good patch after his initial stumbles and adjust to the responsibilities of his seat? Tinubu by the way has never been in short supply of savvy associates at the topmost pedestal of the media. Where are they?
Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE)
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