President Muhammadu Buhari is no doubt getting enough mention not only in the traditional media but also in the social media. In fact, it cannot be better as far as the social media is concerned. There are too many hands on the deck to push out his agenda. This is not unexpected considering the number of hands that have been hired for that assignment.
Apart from many others who are operating behind the scene, there are currently three known and official social media aides to the President even though one may find it difficult to differentiate their scope of works from their designations that are similar if not the same.
There is Tolu Ogunlesi who is the Special Assistant to the President on Digital and New Media. There is a Personal Assistant on New Media going by the name Bashir Ahmad. And of course, Lauretta Onochie is the President’s Personal Assistant on Social Media.
Just as the social media aides are many, so also are the platforms they use to project Buhari and his administration are duplicated. For instance, for Twitter alone. I am aware of at least three official handles: @DigiCommsNG, @NGRPresident and @AsoRock. These are apart from other private handles they use. Ahmad however attempted to explain what to expect from the different handles in an April 2016 tweet when he tweeted: “Follow @NGRPresident for info from the office of President Buhari, @AsoRock for the Federal Govt and @DigiCommsNG for engagements.”
These days, it is common to see these aides at events in a manner that suggests that they are struggling to be the first to hit the cyber space with their materials. The subtle competition seems to be forcing them to come out better and stronger.
Ahmad appears to me to be the less visible among the three of them. He is quiet and unassuming. Apart from the official handles, he also uses his personal handle to retweet whatever they might have tweeted through the official handles.
Ogunlesi is very visible. He takes photographs at events with his mobile telephone and also records videos. He sits with us at press briefings after meetings of Federal Executive Council and tweets anything you can think of from there. He has even started conducting interviews. He will put his handset on video mode and hang it on a selfie stick. I have seen him interviewing the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and a few others in that manner. Ogunlesi seems not to enjoy using his personal handle for official purpose. Both Ahmad and Ogunlesi restrict themselves to government policies and programmes.
Another very visible and, I dare say, most combatant among them is Onochie. She uses her personal social media account, especially Facebook, to promote the present administration’s policies and programmes. Initially she was using her iPad to take pictures, now she has a digital camera and she struggles for space with the President’s Personal Photographer, his Personal Assistant on Photography, the Vice-President’s Personal Photographer and the numerous accredited photojournalists in the already saturated environment.
More instructive is that she does not spare anyone or group who she feels are opposing Buhari and his government. Even where the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina; and Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, will prefer to tread softly, Onochie will tread in a combatant-like manner.
The popular musician, Innocent Idibia a.k.a Tuface will not forget in a hurry as he received his share of Onochie’s “sharp tongue” when he toiled with the idea of leading a nationwide protest to call for good governance. A publisher, Dele Momodu, has also had a bitter encounter with her. She is also not afraid to take on the Senate anytime, once she perceives that the federal lawmakers are working at cross purpose with Buhari.
She did not hesitate to publicly back the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, in his face-off with the Senate. She also took side with the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), in his face-off with the Senate.
Lately, Onochie again took the Senate to the cleaners for protesting Buhari’s refusal to implement some of their past resolutions. She said the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly has become a self-serving trade union that works with blackmail. She added that there are a few clowns in the Senate who she said are being manipulated by awaiting trial cabal. She did not consider any word too weighty to describe the lawmakers. She has even called on Nigerians to take ownership of the Senate. Whatever that means.
While I cannot blame these social media aides and other publicists of the President for justifying their pay, my unsolicited advice to the President and his handlers is that too many persons involved in managing an activity can ruin it: a case of too many cooks spoil the broth .
Buhari, where is thy sting?
Those who were conversant with President Muhammadu Buhari’s disciplined posture especially when he was a military Head of State are careful not to be on the wrong side of the law. The issue became a subject of campaign ahead of the 2015 presidential election when his opponents were warning Nigerians not to vote for him to avoid being thrown into detention under his Presidency.
I am aware that even ministers were careful the way they went about their duties. They do everything with caution, suspecting that the President may be spying on them. But lately, developments in the polity are pointers to the fact that Buhari may have started losing his sting. Some politicians have succeeded in demystifying him, therefore removing that hard posture that had largely been known as the Buharism in him.
This scenario is more pronounced in the All Progressives Congress-dominated Senate. In the name of being an independent arm of government, more and more senators now rise and criticise Buhari openly without exercising any fear. The latest of such confrontation was the decision of the Senate to step down the confirmation of the nomination of Resident Electoral Commissioners because of the President’s failure to implement some of their resolutions.
A former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, seemed to be reading my mind when he took to his Twitter handle on Thursday. In a series of tweets, Jibrin noted that Buhari’s inaction recently painted a picture of him that was in contrast with that of the “no nonsense (Army) General” many Nigerians knew. “Is this the Muhammadu Buhari we know, the no nonsense general? No, something is wrong! If not, we would have seen more decisive actions,” he wrote.
I have also been wondering what is happening to the no-nonsense Buhari we all knew. Is he being slowed down by his ill-health or by age? While I was pondering on this, his June 2015 statement in South Africa came to mind. “I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor. Now at 72 (he is now 74), there is a limit to what I can do,” the President had said. Do I need to ponder more?