The art of managing the truth By Louis Odion, FNGE

MKO Abiola….He wanted to be a medical Doctor so that he could take control of the woman’s anatomy…

Give it to inimitable MKO Abiola. Proverbs, by his
transliteration of a Yoruba wit, provide
the lubricant with which words are calibrated to achieve highest possible
meaning. Wit is the horse on which words ride and vice versa.  
In one of his expansive moments, MKO would joke that one of his
unfulfilled childhood dreams was to be a doctor. Why? Rolling his eyes, he
imagined the pleasure a male doctor daily derives from placing a stethoscope on
the bosom of the opposite sex and commanding her to “breathe in, breathe out”.
Now, with the latest bulletin from President Muhammadu Buhari’s sick bay in
London, there is no prize for
guessing the revision MKO would have
made to his earlier thesis about the doctor’s awesome powers.

While receiving his media team in London at the weekend, the president was
quoted as saying he believes he is now okay but will continue to stay back in
deference to his doctor’s advice.

Nigerians needs President Buhari around….

With that, some might be tempted to
assume that sovereignty has now technically slipped from the Nigerian electorate to some physician in
another country which, incidentally, once colonized their nation. 

Well, among Nigerians, opinions will certainly be divided on compliance when a
doctor imposes the sort of curfew or restriction PMB alluded to. Of course, it all depends on who or the interest
involved.

Nduka Obaigbena….Once hid his illness under Agbada just to be on his toes for THISDAY

In 1995, for instance, no doctor could confine Nduka Obaigbena’s passion to oversee THISDAY newspaper at its
teething stage.

Fearing the worst one morning after
another grueling night supervising production, worried family members had to
drag the Duke to the hospital
following signs of extreme physical exhaustion. He was sedated and put on drip.
Our shock could then be imagined when, few hours later, a determined Obaigbena reappeared at the Ribadu Road, Ikoyi office, looking groggy, but surprisingly clad in Agbada, seeking to find out how the
production for the next day’s edition was turning out. The Agbada was to hide the drip on his left arm.

Lai Mohammed….Is he short of words?

That underlines perhaps the extreme
level of commitment. 
But jokes apart, coming on the heels
of visits by APC hierarchs and selected governors, the latest pilgrimage to London led by Information Minister Lai Mohammed
is what it is – a last-ditch attempt to convince a cynical Nigerian public and
disprove this needling nag by political opponents that the show of recovery was
only being stage-managed before a carefully selected audience at the Abuja House in London after the
president’s odyssey entered the 95th day. 

Charly Boy…Wants President Buhari to Resume or Resign?

Worse, in a week that a group
led by Charly Boy barricaded Abuja with a forceful message to the
president, “Return or Resign”. 

Of course, having cumulatively spent
abroad five out of seven months of the year thus far, the Nigerian president
has now more or less become the butt of jokes in the international media. 
The rising tide of snide
remarks, it would seem,

Abike Dabiri Erewa….Would she keep the President in her constituency for ever?

is no longer lost on PMB himself going by a Freudian Slip he made while exchanging
banters with Abike Dabiri-Erewa, his
Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs. To her joke, “Welcome to my constituency”,
the president testily replied in a one-minute video trending in the social
media “I’m, but reluctantly”.

That, in view, is very loaded
indeed.
Indeed, truth can be a pest. To some
of those being haunted, the best way to survive is to seek to avoid it.
Hence, the assortment of ingenious improvisations aimed at managing the
truth. It is precisely in this dim light that the latest in the series of
shuttles to London by Buhari people should be viewed.

The Author, Louis Odion FNGE….Captures moments of truth in literary lines…

But rather than repair the
self-inflicted PR damage, the airing
of the Saturday visit only appears to have complicated things. Matters were
certainly not helped by the poor handling of protesters at home last week.
Whereas the sparse “Return or Resign” crowd were mercilessly
hounded and tear-gassed on Abuja
street, those for Buhari – clearly
bigger – were courteously treated and chaperoned by policemen on horseback and
warmly received at Aso Rock by
presidency officials who read prepared statement. (A report by Punch newspaper
quoted some of the latter group confessing they were promised N2k
after the “performance”.)
As earlier argued in this column,
access to the principal is key for any media officer assigned the delicate duty
of managing public communication/perception. A miniature of the media unit
ought to be part of PMB’s entourage
everywhere, more so given the dire circumstance he has found himself in the last
eight months requiring a clear-headed strategy to manage national
curiosity. 

President Buhari with his image maker, Mr. Femi Adesina

It is certainly most unhelpful if your image-makers have to
rely on intermediaries to speak on your behalf. Naturally taciturn and and
reclusive by habit, Buhari is
obviously a PR man’s ultimate
nightmare. 

Ideally, the visitation of his media
team should not become a subject of international celebration we have been
treated to in the past few days. If anything, it inadvertently confirms the
deficit in the communication strategy all along; that a gulf had existed
between them.
Most pathetic is the retailing of a
particular photograph in which a smiling PMB marches towards the camera in the
garden, two steps ahead of aides clapping like physiotherapists. The other
picture that comes to mind is of a mother ecstatic at her toddler just taking
first steps. 
Two, the story would have been
better told by members of the State House Press corps were they the ones put on
the jet to London. A professional
analysis of the story in the media on Sunday clearly showed that the account was written and fed to the
journalists in Abuja.
The stunt of Buhari marching “energetically” in the garden in the London summer afternoon would be more
believable had it been captured from different angles by independent
photo-journalists accredited by Aso Rock.

Yayah Jameh, the last Project President Buhari executed

More disturbing is the sort of
issues this official narrative seemed obsessed with. While it is pleasing
to hear that PMB truly has the
presence of mind to remember how his decisive role helped ease wayward Yahyah Jammeh out of the presidential
fortress in Banjul in January, more
Nigerians would definitely have wished to hear his thoughts on what constitutes
perhaps greater and present threat to Nigeria’s
interest in the sub-region – attempt by North African nation of Morocco to railroad itself into ECOWAS.

At a time the intruder is digging
furiously the earth under our feet in the west coast mum has
been the word from Abuja

Again, we already know Buhari’s harsh words for those
pushing for secession from the South-east and his sharp tongue against the
troublemakers threatening to blow the oil pipelines in the Niger Delta. But the latest official narrative syndicated in Abuja did not let us into Buhari’s mind on the flurry of hate
songs being composed and churned out in his name by Arewa youths against other sections of the country.
For Buhari today, the spirit may be willing, but the body is certainly
weak. Forget the forced gap-toothed smiles, this must be the most depressing
moment for the General from Daura.
Sadly, the nagging stories around presidential infirmity won’t go away and
the official mishandling of the narrative now appears to overshadow the gains
from the relentless war against corruption and substantial containment of Boko Haram
While it is true that the
nation could have done better with the articulation of a clearer vision
for the economy in 2015 and bringing to bear a sense of urgency, what is
however undeniable is that things could have gone much worse had the nation not
had someone as frugal and disciplined as Buhari at a time of recession widespread across the globe
occasioned by a steep crash of commodity prices.
One good thing about seclusion is
the opportunity for introspection. So, the extended medical vacation must have
afforded PMB a chance for some deep
reflection these past few months perhaps on the rivers he had crossed and the
mountains still ahead. 
As he continues to bask in the
solitude of the London hermit, in
case it had not yet happened, let the old general however be forewarned that
there is no way he could possibly escape being haunted at some point by the
ghost of Umar Yar’Adua over a comment
he once made.

Late Nigerian Leader, Umar Yar Adua….was ill and died in Saudi Arabia

 When Yar’Adua increasingly found himself entrapped on the
sick bed by the twilight of 2009, PMB was among the most vocal then, urging him
not only to come clean on his exact medical condition but also respect himself
by honourably bowing out of office.

His exact words in 2010: “It’s unpatriotic for a government
leader to travel abroad for so long in the name of medical vacation. If a
leader can no longer function due to ill-health, he should be called upon to
resign. I don’t think I have said anything wrong to have advised the President
to resign. He should disclose his health status to Nigerians and resign if he
can no longer cope. That’s the proper thing to do”.
By nudging his younger kinsman from
Katsina to follow the worthy example set two years earlier by Fidel Castro, Buhari then appeared to seize the moral high ground. Indeed, as he
increasingly got weakened by age-related infirmities,

Late Cuban Leader, Fidel Castro…Was ill and resigned

the then charismatic
Cuban leader could have hung on to
power, pleading no law forbade him from taking ill while in office. But he
refused the temptations. In relinquishing power in 2008, these were his
unforgettable words to his fellow countrymen:

“My
wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. But it would
be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more
mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer”.

Obviously, there is no way PMB could, in a good conscience, be said
to have live up to the same high standard he judged Yar’Adua –failure to disclose what exactly ails him and foreign
residency. 
No less compelling is the memory
of PMB’s thunderous disavowal
as recently as last year of “medical tourism” by government
officials. Speaking in Abuja
that day, he declared that Federal Government under his watch would no longer
approve financial support of any kind for all categories of public servants
seeking medical treatment abroad. (By 2013, around $1bn was estimated to have
been spent by Nigerians on medical treatment abroad.)
Now, the big puzzle is whether PMB is excluded from the tribe of public
servants so referenced.
Managing the truth is never an easy
task.  




LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here