August 26th, 2012
Doyin Okupe, a qualified medical doctor looks
well fed and rotund. Since the return of partisan politics
during General Babangida’s transition program of late 80’s –
early 90’s, he has been operating more as a spin doctor than
the physician he was trained to be.
The irony of it all is that the man has neither the image of
a medical doctor nor even a spin one. If his pictures in the
newspapers are anything to go by, he looks every inch a
village bully. That may not be important to some analysts
but in this age of make belief, the image a public figure
cuts is a very relevant point from which to start his
The office of Special Assistant to the President on Public
Affairs in Nigeria was invented by President Olusegun
Obasanjo who appointed the urbane and intellectually
resourceful Stanley Macebu to it in his first term in
office. But it would appear Stanley’s approach to public
discourse did not meet Obasanjo’s job description for that
office and so he replaced him with Femi Fani Kayode.
The difference between the two men in their approach to
public office is like between black and white. Where Stanley
took pains to explain the government’s policies to its
critics, Femi Fani Kayode mounted the soap box to rain
personal insults on all those who disagreed with government.
His language against such highly revered national icons like
Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Wole Soynka, Umar Dangiwa etc
was so uncouth that it was suggested, not too silently, in
the media that he was a dope addict.
His background as a careless, talkative and irresponsible
writer was known to all before Obasanjo gave him that job.
He had for instance published in the Vanguard newspapers
that the Holy Prophet Mohammed was afflicted by epilepsy and
that the Holy Qouran was written in a fit of epileptic
convulsion! As dangerous as his views were for public safety
and national survival, Obasanjo made him his Special
Assistant on Public Affairs.
The most amazing thing was that given his record in that
office, Obasanjo sought to, and eventually promoted him to
the office of a Cabinet Minister. When Senators screening
him for clearance demanded to know why he was in the hobby
of desecrating the names of revered Nigerians, he replied
that he was carrying out the mandate given to him by his
employer. He was proud to be called Obasanjo’s attack dog.
I find it significant that it is this same Femi Fani Kayode
of all people that has hailed Doyin Okupe’s appointment to,
as he put it, “succeed me in office”. He went further to
predict that Okupe will do better than Labaran Maku and
Reuben Abati in promoting the government’s image.
As products of Obasanjo’s school of government, the two men
have everything in common. Okupe was appointed Obasanjo’s
Special Assistant on Media, again an invention of the
veteran President. The office till then used to be known as
Chief Press Secretary and was assumed to be the exclusive
preserve for renowned journalist – Abba Dabo, Wada Maida,
Duro Onabule, Haruna Mohammed et al. A medical practitioner
made an odd to the list. Obasanjo stuck to his guns
regardless of criticisms.
Why did Obasanjo sack Doyin Okupe? He owes us an explanation
and some of us are demanding for it as a right. Whether he
gives it to us or not, we are already getting a glimpse into
the activities of his Special Adviser on Public Affairs. Far
from working on his Principals image, the media is telling
us that the man was and maybe still is something of a
trickster . It is alleged that his company took a huge road
contract in Benue state and swindled hundreds of millions
from the state kitty there. He took the money, put it in his
big pocket and fled the state without doing an inch of the
road work, they say. Poor Benue.
Is this the fresh air Okupe’s present employer, President
Goodluck Jonathan promised us while campaigning to be
President? There is no fresh air anywhere in Nigeria today.
We are all suffocating under the putrid smell of religious
bigotry, tribalism, terrorism, monumental corruption, oil
and subsidy theft, armed robbery, kidnapping, secession and
more. Nigerians have always lived with most of these ills
but this huge security vacuum that has enveloped us now is
what we have never lived with, not even during the civil
war. West or East, North or South, no Nigerian or foreigner
living in Nigeria is safe.
At about the time Doyin Okupe was appointed by Jonathan, the
Ogoni people in Rivers state were declaring their
independence, the president’s state of Bayelsa was launching
its flag, coat of arms and anthem; Dame Patience, the
President’s wife was engaged in an undignified scuffle with
Turai, wife of his husbands predecessor over a piece of land
in Abuja; Asari Dokubu was declaring war against the north
and Chief Edwin Clark was holding Babangida responsible for
the Boko Haram scourge.
Everybody agrees that this president has serious image
problems. Given the gravity of the problems he has, there
was need for great caution in employing a new image maker.
Did the president check Doyin Okupes background before
hiring him? It does not seem so.
If Okupe still considers himself a physician, he needs to
heal himself before he can be of help to his patients –
Patience and Jonathan. If he considers himself a spin
doctor, I make bold to tell him here and now that he is a
quack. His coming into government has kicked a round of
controversy that must be an embarrassment to the president.
If the president has any value for his self worth and that
of the high office he holds, this is one appointment that
has done him and his office grave damage. Instead of
repairing the president’s image, Okupe is now looking
towards the president to bail him out of the Benue murk in
which he is stuck.
When this issue came of for discussion on our social media
circle, my friend Pastorich made a brilliant analysis of it.
“An image maker”, he wrote, “is not a magician who recreates
a bad image; he only exposes the hitherto hidden "fine lines
and wrinkles" of time-tested competence of the executive,
using his professional "lens".
When a leader starts shopping for the best liar in town, it
means his citizens can no longer trust him. Oh, how
governance has been outsourced to scoundrels!
With Okupe, Jonathan has worsened his case. I can imagine
the picture of a blind photographer, blurred camera lens and
a badly dressed person. “
I cannot put it better than Pastorich.