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Politics & Govt



By: Emmanuel Yawe  
 Published  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 evaluation.

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.

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