Nigeria: Adesina as Buhari's PR disaster

In love, opposites attract; in politics birds of the same feather flock together. President Muhammadu Buhari deserves Femi Adesina as much as Goodluck Jonathan deserved Doyin Okupe and Reuben Apati. Donald Trump deserves his Sanders. That is how it works.

Buhari and Adesina


It used to be that an image-maker is as close to his principal as a skin to the body. It is so arranged because the principal knows that in a world where negativity makes the best news, a wink from an image maker could help mitigate disaster and that not all questions deserve an answer.

As Buhari's spokesman Adesina is not assured the privilege of travelling with his principal. I'll bet his presence is not required when his boss meets the global press he craves. Adesina wrote himself into appointment, but he's absent when needed to coach his principal on how to anticipate crises and diffuse explosive situations. He'll be considered lucky if he gets his principal's schedule in the morning, obviously not being involved in it's planning. He probably survives with a prayer against his principal's constant goofs and gaffs.

Compare Adesina to the Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. When Trump tweets himself into controversy, Sanders tries to make it good. Buhari lacks the capacity and tact to avoid public relations disasters. He hopes his hire would try to mitigate the disaster, but instead he stokes the embers of the faux pas.
 
During Buhari's long trip to London both Adesina and Garba Shehu were forced to put their professionalism on the line as they were left behind. They were subsequently invited to join the visitor's train leaving a precocious pictorial appreciation for history.

Professionalism is measured in the hope that the professional does not measure his survival by the proceeds from their circumstantial appointments or hire. Professionalism is understanding when your expertise is not attracting the needed goodwill your client needs. When the professional reaches that rock bottom they know its time to go home. It requires understanding when damage is so bad that either silence is the best response or weighing in on the human frailty of your principal to rally public support.

Even as an evident PR disaster, Buhari continues to treat his funded megaphones with contempt. The last time our president addressed us directly was during his boring national broadcast. It's probable that government has contracted it's image management to a foreign firm; one of those so-called global successes totally oblivious to the local dynamics of packaging a stiff ruler to a volatile nation. Their one-size-fits-all notes are usually oblivious to our country's cultural subtleties and the president's lack of thoughtfulness or mastery of a borrowed language.


Buhari's Commonwealth trip, like others before it, was a PR disaster. It is obvious that he is incapable of making contact with foreign media/officials without exposing his lack of tact and diplomacy. His position has turned his hero, reclusive Sani Abacha into a wise man. Abacha understood his own limits and locked himself in avoiding the media and the world. Buhari's handlers unleash him to the hounds consequently stripping him of the last vestiges of his pretence to being a statesman.

This president has a cabinet but he is somehow deluded into believing that he is the best marketer of his own government. Obviously even after the first rains, Buhari cannot convince a farmer to buy a hoe. His hearing has deteriorated since his ear infection surgery and his capacity to process complex information is to ramble off tangent. Ask him about the weather and he'll attribute delayed rains to southern hatred of northerners. Most things whispered at homes are unfit for the microphone.

Buhari's show at the so-called Commonwealth Business Forum was an un-remediated public relations disaster. It exposes the same parochialism with which he flippantly excused his lopsided appointments. When he described most youths as illiterate drones waiting for hand-outs before an audience of prospective investors, he finally corroded his popularity with the people.


Femi Adesina's lot was not to accept that his principal misunderstood the question; or that he meant the exact opposite of the words that tumbled out of his mouth; no, it was to accuse critics of intellectual laziness! Whatever Adesina is drinking should not be recommended for public relations students. Adesina sees this appointment as his finest hour. People who occupy his position look beyond the position, expecting to be called to share their experience and modus operandi as teachers in Ivy League institutions after leaving office. Why is this ordinarily brilliant gentleman prone to burying his professionalism in the trash heap?

There's no law in the Commonwealth book compelling Buhari to be physically present in London. A cabinet member, his more tactful deputy or minister would have done a better job for the nation without making 60% of the nation unemployable, open to global ridicule and bias. As Buhari goes to see Trump, one hopes he smiles more and speaks less. The black race is at such crossroads it doesn't need a Buhari to reinforce Trump's stereotype that black people lack intelligence. Thenceforth, Buhari should stay home and speak less since he's too mulish to leave politics to those whose conduct and speech would add value to a beleaguered citizenry, not subtract from it. Good luck to Femi Adesina.

By Tunde Asaju (AllAfrica)

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