Read below a sample of reactions to my last week’s column.
I am a political public relations professional in Nigeria. While I agree with most of your submissions, I disagree with others. You said those of us who are “quick to dismiss Nigerian politicians’ newfound fascination with American political consulting firms in this year’s election as the product of an inferiority complex” are being “simplistic.” I think you’re being unkind to some of us. While it is true that many of my colleagues understand their role as attack dogs of politicians, there are some of us who have recognized that political public relations is about creating goodwill for clients, not always attacking opponents. But the politicians we work for want us to attack their opponents, hurl the most vulgar insults you can come up with in rejoinders to negative articles about them. Trying to convince them to use kind words in response to negative stories or articles will cost you your job; they will get someone else who will attack, deride, disgrace, and even lie against opponents. As you rightly said, such an abusive approach to public relations only pleases the politician and those who passionately support him. It can never win new hearts and minds.
Our politicians allow American public political consulting firms to practice scientific public relations because they feel inferior before Americans. If my firm were to take the exact PR proposal that AKPD Message and Media and the Potomac Square Group took to APC and PDP respectively, they will reject it. So it’s not simplistic at all to say that Nigerian politicians’ fascination with American political consulting firms is a result of inferiority complex.
Abdullahi Musa (not real name not to cause offence to my clients)
I love the way you tactfully responded to that ignorant rejoinder to your beautiful and insightful column on dumbo Sambo. That was classy. I thought you would deploy your powerful pen (or is it keyboard) to crush the idiot. Having said that, I am shocked that Daily Trust would publish such an ill-informed personal attack on one of its most outstanding columnists. The paper’s editors know you’re not Nupe, that you’re not a “grammar journalist,” that your Notes from Atlanta column, which started as Notes from Louisiana, preceded your Politics of Grammar column in Sunday Trust by six years, that your grammar column is one of the, if not the, most popular column in the Trust stables, and that you’ve been writing sizzling political commentaries in your Weekly Trust column for years, yet they allowed an article that said you’re just now publishing political commentaries because you want political appointment from APC to be published. Haba!
The writer is clearly as dumb as dumbo Sambo and Jonathan or is, to use the expression of one of your readers, part of the “confederacy of dunces” that the Jonathan/Sambo regime represents. The writer also wanted to divert attention from Sambo’s embarrassing inability to recite Fatiha by talking about your so-called “Nupe-accented prayers.” Well, first, those of us who have been reading you unfailingly for over one decade know you are not Nupe; we know you consistently say you’re Baatonu from Borgu in Kwara State. But even if you’re Nupe, so what? What is “Nupe-accented prayers”? The dullard has certainly never heard you speak. How does he know your accent? In any case, in several of your past articles, you have said your father was an Arabic teacher and that you learned to read Arabic before going to Western schools. Although I don’t know you and have never heard you speak, it isn’t difficult to imagine you being “accentless” (if such a word exists) in your prayers. But that’s even by the way. The writer’s ultimate goal was to cause a friction between Nupes and Hausa-Fulani. Fortunately, no one took the bait. It’s sad that VP Sambo’s aides, in defending their boss’ divisive statement about Muslims and Christians, sought to create another division between northern Muslims. Can these idiots stop this divide-and-rule nonsense already? If this is public relations, I want no part of it.
Certainly, the professional foreign PR firms will do a better job although I don't know if the poor-quality PR in Nigeria should be blamed on professional local firms or on the use of non-professionals like Abati, Okupe and Fani-Kayode. The point you made about crudeness is accurate because it seems that people like Fani-Kayode and Okupe got appointed by this government because they did well in the crudeness department under Obasanjo. However, one strange thing I've observed about Nigeria is that what I dismiss as crude is often what sells very well. I was told that producers in Nollywood make more "crude" films (with lots of adult tantrums, exaggerated display of emotion and witch-craft) because they actually sell better. Also, I have labeled the messages of some politicians in Nigeria as crude only to be forced to admit that the messages resonate with large segments of the population.
Thank you Dr. Kperogi for this very educative piece. I'm a fan of the Roman politician Cicero, having read not only his real-life history, but also fictionalized accounts of Roman society in which Cicero featured prominently. On the point about the crudeness of Nigerian politicians and their henchmen, no doubt, Okupe, Abati and Fani-Kayode all owe their current appointments to the crudeness they manifested in times past. I remember Fani-Kayode, the crudest of the three, engaging in verbal fights with civil rights activists and even clerics opposed to Obasanjo's third term agenda during 2005-2006. Fani-Kayode, who was the presidential spokesman, used abusive language and threats of violence against everyone opposed to his boss, so much that former US Asst Secretary of State Mike Cohen once compared him to Tariq Azeez, Saddam Hussein's information minister.
Yet, we must also remember a country called Nigeria where politicians behaved in a more mature manner than what we have today. When Buhari contested against Obasanjo in 2003, and against Yar'adua in 2007, neither NTA nor AIT aired the distasteful anti-Buhari propaganda that they now broadcast on a daily basis. That means the crude politics we see today owes more to a difference in attitude between Obasanjo's and Jonathan's governments than the intrinsic crudeness of ordinary Nigerians as Raji seems to believe. The damage the Jonathan government has caused Nigeria is indeed beyond measure, but I’m consoled with the fact that it will soon end, even if the ill-effects will last for generations to come.