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Buhari and his media handlers

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By Jeremiah Okino

A lot has been said about the media handlers of President Muhammadu Buhari in recent times. In some quarters, it has been argued that the bulk of the negative vibes on the administration is; as a result, of lack of capacity. Some have also argued that the media handlers are engaged in in-house fighting at the detriment of constant engagement with critical stakeholders on ways and manners the present administration has impacted on governance.

While these arguments may be valid, I believe that there is more to it. I think it is a function of a lack of a clear cut communication strategy in line with the emerging best practices. I am also of the opinion that the media handlers have refused to upgrade their trade with the changes that comes with the terrain. They have continued to rely on archaic models that are not fit for purpose in the present dispensation.

It must be noted that as a first, you cannot give what you don’t have. You cannot also use a stick to fight an adversary armed with an assault rifle. That is not only suicidal; it is the height of ignorance. This is the best way to explain the disposition of the presidential media team, hence their inability to project the activities of their principal adequately. It is indeed sad. But all hope is not lost if you ask me.

There must be a rejigging of their operational strategies. They must come to terms with the realities on the ground to know that there is indeed a place for strategic communication. In case they do not know, strategic communication is an umbrella term to describe the activities of disciplines, including public relations, management communication, advertising, and crisis communication. These components must come in agreement; else, it cannot be deemed to be effective. And this is the challenge.

The emphasis has been on public relations, which is just a component. Tell me, if this is the case, would there be results? The answer is a huge no. This much the presidential media handler must know, that is, if they do not know.

Like I stated earlier, there must be a reawakening in the media team. They must understand that to whom much is given, much is expected. The tangible achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari must be adequately projected to the national and international audience. For instance, I have not seen any intervention from the media handlers as regards the classification of Nigeria as one of the countries intolerant of religion and encouraging extremism by the United States of America. I haven’t also seen any engaging response from the media handlers as regards the release from detention of Sambo Dasuki and Omoyele Sowore.

I stand to be corrected, the bulk of the rebuttals have come from third-party sources, and whenever there is any rebuttal or strategic engagement, it is always very late. And the media handlers are busy with inordinate issues at the detriment of the image of the president.

If we must admit, the level of bashing the president has received from home and abroad is indeed phenomenal. This is mainly because the media handlers are not doing enough to ensure that the image, as well as the achievements of their principal, is adequately protected and projected.

They must do more if they are desirous of retaining the confidence of the president. Funny as it might sound, this inactivity is also rubbing off on the image of the country as one where there is no regard for the rule of law. We must call a spade a spade. We must admit and make corrections in an attempt to make progress.

I can go on non-stop on this issue, but I am pretty sure I have been able to raise some valid points that, if taken seriously, would bring about some form of activity from the media handlers of the president. The achievements of the present administration are too numerous to let go of. They must be put in the public space for the benefit of all and sundry in an attempt at putting issues in proper perspectives.

This they must agree is necessary to begin to counter the negative narrative some mischievous elements have been propagating in the public space. If this is not done, the consequences might be unpleasant. As it stands, the strategy should not be about damage control but putting issues in proper perspective. It should also be about letting the whole world know about the giant strides of this present administration in critical sectors of the economy that are abounding.

This piece is a charge for greater efficiency and service delivery. This should not be misconstrued for castigation. It is a call to duty for uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. The urgency of now requires proactive steps to be taken in light of the prevailing circumstances. It is not an impossible task. If more hands are needed, they should be brought on board. All of these are necessary for posterity’s sake. President Muhammadu Buhari deserves more than what he is getting from his media handlers. This is a wakeup call.

Okino is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja.

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