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Who will advise Mr Special Adviser?

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President Muhammadu Buhari

I look forward to the future when our Presidency will be managed like a brand. When we begin to put people who understand brand management in charge of the most important brands in our national life, and this includes the Presidency.

Only then, shall we will begin to enjoy governance that truly delivers lasting value to us. Because the most essential element of brand management is consistent value creation. Contrary to what many have said, your image is not your brand. It is only an appearance. And as we all know, appearances may be deceptive.

The Office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity caught my attention with a statement credited to it regarding a documentary on President Muhammadu Buhari. This office, like most of the grandiose offices we extravagantly created along the corridors of power, may well be anachronistic.

In this digital day and electronic age, I struggle to see the relevance of an office that has ‘publicity’ attached to it. What precisely do they mean by ‘Publicity’? Considering the revolution that has overtaken the media world, this term is archaic. And what, if one may ask, is ‘Special’ about this office or the person that occupies it, or the type of advice he purportedly makes available to Mr President? Before you call something ‘special’, there must be something special about it.

But given the way our nation is run, it is extremely difficult for us to see anything special about this army of special advisers crawling all over the State House. It is as obvious as the sky that these guys are either not giving any advice or their principals are not following their advice.

I am compelled to make these observations after reading the statement credited to Mr Special Adviser. Reacting to criticism from some Nigerians about the timing of the airing of a documentary on the President, here is what he has to say:

“Some of the comments are borne out of genuine concern, which we appreciate, while others are virulent, coming from inveterate complainers. Fault-finding is the stock-in-trade of such people, and if they mistakenly find themselves in Heaven, they would even complain against God. They have no other pastime.”

This is beyond shocking. It is a reflection of the fact that we always populate the corridors of power with people ill-equipped to manage the presidential brand. Worse still we give them big titles which make them assume an air of self-importance. We call them ‘Special Adviser’ and ‘Senior Special Adviser’.

When you call somebody ‘Senior Special Adviser’, he probably assumes he knows it all. He even has to behave like one who knows it all, because that’s one way to justify the title. That is the case with this Special Adviser, who has arrogated so much wisdom to himself, he even knows what some people will do ‘if they mistakenly find themselves in Heaven’. Does he also advise God on which people to admit in heaven? Otherwise, how does he know that some people can only find themselves there by mistake?

We must ask ourselves; do we really need all these advisers in government? We need managers, not advisers. Call him ‘Media Manager’ instead of ‘Special Adviser’. Managers who know their onions will in the course of performing their duties give good advice. When you call somebody ‘Special Adviser on Media and Publicity’, instead of Media Manager, and you give him the responsibilities of a Brand Manager, you have put him in a state of perpetual confusion.

Perhaps, it has become necessary to carry out a comprehensive review of all these superfluous offices and the bogus titles we confer on those who occupy them. Let us stick to the basics and stop encouraging this culture which makes them think they are some higher breed of super humans.

The idea of a documentary that shows the human side of our President is excellent. I think it is a great idea for the Buhari Brand. It is also good for emotional sell. The timing is the problem. If there was no fuel crisis, this festive season would have been a perfect time to air it. But given the problem, Mr Special Adviser should have advised that broadcast be delayed.

Rather, he released a statement that further poisons the air, and belittles the image of the Presidency. A fuel crisis during the festive season is not something to wave away in the irresponsible manner displayed in that statement. You have to consider that we depend too much on fuel. I cannot simply park my car and hop on a train from Lagos to Ibadan. I have to go by road. Millions of us depend on this same fuel to have electricity in our homes. This is a national emergency. When there is fuel crisis, lives are lost and jobs are lost.

More crimes take place as people queue overnight for fuel while police patrol cars are also affected. Yet Mr Special Adviser says we must not be discouraged by a mere ephemeral fuel scarcity, from enjoying the festive season. Of course, Mr Special Adviser, we have often carried on with our lives in spite of the unpardonable ineptitude of some of you in government.

And just as we are trying very hard to enjoy this festive season in spite of the fuel tragedy, we don’t need you rubbing salt into our injuries. If your statement is supposed to help the image of our President, I don’t think you have achieved that objective.

Rather, you should have simply restrained yourself from using this opportunity to attack the perceived ‘enemies’ of the Government. If people criticize the Government, you must respect their opinion and what they are going through, instead of telling them they won’t make it to Heaven.

May I humbly advise you to help us improve the vocabulary of government? Would you kindly help get the message across that you and your colleagues in government are responsible to ALL Nigerians, and not only your praise singers? Would you be humble enough to promote a new language in governance that shows more respect to the people? Could you make this your New Year Resolution?

The attitude displayed in your statement, which by the way is characteristic of our office bearers, is disrespectful and actually promotes disunity in our country. This primitive mentality that makes our governors refer to ‘the good people of XYZ State’ instead of ‘all the people of XYZ State’ and makes our presidents talk to ‘all well-meaning Nigerians’ instead of ‘all Nigerians’ should end with 2017. Would you be nice enough to accept that your critics are not ‘perpetual complainers’ but ‘fellow Nigerians’?

Happy New Year to ALL Nigerians and God Bless Nigeria.

• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.


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