Okupe, Omokri and Abati: Worst Presidential Spin Doctors of all Time
Doyin Okupe is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs. Reno Omokri is special assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on new media. And Reuben Abati is the Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman. The ‘miscerious trio’ will go down as the worst presidential spin doctor team in history, not just in Nigeria but the entire world.
One unspoken rule of being a president’s ‘spin doctor’ is that the persons charged with the job must totally make their personal ‘image’ invisible and untouchable, and make that of the president both very visible and very benign especially when the president blunders, gaffes or is subject to attacks that can malign the person, words and actions of their boss.
What was most alarming about the spin doctoring of the ‘miscerious trio’ is they wrapped their personalities in issues they had to manage to the point they became very visible not President Jonathan. The overall outcome was the president did not get the image he deserved nor was he seen as understanding the politics of leader image (fuelling the malicious ‘clueless’ tag).
Another unspoken rule of spin doctoring for a boss is that you have no personal project power in the public eye; your power is implied. However, the ‘miscerious trio’ projected presidential powers as if they embodied it. This was most unfortunate since they were not competent at the jobs.
The only exchange I had with Reno Omokri was on twitter during the atrocious involvement and handling of the ‘flood disaster’ that affected millions of Nigerians in 2012. He quipped: “After this disaster you can blame me and others in government, but for now, let’s work together to save lives and bring relief to victims.”
@Grimot After this disaster you can blame me and others in govt, but for now, let's work together to save lives and bring relief to victims.
— Reno Omokri (@renoomokri) October 19, 2012
The good spin doctor would have simply said: “The government is doing every it can at the moment to bring relief to the victims” and would give some figures of what is being in terms of relief to the victims and area.
I remember Omokri repetitively claiming that railway transport had increased by 20% to which I queried that percentages mean nothing without quantities. I was attacked by one of his supporters who suggested I needed a maths class. In under three minutes I replied stating “20% of 5 is 1; 20% of 1.25 million is 250,000.” I got blocked for the first and only time on Twitter. When Omokri’s ‘authority’ failed him on social media he started to hide behind ‘words of wisdom’ particularly from the Bible. In Urhobo language “Omokri” means ‘Little Goat’.
The third unspoken rule of a spin doctor working for a President is to never lose the respect of the public you are trying to ‘spin’. Between ‘miscerious trio’ they attracted frequent and significant volumes ill-humour and mockery to themselves. Instances of derogatory laughs had at the expense of the ‘miscerious trio’ on social media runs into the hundreds if not thousands. How could they then get the message across to the people?
You never make a megalomaniac a spin doctor unless you have the power to hang him as in ancient times. Doyin Okupe let his infinite ego get in the way of his job at every opportunity. He initially took credit then denied being the brain behind #BringBackJonathan2015. From that moment onwards President Jonathan has been treated with consistent contempt in the foreign media. Yes, #BringBackJonathan2015 made that possible. How could a spin doctor use a slogan used in a globally viral appeal for the release of the Chibok Girls when they had not been released or freed? Okupe traded insults frequently with even faceless characters on social media and his image was ‘kaput’.
Rueben Abati was doing a job within a paradigm that he was not prepared for spiritually, culturally, socially, politically and all what not. You cannot spend your entire career being a leading and expert anti-government spokesman, then with one phone call become the major pro-government voice in the land. I sympathise with the cognitive dissonance, dilemmas and contradictions that unrelentingly plagues his good conscience every second since he assumed office as presidential spokesman.
President Goodluck Jonathan had the overbearing misfortune of receiving so much bad advice and representation from his staff, but that of the ‘miscerious trio’ is the most memorable and most telling. It was as if Jonathan’s political advisers were there to subvert him. It was one of the worst mistakes Jonathan ever made in his six years in office as president. From innumerable sources, I can credibly say Jonathan is smarter than President George Bush Jr, but the latter’s political advisers never misled him; that is the difference.
Reno, the Little Goat may now have to go back to preaching the word of God to his congregation (he is a minister of religion), dragging his other failed spin doctors along with him, or maybe return to politics a wiser and more competent official in four years’ time. Who knows with such things?
- PERSPECTIVE is published every Monday. Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot