The National Publicity Secretary of Africa’s biggest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh is in deep…(you know what). It is now his onerous task to first whitewash an administration that is painted as the worst ever. You know, according to current political correctness, the six years of Jonathan are worse than those of Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo put together. Don’t forget that Jonathan did some good things in office. No, don’t even try to remember any. It is now politically correct to just use one black brush to paint it black (there was a rock group called Colour me Bad. I think Jonathan was the band leader). And the sad thing is that no one is prepared to defend the hapless man.
Apart from the maverick governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, mum is the word from that side. Even the effusive Femi Fani-Kayode has gone mute. I won’t even be surprised if he came out with a new song entitled: “Buhari’s songs of praise”! Where is Adamu Muazu, Tony Anenih, Anyim Pius Anyim, and all the other top cats of the Jonathan years? Why are they so silent in defending the records of the administration they were part of? And even if they are scared to show their faces, as it may be Nigerian to be, they should, at least, support some positive projection of their oga now.
But I digress, back to today’s subject. Metuh is obviously lost like Alice in wonderland. He has to find a way of responding to the barrages of searing accusations from the ruling party. And as if that is not herculean enough, he must find a way of saving himself from staff of his party currently accusing him of theft and high handedness. In a recent petition, they banded together to ask the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest Metuh. They even said Metuh worked against former President Goodluck Jonathan. Hear them: “Again, we have incontrovertible evidence that the man who is PDP Publicity Secretary worked assiduously against the presidential candidate of the PDP, former President Goodluck Jonathan, in the last election in order to requite the ex-president for rejecting him as Director of Publicity of the Presidential Campaign, which was given to Femi (Fani) Kayode, a development which came after Metuh had squandered a whopping sum of N450 million media fund earlier approved for the office of PDP Publicity Secretary by President Jonathan.” The blistering press release was jointly signed by Chairman of the PDP Staff Welfare Association, Ngozi Eze and the body’s secretary, Dan-Ochu Baiye.
Now, this sort of accusation has a way to stop the heart from beating, literally. In the aftermath of such monumental accusations, Metuh is bound to be demoralised, listless and walking around like a scarecrow. His confidence has been greatly eroded. How can an alleged corruption poster child clear the name of a political party said to be the founder of the word? It’s even like commissioning a prostitute to address a congregation of nuns on the subject of chastity. Besides, Metuh’s job is compounded by what appears to be a draconian atmosphere at the moment. The EFCC dragnet – that ominous harbinger that even the bravest fear – is now hovering over the land looking for whom to consume. The agency has suddenly resurrected and like a ghoul, its whitish appearance is as blood curdling as the visit of the death angel itself. Many politicians feverishly pick their calls these days wondering when it would be their turn to face the Grim Reaper that EFCC now is. Suddenly, guilty or not, we are back to the era of fear again when even one’s shadow constitutes a threat. In such a milieu, not many brave men can step out to defend APC’s Public Enemy number one – Jonathan. Metuh must be mindful of all of that. During the last regime and the regime before it, when the EFCC comes for you, all you needed to do was shout “persecution” and you get the public’s sympathy. These days, when the EFCC comes for you, everyone is elated and screams “go on. Go get them boys!” as many Nigerians yearn to see their perceived oppressor get humiliated. I bet many miss the Buhari/Idiagbon era when all that transpired was politicians getting hounded into jails. They can’t wait for its sequel. The other day, I was amused at a comment on the social media. Someone had posted that a certain minister was dying of cancer in some hospital abroad. Rather than get-well prayers and sympathises, many people prayed that she return well enough to account for the billions allegedly stolen in her watch, after which she may wish to die! Are we now this cruel?
But beyond all of these, Metuh’s job is complicated by the fact that it is even difficult to get materials to use in trying to discredit the new government. First, the ruling APC had a spell binding “Change” slogan; then they had a fantastic candidate, who is now President. General Muhammadu Buhari, we must admit, is a strange Nigerian – ascetic, iconoclastic, charismatic, detached, forthright, transparent, and down to earth honest. He is everything many third world leaders are not. Only a few deviants, living or dead, in our history come close – legends like Gani Fawehimi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Balarabe Musa, Tai Solarin, Gen. Ishola Williams, Bala Usman and Marxist scholar Eskor Toyo. During the campaign, a floundering PDP became a joke when all it could do was bring up issues of Buahri’s age, his appearance, his flip-flops and his receding memories. Nigerians were not convinced. In fact, PDP’s spokespersons eventually sold Buhari’s candidacy better than the Katsina-born soldier’s team did. And even now as President, it is hard to fault the guy. You could cleverly come up with his flip-flops. So what? After all, Nigerians didn’t elect an orator as leader. You then come up with his slow motion movements. Well, that too is no longer trending. The President, in a recent flurry of appointments and sacks, is showing that he is not that slow. It is even now cool to speak of “slow and steady” – it connotes a organised individual, taking his time to be efficient. When you point to Buhari’s unrealistic campaign promises, his silver tongued team would quickly remind you that the president, after all, is human and that he can’t solve all the problems inherited. If you accused him of persecuting former President Jonathan, many Nigerians would say that is the best thing that has ever happened in Nigeria’s history. Typical of us as a people, we are now relishing the downfall of all those we considered to have been privileged. And even if President Buhari fails in delivering the goods by 2019, many would still see him as a hero if all he did is deal with leaders of the past regime.
But above all, the toughest challenge before Metuh is the aggressive, abrasive and virulent Lai Mohammed. While the APC’s spokesperson is the very soul of the PR trade, Metuh has no such trainings to the best of my knowledge. Lai is a reporter’s delight. He fires his press releases at short notices. All he did was a call. “Emma, have you checked your mail box?” Lai probably has the e-mail of every political reporter on the globe. And I must confess that when I was commissioner for Information, I worked with Lai’s template. The style is effective: respond to everything as quick as possible. Lai was rapid response before the term was hijacked by the Police. Now, I wonder if the PDP can get someone to match that media relations exploit. And I’m starting to think that may be Metuh should take Lai’s offer of coaching seriously. After all, it would be for free, considering that the best things in life are, indeed, free.