The novella, “Akin goes to school”, by Christie Ajayi and Michael Crowder, was well read by Nigerian pupils in the 70’s and 80’s. A staple book of a sort in those days, it is about the story of a young lad that defied all odds to get education and thereafter became successful. The picture of the cover is memorable with Akin stretching his hand over his head to reach his ear, as I did too, to show that he was old enough for school. The book underscores the importance of education in changing lives.
Despite the frustration that goes with daily life in Nigeria, which is much better than being in Xenophobic South Africa, or drowning off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, we still savour our laughter. The laughter is even more hearty since after the general elections as the masses appreciate the saying, “he who laughs last, laughs best”.
Talking about laughter, it was the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who got me cracked up as I remembered “Akin goes to school” in his recent unsolicited offer to his PDP counterpart, Olisa Metuh. The PDP spokesman had accused the winning party of poaching his party members and luring the leaders of the party with “phantom promises and threats”.
Lai Mohammed’s response is laced with sarcasm and mordant humour. He said he would offer Metuh a “free, six-week crash course” on his new role as opposition spokesman in the spirit of cooperation and advancement of democracy.
In persuading Metuh to go to school, his school, Mohammed said, “Metuh will need the training to effectively carry out his new, tough task. It is now obvious that he needs to understand for him to succeed in his new role, he must be credible, empirical, more sophisticated in language use and very passionate, in addition to being able to operate on a lean or zero budget.”
His unsolicited advice, “There is no doubt that Metuh is in a hurry to do his work as an opposition spokesman. He should not worry. He should save his energy, because he would need it, in addition to the crash course which has been offered to him freely, if he is to function effectively in his new role. Having been in opposition for so long, we can tell Metuh that it is not a cakewalk”.
Love him or hate him, the restless spokesman of APC is brutally efficient and effective in doing his job. His releases are often laced with puns, innuendoes, wit and witticism when there are not overly abusive on target all of which make one sometimes think or smirk or have a good laugh. The success of APC is partly due to his robust public engagement.
In its reaction, after digesting the message for two days, the PDP rejected the offer of Mohammed saying it was arrogant and self-serving. The party also accused the APC spokesman of dwelling on “insults, disdainful comments and personal attacks”. The truth is that the APC statement could only be said to be cynical. It contained no insults or personal attacks.
If politics is put aside, and it will be good for PDP or any other party to appreciate this, any party spokesman has one or two lessons to learn from Mohammed. It is therefore not out of order to learn some things about strategic communication from Mohammed especially now that the party has started preparing for the 2019 elections, which is not a bad idea. The public relations and campaign strategy of PDP failed abysmally while those of APC succeeded excellently.
It is time for PDP to determine where the rain started to beat it such that a 60-year old dream ended up as a 16-year nightmare for millions of Nigerians. It is an opportunity to re-invent itself as a formidable opposition party such that in future it will also bring us change since no condition is permanent. It is also time for the minders of the party to talk less and plan more since they had talked their party into trouble already with the voters. They need a retreat, if not the refresher course freely offered by APC’s Mohammed.
At least, if Alhaji Mohammed’s words are a bitter pill to swallow, those of the PDP stalwart and Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, should be deemed honest, coming from inside. Ndoma-Egba contends that the failure of the party was due to impunity and the appropriation of the party by some individuals.
“The impunity has cost us a lot and it is going to cost us more. So, PDP, as far as I am concerned, needed this shock treatment; we needed to be shocked to grapple with the reality and this is an opportunity, rather than to be boastful and arrogant, we should go back to do proper introspection…Impunity is not sustainable,” he said.
Being the face and voice of the party and given that education should be a life-long experience, Chief Metuh should just eat the humble pie and desist from being “boastful and arrogant”. If former President Obasanjo went back to school after being a two-term President, there is nothing stopping him from going to school too to perfect his art. If Akin defied all odds to go to school, let Metuh also do, even if it is not Lai Mohammad’s College of Publicity Studies.
PROMISE IS A DEBT
One of the qualities of good upbringing is the fulfillment of promise. This is why it is highly commendable that the young man, Sulaiman Hamishu (aka The Traveler), who promised he would walk from Lagos to Abuja if General Muhammadu Buhari won the last elections has fulfilled his promise. A responsible person’s word is his bond.
Now, Nigerians are anxiously waiting for the fulfillment of other promises made about the presidential elections. Chief among them is Chief Bode George’s promise to go on exile if the people’s General won. With the cue provided by Mr Hamishu, the world looks at the direction of Bode George to do the right thing. Keeping promises is honourable for people of honour.