Rejoinder: As Ibori Stirs Buhari’s Tea, By Muhammed Labbo
At the back page of Daily Trust (Sunday edition) 19th February, 2017, Sonala Olumhense regaled his readers of how in August, 2015 he “reflected on the need for a vibrant communication strategy” as he put it “that will serve his mission “.
Of course his “reflection” was in the form of an open advice to President Muhammadu Buhari, on how he should be able to have a “winning communication strategy”.
Apart from going down memory lane, Olumhense also made unwarranted comparisons between President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft war with that of Jonathan’s administration.
In doing his analysis, Olumhense threw up three known personalities from Niger Delta, namely ex-governors James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion and Dipreye Alamieyeseigha and made unnecessary comparisons to what we had in the past. He says: “given how the APC has proudly been gathering the dregs of other parties as defectors, Buhari may yet be Ibori’s state pardon as Goodluck Jonathan was Diepreye Alamieyeseigha …”
In my view, this type of analysis is totally unrelated and inappropriate, except for mischief making or ruinous intent.
While President Buhari’s determination to fight a transparent anti-graft war is unquestionable, Olumhense attempted to rope the administration into other extraneous matters.
I see this as a digression and distractive. For the avoidance of doubt, President Buhari’s anti-graft war is untainted, and no amount of deceit will make discerning Nigerians think otherwise.
More importantly, my concern about the speculative and hypothetical write-up is the aspect where he made references to a non- existent BMC (Buhari Media Centre).
My first reaction is that Olumhense has not read the response to Mr. Farouq Kperogi’s initial article. The response was far-reaching and addressed all the concerns raised in Kperogi’s earlier article.
At the risk of sounding repetitive I wish to restate here our legal right as volunteers of Buhari Media Support Group to exist (see below).
“EXPOSING THE LIES IN FAROOQ KPEROGI’S CLAIM OF THE EXISTENCE OF BUHARI MEDIA CENTRE
Few days ago, United State based journalist, Professor Farooq Kperogi wrote on his facebook wall about the existence of a so called “propaganda” group known as Buhari Media Centre. My first thought was that the publication is one of what has clearly become his new found love of attacking the person of President Muhammadu Buhari for whatever reason, but seeing how far the intent of the so-called expose has helped in deceiving gullible Nigerians into believing his hatred, masqueraded as the criticism of the president, I felt the need to set the records straight and tell Nigerians that Kperogi deliberately twisted what is never a secret to garner more support for his new found love.
Firstly, Kperogi’s claim about the existence of what he called “Buhari Media Centre” is a twist of fact. To the best of my knowledge, no such group other than the Buhari Media Support Group (BMSG) exists and its existence has never been shrouded in secrecy as he alluded to in his publication. Members of the group were drawn voluntarily from the members of the defunct Media and Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council who out of their free will, patriotism and love for president Buhari decided they want to remain together as a media support group as the name implies, to help the president and his media handlers propagate his achievements and also advise on the demands of Nigerians from the media space. This, the group has been doing since its formation and diligently too.
Kperogi alluded in his write-up that the group operates in secrecy, use pen and pseudo names and exists primarily for the purpose of engaging in propaganda especially to “attack/demonize/smear people critical of the president”. But this again, is another twist of fact and a deliberate attempt to misinform. BMSG since its creation shortly after the inauguration of the president in May 2015, has been a public knowledge. Apart from the fact that the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu had on 28th July, 2015 via a series of tweets announced the existence of the group, I, as Chairman and Co-ordinator of the BMSG on 27th October, 2015, hosted and addressed a Press Conference in our office, attended and reported by every major media organization in the country. The BMSG has also periodically issued Press Statements which are equally widely used in the media. Where then is the secrecy about the existence of the group?
Members, who are drawn from different fields like the media, economy, medicine, law etc have been granting interviews, appearing on radio and TV programmes and writing articles in their areas of specialisation. None of them does these in pen or pseudo names, but Kperogi missed the point by reducing these patriotic and voluntary work to ‘propaganda’.
I however ask, is it ‘propaganda’ to propagate the various infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, power etc., being executed across Nigeria? Is it also ‘propaganda’ to propagate the successful war being waged by this administration against graft in public offices? Is it within the prism of ‘propaganda’ to inform the Nigerian people about the achievements of the military against Boko Haram?
Conversely, the BMSG on a daily basis, reviews events in the media, guage the mood, feelings and perceptions of Nigerians about policies, programmes and actions of government and make reports or advisory for necessary action.
Another issue that is clearly false, but Kperogi has chosen to deceive Nigerians with is the number of members comprising the Buhari Media Support Group which he has painted as Buhari Media Centre for reasons best known to him. As earlier stated, the Buhari Media Support Group is an offshoot of the Media and Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council. After the winding-up of the activities of the committee upon successfully winning the 2015 election, some members of the defunct committee volunteered to remain together to assist the president showcase his activities in office knowing what lies ahead and learning from the media attack he was subjected to since 2013 when he joined the political fray, and most especially during the 2015 election campaigns. More than half of the members of the defunct committee could not remain with the group because of their other engagements, even though they promised to always help propagate the president’s achievements wherever they may be. Of the nearly half who remained from 2015 till date, some have also left for other engagements. So the story that the “Buhari Media Centre” as Kperogi chose to call it has 40 paid journalists, bloggers, media analysts, commentators is completely false.
One important fact to note about the existence of the group and its activities is that there is no link between the government and Buhari Media Support Group as far as funding is concerned. The Buhari Media Support Group is a voluntary organization and is being funded by private individuals and not from any government coffers as the Kperogi publication intended to impute. While in the past dispensation funding for similar media organisations controlled by the media aides of the then president came from the Office of the National Security Adviser and other government coffers, under President Buhari, the Buhari Media Support Group does not receive a dime from the government. The Buhari I know will never allow that.
I will also not forget to mention that those who chose to demonise the Buhari Media Support Group today, as if it has no right to exist, forget that under the last PDP administration, former President Jonathan apart from having more than sixteen media aides, had different media propaganda machinery under each of the aides, all of them drawing funds from government coffers.
I have taken the pains to embark on this narrative to straighten the record and pinpoint the fact that there is no secrecy about the existence of Buhari Media Support Group, neither does it draw funds from the government. Whoever believes otherwise should come up with their facts. BMSG will continue to serve as a volunteer organization for the progress and development of Nigeria, in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration. We are a group of patriots, united in our love for our country and belief in our President. We have refused to become diasporans but chose to remain in our country to, with other Nigerian patriots, salvage our dear country.
In conclusion, while acceding to the right of all persons to air their views publicly, it is expected that they check the veracity of their write-ups to avoid twisting facts of an issue. Kperogi, particularly, must learn to separate deliberate falsehood from genuine criticism. If BMSG despite its ardent support for the president can within itself criticize some actions of the government and offer appropriate advice where necessary, we would not frown at citizens who choose to toe this path, but it must be done with all sense of responsibility.”
Though the conclusions he draw were in the realm of speculation and mainly hypothetical, still it is of necessity to put the record straight.
There indeed exists a Buhari media Support Group, and not Buhari Media Centre.
The group does not have government funding of any sort, and does not manipulate the media, but the Group is firm at ensuring that the numerous achievements of the Buhari administration to reposition the country are not hidden from the Nigerian people who unanimously voted for him.
As clarified when the Kperogi article was first published, the Group is not a “shadowy organization” as it operates in the open.