The recent appointment of Dr. Doyin Okupe as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs has continued to generate much debate, both in low tones within the presidency and in high tones among the general public. His appointment couldn’t have come at a better time, most especially when confusion within the presidency has further cut off whatever filial affection the vast majority of the people initially had with the government of the day. And of course, like Dr. Reuben Abati had stated, Okupe is coming on board with a lot of experience to engage the public with coherence. This he displayed just a day after the press conference which introduced him. He quickly waded into the budget controversy between the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the impeachment threatening members of the National Assembly, NASS, saying the current misunderstanding between both parties was ‘not very healthy and not necessary.’ One wonders what would have been going through the minds of the NASS members with such statement!
This writer would simply agree with the very few who believe the duties of both Abati and Okupe are not similar. As a matter of fact, Okupe’s job would certainly not undermine Abati’s, simply because the mien of the former displays the character of a bully, thug and attacker against whoever displays same character towards the Jonathan presidency—a characteristic totally nonexistent in the latter. In fact, this type of information management arrangement took place during the Obasanjo regime when Mrs Remi Oyo was Special Adviser to Obasanjo on Media and Publicity, while Chief Femi Fani-Kayode served as Special Assistant on Public Affairs. For those who knew both personalities and the administration they served at the time, most especially Chief Fani-Kayode, it would not be too hard to say that they simply got us drooled.
Having said this, it is a known fact today that many Nigerians have lost faith in the current administration, if words coming from one of the aides in Aso-Rock that Jonathan is the most cursed president in the world, is anything to go by. From the senseless removal of fuel subsidy in January and down to the Boko-Haram menace coupled with the Permanent Secretary promotion status of the First Lady in Bayesla amongst others, it is glaring the Jonathan presidency have not had it easy, therefore, quickly fishing out someone who would always be available (not like Abati who is guided by the ethics of his profession) to engage the public on current issues of national importance which Okupe simply coined as ‘public advocacy’.
Okupe’s engagement with the public continued just few days ago when he took a swipe on former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai and Vice Presidential candidate of the Congress for Political Change (CPC) in the 2011 presidential elections, Pastor Tunde Bakare, for calling on President Jonathan to resign in the face of mounting security in the country. Okupe did not hide his bitterness against the duo and said while politics had already derailed El-Rufai, by the prophecies of the likes of Pastor Bakare, “you shall know them”.
With Okupe’s finesse and savvy choice of words, it certainly promises to be a fun-filled time until 2015. However, as the country continues to be bedevilled by so many problems, would it be quite easy for a man like Okupe to perform well enough, owing to his past pedigree? Time will of course tell, however, the issue of corruption and how to effectively tackle it still remains a mirage for the current administration.
Maybe Okupe should come out and engage us on the bribery scandal between Honourable Lawan and oil magnet, Otedola. He should tell us why none of the two and all those involved have not been prosecuted by a court of conscience. He should engage us on how Dame Patience Jonathan intends to execute policies simultaneously in her new position as a Permanent Secretary in the Bayelsa state Civil Service and the First Lady of the country. He should engage us on how the subsidy removal in January has cushioned the steady collapse of the epileptic economy (even if the IMF does not believe so); where allocations are deducted and all major sectors of the economy are going in shambles. Okupe should engage us on the Justice Ayo Salami stalemate and tell us when an incorruptible judge of that status would be re-instated. Finally, he should engage us on the First Lady syndrome, characteristic of its show of power, which has once more and more than ever before crept into our political and national consciousness.
The Jonathan administration for many is still very young and has until 2015 to perform. Failure to achieve such would only make Okupe miserable and disconnect him from the people his work is to engage with. Nigerians accept that he is a ‘weak attack dog’ like he claimed when confronted with the fact that he was appointed as an ‘attack dog,’ however, many are of the belief that there is nothing to engage the public in currently because the orientation of the people is that the Jonathan administration had betrayed their trust. For the fact that insecurity permeates the entire country with no clues to end it, even when a Northerner is now the National Security Adviser, Okupe must buckle up to convince an already enlightened Nigerians as to why Jonathan should not continue to be the most cursed president in the world, after all, he is a man gifted with a lot of political savvy, very amiable and very highly-respected within the society.