FAROOQ KPEROGI’S MORAL AND PROFESSIONAL INCONSISTENCY
Once again, President Muhammadu Buhari is under attack for the composition of his media team, the number of people his government employs to ensure that every citizen of Nigeria is constantly kept abreast of the voice and activities of the leaders they elected to represent them.
Our suspicion is that opposition elements are driving this discussion with the aim of stripping Buhari of needed support; stripped bare of media support in his war against corruption and insecurity, the President then becomes vulnerable to defeat now and in his future political calculations.
President Buhari’s media team is currently made up of nine appointees: Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu, Tolu Ogunlesi, Bashir Ahmad, Shaaban Ibrahim Sharada, Loretta Onochie, Naziru Mohammed , Bayo Omoboriowo and Sunday Aghaeze. Of these, three handle cameras, while three are assigned to new media which has Ogunlesi as the team leader and Ahmad handling Hausa Facebook.
Now, let’s put things in perspective.
Following the appointment of Reno Omokri as Special Assistant on New Media to the then President Goodluck Jonathan, the defunct investigative newspaper, NEXT, reported in 2011, that Omokri had joined the President’s reported list of over 133 personal aides, including 25 special advisers, 42 senior special assistants, 52 special assistants and 12 personal assistants–as at February 2011. This number probably increased before that administration was voted out in March 2015.
These government advisers were paid about N780 million of Nigerian taxpayers’ money every year.
Of the 133 presidential aides, 16 were assigned to the Media, including the Special Adviser, Reuben Abati, Umar Sani, the SSA Media attached to the office of the Vice-President; Dr. Obi Asika, SSA Social Media; Reno himself; Bolaji Adebiyi, the late Sara-Wiwa Jnr. and Yakubu Musa as SAs under Abati; Dr Doyin Okupe, who had four Presidential SAs of his own under him that included Churchill Umoren, Jackson Ude ,Nasir Zahraddeen and one other. A host of others dotted the Villa at that time, including TY Bello, a Nigerian singer and songwriter who was the official photographer to former President Goodluck Jonathan. The President went on to add to the list, Femi Fani-Kayode who, under him, several officials including the current Group Public Affairs Manager of the NNPC, Ndu Ugamadu were engaged.
Nigeria has had many wasteful governments but this current administration is not one of them. Of the 15 Special Advisers approved for the Presidency by the Constitution, President Buhari has so far appointed only six: Media, Niger Delta, National Security, Politics, Social Investment and Sustainable Development Goals.
All this evidence of President Buhari’s discipline have been ignored by a number of newspaper columnists who are clearly being sponsored by the opposition PDP to vomit lies and spread misinformation. A typical example is Farooq Kperogi, a columnist who recently publicly condemned the existence of a group which was set up to disseminate relevant information from the government to the Nigerian people.
Our question to the critics is, what question did they ask Dr Jonathan when he had that crowd in his office? Why attack President Buhari who set out from the beginning to keep a lean team and an austere administration?
The group which Kperogi erroneously referred to as the Buhari Media Centre (BMC) is actually known as the Buhari Media Support group (BMSG). This group of volunteers who were also part of the media committee which worked with All Progressives Congress (APC) during the election campaign, are sponsored completely by private funds. None of their meagre allowances is from the national budget or from taxpayers’ money. All the funding for the BMSG is sought privately, and the group’s office is located outside the presidential villa complex—in Utako, well away from the State House in Asokoro.
Compare this to the Presidential Communication Unit (PCU) under President Olusegun Obasanjo. This group, which operated from a building referred to as the “white house” in the precincts of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa had the late Stanley Macebuh as its head. With its offices in the State House complex it was funded by the government. AND Farooq Kperogi himself was a member! Isn’t it hypocritical for him to suddenly turn round and criticise the existence of such a group?
If it was right for President Obasanjo, or any other President to maintain a media office by whatever name, and it was right for Farooq Kperogi to apply and serve in that office at public expense, what is his beef with President Buhari for having an office like that, albeit with a different name and not funded by the government?
In fact, is it not both immoral and criminal to attack Buhari who has barred his own media office from public funds when Farooq was himself paid from the treasury to do the same job in a similar office?
Every government is entitled to a robust media team. Getting the right information to and communicating with the people is the obligation of every democracy. Even the most advanced, fiscally responsible governments all over the world have invested in key media personnel. Nigerians must not allow themselves to be deceived into ignorance by the mischievous PDP script currently being played out by the likes of Kperogi in the incessant criticism of President Buhari’s investment in media.