The Buhari government is an absolute propagandocracy, that is, a government conducted by intentionally false and manipulative information. And this is so because the very foundation of the government is fraud.
When you defraud people into electing you and you have no substance to justify the trust they invested in you, you either apologise and be penitent (if you are honourable) or you perpetually churn out lie after lie to cover up earlier lies since you have no truth to tell. That’s the profile of this government in a nutshell.
The fraud started when, shortly after being sworn in as president, President Buhari went to Chatham House in London (where else?) to repudiate the “One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days” and the “My Covenant With Nigerians” campaign documents, two of the signature documents that helped propel APC to an unlikely electoral triumph, and that caused many of us hitherto nonpartisan commentators to identify with and support Buhari in 2015.
Buhari called the documents a “fraud.” He was right. But what was an even bigger fraud was that he knew these documents to be fraudulent but conveniently chose not to repudiate them during the campaigns. His strategic silence caused people to elect him on the basis of fraud.
New York mayor Mario Cuomo once famously said that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. APC “changed” this: they campaigned with fraud and now govern with unimaginative lies and mindless propaganda to cover up the fraud that got them into power. It’s the biggest, most audacious con game in Nigeria’s entire political history.
After renouncing the documents that got him elected, everything went downhill from there. He renounced all the campaign promises he made, including his promise to publicly and fully declare his assets and make public declaration of assets a precondition for appointment into his government. So APC basically became a party of fraud with no programs—just like the PDP it upstaged.
In the absence of anything to show for its existence, since fraud is its very foundation, the Buhari government has elevated sterile propaganda, mindless mind-management, and thoughtless, unintelligent mendacity to an art.
For starters, as I pointed out in my Facebook status update, which went viral and shaped national discourse on the Buhari government, the president has 9 media aides. Yes, 9, not 6 as previously thought!
They are Femi Adesina (Special Adviser, Media & Publicity); Garba Shehu (Senior Special Assistant, Media & Publicity); Tolu Ogunlesi (Special Assistant, Digital & New Media); Lauretta Onochie (Personal Assistant, Social Media); Bashir Ahmad (Personal Assistant, New media); Sha’aban Sharada (Personal Assistant, Broadcast Media); Naziru Muhammed (Personal Assistant, TV Documentary); Sunday Aghaeze (Personal Assistant, Photography); and Bayo Omoboriowo (Personal Assistant/ President’s Photographer).
All of these aides also have a retinue of other aides. For instance, the president’s PA on Broadcast Media recently appointed a “Media Assistant 1 on Social Media.” The numeral “1” indicates that there are other personal aides to the president’s PA that we don’t know about yet. This absurdity used to exist only in the realm of implausible humour.
But it gets worse: the president also has a clandestine hate and propaganda factory called the Buhari Media Center (BMC), which has nearly 40 paid propagandists whose mandate is to smear, demonise, and troll government critics with thousands of fake, foul social media handles. They also flood the comment sections of news websites with false handles and calculatedly duplicitous information, in addition to producing propagandistic social media memes (often with southern Nigerian-sounding names) that appear to come from everyday Buhari fans. The 40 odd propagandists-in-residence at the BMC are paid N250,000 per month.
Modelled after the Atiku Media Center (a reason its head calls it the Buhari Media Center, although it goes by other names), it is located on Okonjo-Iweala Drive (close to CBN quarters) in Jabi, Abuja.
When I first exposed this shadowy, sinister propaganda outfit that operates outside the orbit of the formal structures of government, its existence was denied. Now some character by the name of Muhammad Labbo who describes himself as “Chairman/ Co-ordinator [sic]” of the “Buhari Media Support Group” admitted to the existence of the propaganda centre, but says it isn’t called the Buhari Media Center, and that it is funded by a private individual.
But who is this private individual who is funding a viciously malicious presidential propaganda outfit? What is his interest? Is this a pay-to-play scam? Is it a payback for a favour from the Buhari government? Or is it a favour in anticipation of a reward? Why should a shadowy individual fund a pro-government, extralegal propaganda and mind-management unit?
And what about the N100 million Lai Mohammed’s Ministry of Information has allocated for “interaction with bloggers” in the 2017 budget? Who are these bloggers government will be “interacting” with for N100 million in a time of recession?
Most importantly, though, the minions that make up the Buhari Media Center propagandists aren’t even the brightest bulbs in the box. Most of them should sue their brains for non-support. First, they can’t string together a sentence in English that isn’t a riotous travesty of the language. Nor do they seem to have any basic familiarity with elementary logic. Their stock-in-trade is unrestrained verbal primitivism, vulgar abuse, smears, innuendoes, and outright libel.
They, for instance, have been on full attack mode against my person since I exposed them. One Muhammad Labbo, who would do well to take elementary lessons in grammar and logic, said I too belonged to a BMC-like unit during Obasanjo’s administration. Lie. The unit I was recruited to be a part of, about which I wrote several times in my column, was called the Presidential Research and Communications Unit (later renamed Public Communications Unit) and projected Nigeria to the international community. The unit’s website was indicatively www.nigeriafirst.org, and it never got involved in domestic media interventions.
Unlike the PRCU, BMC is Buhari first (and Nigeria last), as the name of the group suggests. It operates outside the structures of government and even claims to be funded by a sinister outsider to slander critics of the president. Only a mind held hostage by illogic and defective intellect will make a false equivalence between working for a unit of government that disseminated information about Nigeria to a global audience and a baleful, extralegal propaganda unit that defames and attacks an incompetent president’s critics using fake handles.
As I pointed out in a 2015 article, Nigeria’s brand of political public relations, for the most part, does no more than appeal to the base, attract enemies, scare away potential converts, and ossify negative opinions about the people that are putatively being defended. It consists in barbarous, impulsive, sophomoric insults against real and imagined political opponents—and cloying, hagiographic defense of principals. It lacks nuance, is childish, and seems unconcerned with logic and persuasion.
The BMC is a full realisation of this peculiar primitive propaganda that defines Nigeria’s public communication. It gets worse when the government it defends is founded and subsists on fraud and lies.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Farooq Kperogi, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Journalism & Emerging Media at the School of Communication, Kennesaw State University, USA. He blogs at www.farooqkperogi.com and tweets @farooqkperogi.