Opinion: Jonathan and his Police College PR blunder
I wanted to cry when I learnt that the President described the ChannelsTV documentary as a smear campaign calculated at embarrassing his government. And until now, I do not understand what pushed the President into saying such a damaging thing.
Far beyond the constant squabbles between the Federal Government and those who call themselves opposition parties on the performance of the Jonathan administration, I think the president really needs help from himself.
To be sure, I am not a politician and so, I am not interested in the verbal wars that politicians engage in to hoodwink and convert the unwary to their side. I am therefore, not on a mission to vilify the president. On the contrary, mine is a candid attempt to help the leader of about 160 million Nigerians from bungling every good opportunity that he has to connect with the Nigerian people and present himself as a leader who cares.
Until this very moment, I have not seen anyone who does not agree that the president’s decision to pay an unscheduled visit to the Police Training College, Ikeja last week was wise. Within minutes of his arrival at the premier facility, the news was all over the place, especially the ever-vibrant social media. From everywhere in the country, people hailed the president; many felt that he got this one right! I noticed that even some of his most virulent critics on the social media agreed that here was a responsive action. I understand someone actually wrote that if this was what Jonathan meant when he promised that there would be a lot of surprises this year, then he should just ride on! It remains, to my mind, one of the best Public Relations moves that the president has ever made in recent years.
From newspaper accounts, ordinary Nigerians, including policemen, (whose perpetual subjection to exploitation by their superiors was revealed by the Channels Television documentary which exposed the rot at the police college) came out to hail the President. They were said to have used words as kind as “God-sent” to equate him to a messianic leader. Besides, news reports generously described Jonathan’s visit as the first by a “sitting President”. I marvelled at what reputational capital this man had built for himself with just one action and just wished that the President would go on in that light. I hoped that he would realise that a lot of time, public perception is shaped by this kind of action, which I assumed, he took without any serious promoting or indeed need.
But the man did not allow us to rejoice for long! Right there on the spot, the president reversed this great advantage by his utterances. I wanted to cry when I learnt that the president described the Channels TV documentary as a smear campaign calculated at embarrassing his government. And until now, I do not understand what pushed the president into saying such a damaging thing.
Please do not misunderstand me; the president is by all means entitled to his opinion. He has a right to feel scandalised by this or any other report, which attacks him or his government but sometimes, the import of high office dictates that you express such emotions in the confines of your office, to the hearing of the most loyal of your staff, who should know the professional way to deal with any real or perceived attempt to embarrass government.
More than the impropriety of such utterances, however, I see no way in which this report was meant to embarrass the government. And I will give you a few reasons to buttress my point.
The first is that the television outlet had said from the outset that the report was a Corporate Social Responsibility project. It had even gone ahead to put a programme together with the aim of mobilising assistance for the college from the private sector.
The second reason is that I see no way anyone would blame Jonathan for a problem that did not start today. That report shows every clear evidence of years of rot which has just come to a head. And more than that, do we really expect Jonathan to personally know what is going on in every institution owned by the Federal Government? Do we not realise that the Police Service Commission, the Ministry of Police Affairs and the Inspector-General of Police are in office, and collect outrageous allowances and salaries just to take care of such issues? Are we not clear that Aso Rock is occupied by a human rather than some Omniscient being?
More importantly, why do we have media organisations? Why is the media described as the Fourth Estate of the Realm? Organisations like Channels Television exist for the simple reason for which the President now accuses them of complicity in some ploy to embarrass his government. Rather than condemn the report, the President should actually have thanked the media house for exposing a likely fundamental reason for the decay in the Nigerian Police Force, for to be honest, I see no way in which anyone trained in that environment would be civil in the execution of their duties. To be interested in reforming the Nigerian Police is therefore to be ready to tackle this appalling state of affairs in that college.
I may concede that the president has a right to query police authorities on how the report was allowed but that is an administrative issue which should never have been initiated in the full glare of the public, including the media.
I want to submit that President Jonathan should advise himself on the need for tact in his public utterances. I think he would have done himself a whole lot of good by not saying a word during that Ikeja visit, that would have done him far much good than the unfortunate comment he made about Channels, an organisation just carrying out its legitimate civic duty.
Mr. President should know what to say, what not to say, when to talk and when not to talk. He should explore the gold that is possible in silence and see how that may, once in a while, add to the equity of the Jonathan brand.
Adedokun is a Lagos-based PR consultant.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.