by Stanley Azuakola
Mr. Okupe is not new to a role like this, as he served as Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The news while unexpected isn’t hard to contextualise. Recently, Okupe has been on the attack for President Jonathan, blasting Pastor Tunde Bakare in May for “political activism,” and hailing Jonathan as the “true hero of the Edo elections” in a Channels TV interview.
It’s much like the anecdote about how he got his Obasanjo gig – writing a series of bombastic articles in his principal’s defense and then sending him a folder of clippings not unlike a job applicant.
A lot of the (distinctly excited) chatter has been that with Okupe’s appointment, Reuben Abati who presently serves as the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity might soon be shown the way out.
Not quite. Because the appointment of Okupe follows a tried and tested template established by ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former president who had Oluremi Oyo as Senior Special Assistant on Media had to bring in the more loquacious Femi Fani-Kayode as Special Assistant on Public Affairs when criticisms of his administration seemed to reach saturation level.
As the 2007 elections drew close, the voices of Femi Fani-Kayode and sometimes Akin Osuntokun, who was political adviser, grew louder while that of Remi Oyo diminished and mostly stayed on policy issues. Fani-Kayode in particular held nothing back as he took opponents of the former president to the cleaners, from the sitting vice-president to the iconic Chinua Achebe.
It is likely that President Jonathan adopting a similar strategy by deploying the more caustic and voluble Doyin Okupe to ensure that the administration doesn’t perpetually remain on the defensive. Okupe, unlike Abati, is not known to be camera shy and has no qualms making wild assertions, like his claim just a week ago that the Action Congress of Nigeria was in a mournful mood following the victory of their candidate in the Edo election, Adams Oshiomhole because they lost the opportunity to demonstrate against the result and cause chaos.
Abati, though widely criticised in the media for some of his statements in defence of his principal, has been a very dovish spokesman by many standards. For a man who had said and written plenty on the art of governance in the past, serving as spokesman for an increasingly isolated administration has no doubt placed him in an awkward position.
It could also be that with the appointment of Doyin Okupe, the president is looking forward to the 2015 election season and the propaganda battle.
Okupe has stars in that game. He is not new to electioneering campaigns as he served as one of the spokesmen for the president’s campaign organisation during the 2011 presidential primaries and as a member of the president’s publicity committee for the 2011 elections. He also contested and lost in the 2007 PDP gubernatorial primary to ex-governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
The exact balance of power will become clearer in the coming weeks as the Special Adviser and the Senior Special Assistant begin to act out their job descriptions.
Dr. Abati’s post-Jonathan government tell-all book should be very interesting.