A crash course on Tolu Ogunlesi: He is the creative writer, journalist and public affairs commentator who called former president Goodluck Jonathan, among other things, a sadist.
Since the defeat and exit of said “sadist” in 2015, Mr. Ogunlesi has headed the digital communications subdivision of president Buhari’s media set-up in the Aso Villa, being responsible for putting out daily content on the activities and achievements of the presidency.
Some Nigerians have been analyzing the Buhari administration’s achievements and have found a problem: there are few or virtually no new projects being taken up or accomplished nearly three years after taking office. The president’s visit to Lagos where he was said to have ‘re-commissioned’ the Eko Atlantic City project added more fuel to the fire, even if it has been clarified that he only unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit to the site.
Still, the indictments about no new projects have persisted, placing a burden on Mr. Ogunlesi to respond. He had rashly reacted to negative insinuations broadcast online on Naomi Campbell’s “invitation” to meet Buhari IN Lagos, diagnosing the majority of Nigerians as mad animals but softening his assessment later.
Mr. Ogunlesi’s assessment of the Buhari government’s lack of new projects is that being a responsible administration, it is not in a desperate pursuit for the glory of new projects when there are piles of old projects by previous governments (cue the sadism of Jonathan) either abandoned or never started.
What could be wrong with the good intention to finish all abandoned but budgeted projects in different parts of the country? Government being a continuum should be responsible for completing outstanding projects awarded, provided they follow due process and are in good fate. In bringing himself forward to be president, Buhari was effectively asking to carry the debts and burdens of the government he was replacing, from the security situation to economic matters. Every day that passes without the return of the Chibok girls kidnapped in 2014 under the Jonathan administration amounts to a chipping away of confidence in the Buhari government’s integrity and capacity, as the rescue of the girls had been one of the promises made on the campaign trail in the aftermath of the abduction. If the government returns them, it will not merely amount to cleaning up the mess from a past government; it will actually be an achievement of theirs, given the knock-on effects it should have on Nigeria’s image abroad as well as the restored confidence in the country’s security.
But Mr. Ogunlesi has, in the past, branded such as thinking borne of mediocrity. His response has revived a February 2014 article in which he decried the “tyranny of low expectations and high mediocrity” he said was prevalent in Nigeria, thanks to such activities as the celebration of the resuscitation of an old railway line constructed by the British among others. Fast forward three years and he would not have Nigerians complain about the Buhari government’s celebration of completing old projects as an excuse for lack of new ones?
Government takes its toll on the finest while they are there; Reuben Abati’s return to peak Abati post-Jonathan is proof of that. But Mr. Ogunlesi’s current tone is worrisome, if you combine his bombs and shut-downs on the Campbell issue with his comments on new projects. These are coming at a time of murmurings of secret press muscling by security outfits under the presidency, reportedly preventing radio stations from freely engaging the public on the inefficiencies of this government. One can hope that Tolu, the journalist, or “TOLU THEN” as Demola Olarewaju described in a tweet thread, would not now subscribe to such tyranny and toxic-ness. The latter word is a coinage of his in another 2014 article – an open letter to President Jonathan – where he called the former president out on the “toxic-ness in the air, sustained to a large extent by the attitudes of your array of spokespersons”.
Whenever Tolu tweets from his personal handle (which he would like you to believe are his opinions and not official), he speaks for President Muhammadu Buhari. He will want to re-read his old epistles and enquire; Tolu, are you tending towards those terrifying t-words?