By Chukwudi Enekwechi
An attempt by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu to do a post mortem of the March 2015 Presidential election, and the campaigns leading to it has unexpectedly elicited a negative reaction from DAAR Communications Plc, owners of AIT.
In what many Nigerians consider to be an overreaction by the broadcast house to a factual appraisal of the events that took place during the presidential contest between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress and former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, DAAR Communications Plc rather than feel sober, decided to denigrate the Presidential Spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Despite the strident attempts by the media outfit to rewrite history, by denying obvious facts and attempting to smear a good man, the point remains that Nigerians know the truth and cannot be deceived. As a mass communication expert I can say that a content analysis of the advertorials and editorial materials used by the broadcast outfit tilted in favour of the then party in power.
It is also the belief of most Nigerians that as Mallam Garba Shehu stated at a recent event in Lagos, that NTA and AIT denied and refused the APC Presidential campaign full access to their broadcast facilities even when they tried to place advertorials.
Though the campaigns are over, yet it is in the realm of scholarship for us to scrutinize the performance of the media during the period under review. The reason why such issues should be put in perspective is to draw the attention of the media to the need to ensure balance in their reportage and coverage.
So many pundits and analysts have attributed the victory of APC in the presidential election to the ingenuity and leadership qualities of Mallam Garba Shehu, who coordinated the media and publicity directorate of the campaign. With his background as a mass communication guru, journalist and editor of over thirty years standing, former president of Nigeria Guild of Editors and media manager Garba Shehu was able to navigate successfully with his team during the campaign on account of his knowledge, expertise and experience in the media world.
Till today, it continues to amaze me that such a man is endowed with sterling qualities, and managerial acumen most times lacking in our clime. To many Nigerians, that Mallam Garba Shehu was able to run a superlative media campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari, is an unprecedented feat in the annals of political campaigns in Nigeria.
It is also public knowledge that some global organizations including the US State Department’s Political Communication and Public Diplomacy units are now understudying the media strategies that Mallam Garba Shehu was able to deploy in ensuring favourable media image for President Buhari despite PDP’s shenanigans.
One does not need to be a prophet or a seer to know that the PDP government used enormous government resources including federal government owned media organs like NTA, Radio Nigeria, VON and the privately owned media like AIT to unleash hate campaigns against the Buhari candidature.
To the eternal credit of Mallam Garba Shehu and his team, they were able to prove to Nigerians the failure of PDP government over the last sixteen years and hence the need for a change. Despite all attempts by the PDP to digress from the cogent issues of the moment, mainly sleaze in high places, Garba Shehu and his team using mass communication channels such as newspapers and magazines, radio, television and social media was able to stay focused on the issues of the campaign which were corruption, security and economy.
At every turn, PDP and its agents made strident efforts using media partners like AIT to divert the attention of Nigerians, yet Mallam Garba and his team were never swayed, and neither did they waiver. There was no doubt that Nigerians were sick and tired of the malfeasance in government, and insisted on realizing the “change” agenda. To most Nigerians, PDP had turned into a “malignant tumour” in their lives and therefore needed to pack and go.
In the light of the above, it can be said that there was no justification whatsoever for DAAR Communications Plc to condescend to the inglorious level of ascribing innuendoes on the person of Mallam Shehu Garba for a remark that many consider innocuous.
For instance, it is unbecoming for the company to describe legitimate requests for discounts in placing advertisements as “unusual requests for discounts”. It is common knowledge that discounts on advertisements vary from medium to medium and in real business transactions which advertisements fall under, there is no cap to the level or amount of discount a client can request. So, what is unusual about normal requests for discounts?
The prerogative of acceptance or refusal for such request lies with the media outfit. In any event, APC Presidential Campaign was hamstrung in terms of funding, and any avenue through which savings could be made was out rightly welcome. In contrast, PDP had a limitless budget for the Presidential campaign, but what mattered to Nigerians most was to be rescued from a system enmeshed in crass opportunism, impunity and drudgery in governance.
It is worthy of note that just recently AIT was at liberty to air a damaging documentary against the former Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi sponsored by Governor Nyesom Wike and the hallowed journalistic principle of balance and giving all sides opportunity of response was not adhered to as the station resorted to hide and seek, until a restraining court order was issued, thereby giving AIT the leeway for an excuse not to air.
In the aftermath of the campaign, it is expected that we bury the hatchet, and join hands with the Buhari administration to restore Nigeria to its past glory. As Nigerians and foreigners alike acknowledge that the future of Nigeria is bright, it behoves all stakeholders to put all hands on deck at ensuring that they don’t rock the boat, and that the ship of state continues to navigate progressively. This is not the time for bickering, but a period for sober reflection and introspection.
Nigeria is lucky that we have a president who is determined and focused towards redirecting the affairs of the nation to the path of rectitude and rediscovery. It is equally gratifying that Mallam Garba Shehu has remained a part of the epoch in nation building and development and for media outfits like DAAR Communications, it is only expected that they descend from their high horse and key into the “change” agenda.
The task of nation building is a herculean one and it requires all hands on deck. Therefore, AIT should refrain from playing games and rededicate itself to the task of making Nigeria a better place for all Nigerians as President Buhari and his team have undertaken.
- Chukwudi Enekwechi, Public Affairs Analyst writes from Abuja