President Muhammadu Buhari has a personal assistant on social media. Her name is Lauretta Onochie, and she is a bit of a national problem.
She is one of the five main persons on the President’s media team, the only woman of the five. Unlike Messrs Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, Ms Onochie does not issue signed press statements or any official correspondence on behalf of President Buhari, but she appears on TV interviews and speaks in the President’s interest.
You may remember her last episode on Channels TV, where she said the President, while in London, was a “private citizen” and that Nigerians were being irresponsible for demanding full disclosure on his health. And as if to prove the need to give Buhari that privacy, she posted portraits of him on facebook, one of which depicted him doing his laundry on a bench with a bar soap.
Goodluck finding a real photo of the last time Buhari did his laundry or even a confession from relatives that that has happened in the last 40 years. But we praise the artist for his curiosity and imagination.
Ms Onochie was constantly on the matter of the architects of the #ResumeorResign protests, Charles ‘Charly Boy’ Oputa and Deji Adeyanju, whom she described as “earning their keep” from members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. In her mind, they were not representing the interests of Nigerians but simply trying to push out Buhari because he had pushed out their means of corrupt gains. When Buhari finally returned and resumed, she waxed triumphant as though Charly Boy’s group had failed in its mission.
Apparently, the group has cut short their break and has chosen to take up another cause: calling for the extradition of former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. Charly Boy and company marched to the EFCC office with what, it must be said, was an underwhelming crowd. However, they were listened to and given word that efforts would be made to see that Mrs Alison-Madueke would be brought to the country to answer to the charges against her.
Mission accomplished, in peace, without noise. But would Ms Onochie have it noised about? Why not?
This is the highest form of “mumu-ness”, she asserts on twitter, infusing her rebuke of the Our Mumu Don Do’s latest exercise of the constitutional right to protest peacefully with an attention to her rare, exclusive and glorious experience of the procedure for the trial of James Ibori in London. Yes, madam Onochie was a lecturer/teacher in the UK before joining the Buhari Support Organisation in 2014, according to her Linkedin profile, so it was about right that she just reminded everyone about her foreign expertise in matters of trials and extradition.
One can suppose to ask one question from the following: how exactly does condemning a group who went to a Government agency, under the control of the Presidency, to protest and were received amicably, fulfill the function of “personal assistant on social media”?
To the best of this author’s knowledge, this is the first time such a portfolio has been carved and it is a welcome innovation to tap into the online presence of many Nigerians for better public relation and communication. But has Ms Onochie been doing that job well? Her facebook and twitter updates bear a form of praise-singing of achievements made by the administration but she also does not hesitate to function as the first line of attack to anyone or group who dares say or do anything perceived to be contrary to the image of the President.
Media aides and official spokesmen of public officials are not necessarily limelight chasers; Garba Shehu is not, and probably for good reason, neither is Femi Adesina, besides when he writes stuff that debase his works of high esteem at the Sun newspapers, as Oby Ezekwesili will remind him. Bashir Ahmaad, the youngest official on the team is a meme buff and tweets more about Real Madrid and Barcelona’s rivalries than about Buhari’s enemies.
But Ms Onochie seems to actively crave the limelight. It would be a small matter if she were dishing her coals in a capacity from the Buhari Support Organisation; that would mean she is not being paid with taxpayers’ money. But to be on the payroll of the Presidency as the official troll, on the bill of Nigerians, should start eliciting questions on the relevance of her job.
Or is she another public official who should just be allowed to do her thing as a “private citizen”?
Feature image source: Channels TV via Youtube