A few weeks ago, Paul Ibe, an Atiku media adviser, was adamant that a publication by the Economist Intelligence Unit in October about Atiku Abubakar in relation to the 2019 elections was in fact an endorsement of the PDP candidate.
Fast forward to the first week of December and the Atiku media team is now throwing a fit. According to them, the Economist (the magazine this time) has come out of the closet as paid pro-Buhari publicists by tipping him for victory in their ‘The World in 2019’ report.
Compare for yourself. Here is what the media team said in October, terming the EIU’s report a “vindication”:
“The latest endorsement of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, by the Economist Magazine, puts to lies the recent ridiculous claims made by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the international media is askance of the candidature of Mr. Abubakar. This is the second endorsement in as many months by the world’s number one economic and policy magazine. An endorsement based on the clarity of vision and the detailed policies of the PDP’s candidate when compared to the vague and empty promises of the incumbent All Progressive Congress administration of President Muhammadu Buhari” (Emphasis added)
Now read the blistering retort to the magazine’s “scandalous” prediction in Buhari’s favour:
“…with the tacit endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, in its current edition, the erstwhile influential news magazine has hit a new low by throwing all pretenses to the wind to take up the job of presidential spokespersons. It is common knowledge that the Economist’s fortunes have taken a nosedive in recent months with its flip- flop on issues especially as it pertains the upcoming presidential election in Nigeria” (Emphasis added)
Suffice it to say they are not impressed. But isn’t it curious (and funny) how the “world number one” magazine they so vigorously claimed endorsed them has, within the space of barely 8 weeks, become “erstwhile”, one whose fortunes have “taken a nosedive in recent months”?
Endorsements are always a big deal, especially for politicians. Candidates seeking electoral office seek to leverage them where they can be obtained. These are certificates of sorts to be flashed to the electorate as proof of competence and capacity.
As we see from above, it does not always go well. Atiku’s are bitter and bewildered, wondering how the ‘endorsement’ they lapped up seems to have gone cold, melted and disappeared:
“…it was equally strange that the same magazine whose Intelligence Unit predicted that PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will lead the new government come 2019 has now made a u-turn to endorse President Buhari even when his performance in office is now at all time low”
But as Nicholas Ibekwe points out, the Intelligence Unit does not endorse candidates. It only carries out research and analysis as an advisory services provider. EIU is an independent arm of the Economist. Only the magazine takes a stand on candidates in elections.
Mr Phrank Shaibu and co have turned on the magazine, accusing it of undertaking a hatchet job on Buhari’s paid request. As you may expect, they are confident of Atiku being victorious in 2019 “with or without the endorsement of The Economist or any news medium for that matter“.
And in a parting shot that demonstrates the muddiness of political public relations, the candidate’s media team brand the Economist as a “fake news outlet” that “will have to look elsewhere for patronage, since there will be no more room for cash and carry forecasts, and fully-paid for endorsements”.
Nothing, then, differentiates them from some traders and okadamen in Nigerian markets who whistle at female pedestrians, asking to be patronized, only to hurl everything from allegations of prostitution to body-shaming abuses at them when they decline. You would think professionals who speak for a presidential hopeful would do better. But politics remains, for them, a game at the end of the day. Whatever it takes to win, even speaking both from sides of the mouth, goes.
Surely that does not work in Atiku’s favour. It is an odd accessory to the perception he needs to create as being different from his challenger. When his team disparages a global long-standing news platform because of an editorial opinion they don’t find obsequious, how are they different from Lauretta Onochie, Buhari’s chief acolyte on social media? Is this not a foretaste of how Atiku will handle negative press if he does become President?
They will have to make up their minds on what they want to be known for, bearing in mind that their inconsistency ultimately rubs off on the candidate. He may now have an American visa but the baggage remains in the eyes of many.
It’s probably best that they focus on their policy points rather than loose sleep over endorsements. Unless they actually believe Buhari won in 2015 because of endorsements from publications like – you guessed it – the Economist.
Opinions: Part formed, Part undergoing reform