How not to campaign for Goodluck Jonathan

Olumide Iyanda

Buzz by Olumide Iyanda

Email: Twitter: @mightyng

Olumide-IyandaJust when you thought crass opportunism and mortal insensitivity could not get worse, along comes a group of people with the offensive #BringBackGoodluck2015 campaign slogan. That uninventive parody of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag not only makes a mockery of the global attention drawn to the tragic abduction of 276 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014, it was a collective insult on a country reeling under an insurgency that killed more than 2,000 people in the first half of this year alone and has left over 600,000 homeless.

If there is a nightmare the Federal Government wants to wake up from, it is the mindless death and destruction going on in the North Eastern part of the country. Using a slogan coined from one of the worst horrors Boko Haram has unleashed on Nigeria for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign is bad public relations for the intended beneficiary. Even Mr. President, speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, described it as “offensive and repugnant”. Abati further explained that Jonathan wholly shared the widely expressed view that the hashtag which appeared on billboards and banners without his knowledge or approval are a “highly insensitive parody of the #BringBackOurGirls.”

#BringBackOurGirls drew unwanted attention to Nigeria. It was a global wakeup call to the violent activities of a group of terrorists with direct link to Al Qaeda and the suffering of millions of people trapped by its insurgency. The hashtag, which is high up as the biggest trending social media campaign in Nigerian history, brought ordinary people and celebrities from around the world together in calling on the Federal Government to man up and rescue the abducted Chibok girls. It prompted a series of street protests around the world and contributed to international help from countries such as the United States, France and Britain to find the girls.

More than 150 days after the abduction, the Islamist militants are still holding on to more than 200 of the teenage girls despite Nigeria’s military announcing that they knew where they are being held and high-tech foreign surveillance and intelligence assistance. While a few of have managed to escape, there are fears that some have died or have been sold into slavery. Tales of sexual assaults of the girls abound.

No responsible leader would want a constant reminder that the savagery that inspired the #BringBackOurGirls campaign happened under his watch. Some not so faceless transformation ambassadors using the tag, Goodluck Initiative for Transformation (GIFT), however thought otherwise. Or could it be that the rest of the world thought wrongly? Determined to ensure Jonathan’s re-election in next February’s presidential election, GIFT gave Nigerians a present they would rather not have when it came up with signs and banners bearing #BringBackGoodluck2015. The materials emerged in Abuja last week to immediate condemnation. Describing it as perhaps “the most inappropriate political hashtag of the year”, The Washington Post touched a raw nerve in the Presidency when it wrote: “it’s not clear whether Jonathan has officially endorsed the new hashtag, but its seeming ubiquity suggests that he is not opposed to it.”

It took that piece by The Washington Post to alert Aso Rock to the gravity of the faux pas in that enthusiastic show of support for the Jonathan administration by a section of what Abati described as “a broad range of stakeholders”. In a statement ordering the removal of the offensive banners, “the President assures all Nigerians and the international community that his administration remains fully engaged with efforts to rescue the abducted girls and that he will not knowingly promote any actions that will fly in the face of the seriousness of their plight and the anguish of their families.”

Even the All Progressives Congress (APC) which believes little good can come from a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government commended President Jonathan for giving that order. But trust the opposition party; it could not help but stick a knife in. “Had the US newspaper (The) Washington Post not written a stinging editorial skewing the Jonathan administration for appropriating the BringBackOurGirls hashtag for his re-election, the administration would have continued its brazenness without regards to the feelings of the parents of the girls or indeed the Nigerian people,” the party said in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

While the argument goes on about whether the President has beaten the gun given the large number of people drumming up support for his re-election through mega rallies and banners in different parts of the country before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) approved campaign period, Jonathan’s supporters will do him a big favour by minding what side of his Presidency they celebrate before the world. Any reference to the war on terror should be with utmost caution.

In spite of its best intentions, the Federal Government still has a long way to go in containing the Boko Haram insurgency. Security agencies have not been able to save the girls while thousand others in the North East are also in distress. Well-armed and funded militants are swathing civilians and men in uniform in a morbid agenda to carve out a nation under the rule of terror from Nigeria and its neighbours. The deployment of more troops coincides with Boko Haram laying siege on towns in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, with some falling under their control.

In all of this, Nigerians – as indeed President Jonathan – do not need a campaign that adds salt to injury. It is in that wise that the “#BringBackJonathanIn2015…4continuity” tweet by Senior Special Assistant the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, on August 22, 2014 is as ill-advised as GIFT’s #BringBackGoodluck2015 banners and billboards. Okupe might not have created the hashtag, promoting it on Twitter with attendant retweets by countless others was taking his job too far.

Jonathan needs all the help and support of all stakeholders in piloting the ship of state. But there should be a limit to crass opportunism and insensitivity.