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EDITORIAL: Like Buhari, like Atiku, lessons in political PR

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EDITORIAL: Like Buhari, like Atiku, lessons in political PR

President Muhammadu Buhari (R) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar exchange handshake

Ifeoluwa Dada

Man is a political man after all, so said the great philosopher Aristotle but I learnt that some persons are apolitical. In truth however, to live in the denial of the effect of politics is to play ostrich because you might successfully run from active politics but you can’t run from the consequences of politics, hence if it affects us all, all therefore must care.

“Get right first your politics and every other thing shall fall in place.”

Now, let’s get into it properly, as one who follows the Nigerian political system and had background in political science and Public Administration, I dare say that one man that appeared most prepared among gladiators vying for the post of President of Nigeria at the 2015 general elections but the odds were too strong for Waziri Adamawa and the rest is history as they say as the All Progressive Congress’ party ticket for the Abuja top job was ceded to the now President Muhamadu Buhari.

Be clear about it. Whether he is in ANPP today, PDP tomorrow, ACN the next day and APC next week, Atiku Abubakar has always been clear about his ambition. He simply wants to be the nation’s top man. The plus in creating a personality with your interest is that it helps to calve dedicated followers, people who believe in your ambition, believe in you and don’t mind throwing in their support.

Get a Team. From his instructive blueprint which flooded public space in the build up to the last general elections to how the Atiku media team worked out its strategy to become arguably most trending politician in Nigeria today. How they jumped on the “restructuring” bandwagon, respond to tweets even when they are offensive. It is up for argument if the recent PR exploit of the Atiku team has successfully sold their principal into the good books of the Nigerian public one thing is however sure and it is core in Public Relations, they have been able to set agenda for public discourse in the interest of Atiku.

Propaganda is one of the most controversial concepts in public relations and inseparable from contemporary politics, it simply means Information designed to influence opinion of a target audience. Propaganda is a sword of sides. Side one is the use of information to promote an entity and create positive impression, the way this is done in politics is to flaunt the qualities or positives in a politician. This is the act of image making. The other side is to attack a rival in an attempt to deface him. Exhume his dead cases, bring up the scandals, make headlines from his certificate issue, initiate a media battle, just do it. The later is the favoured style in Nigeria politics.

But the ingenuity of Nigeria politicians is proven in their ability to twist things in their favour. It is what I call “use the attack” approach.

The Public Sympathy Theory. Get the people on your side while you suffer or enjoy the attack. That’s the new thing in town and it works like magic. At least, it worked for Buhari. The application of this theory largely accounts for the transformation of perception of the person of Muhamadu Buhari prior to the last general election. His campaign team during the last made a meal out the many media attacks against their man. Buhari actually worked his way into the good books of many undecided voters at that point. It is sympathy and one of best way to respond to propaganda attacks. The PDP attacked how not to attack and ended up strengthening the other man.

Back to Atiku, his team seems to understand our public sympathy theory and for as many negative PR that comes up, they use as tool to rebrand their man. I am particularly impressed with the handling of Atiku’s social media account. Some say it is soft-sell but I say it works for Buhari.

Recall that the recent Atiku trend was birthed when he made statement in favour of the now national cliche “restructuring”.

Atiku jumped on the restructuring bandwagon at a very timely point. What he did with that his to put his name on the lips of Nigerians. Atiku has tactically put himself up for public discourse and that is a smart 2019 curtain raiser from the gladiator. It is smart Public Relations.

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