Social media has been going agog with this news, the ultimate humiliation meted out to presidential spokesperson, or shall we say ex-spokesperson now, Rueben Abati. He was literally discharged of his PR duties to the president with the appointment of Doyin Okupe as SSA Public Affairs. Well, it's not like he has been given the sack letter, but then what's the difference between the office he occupies(-ied) (Media) and the one (Public Affairs) Doyin Okupe has now been assigned to? **Insert "I Dunno" smiley : )
The sad part of it is what caused this change, you might not want to look too far tho.. Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan is in the middle of it. Details aster the jump
Sahara Reporters Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati has been effectively sidelined, with the Presidency hiring Ogun-state born medical doctor, Doyin Okupe, to handle President Goodluck Jonathan’s publicity. Mr. Okupe’s designation is as a senior special assistant on public affairs. One source revealed that Mr. Okupe is being brought in to act as attack dog against critics of the president and his wife.
Our sources within Aso Rock disclosed that the personnel shake-up came at the instance of First Lady Patience Jonathan who bitterly complained that Mr. Abati was not doing a satisfactory job of shielding her as well as her husband from media attacks.
One source revealed that Mrs. Jonathan had been fuming over a recent spate of media attacks targeted at her. The media, civil society activists as well as opposition political parties have recently pummeled Mrs. Jonathan for accepting an absurd appointment as a permanent secretary in Bayelsa State and the naming of an Abuja street after her.
More recently, she has faced a barrage of criticism for squandering billions of naira of public funds to buy 200 expensive cars for a jamboree of African First Ladies in Abuja.
At first, the Presidency responded by stating that the cars were donated by Cocharis Motors. However, the story developed into an evolving scandal when the car dealer insisted that the cars were purchased, but declined to disclose who paid for the automobiles.
“The attacks over the cars finally overwhelmed Madam [Mrs. Jonathan], and she blamed her image troubles on Dr. Abati’s incompetence,” said a source. He added that Mrs. Jonathan then demanded that Mr. Okupe, a medical doctor who served as former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s spokesman, be brought in to take charge of the Presidency’s image management. “The impression is that Dr. Abati has been too soft and has committed too many blunders in his attempts to defend the president and his wife,” said one source.
One source said Mr. Abati’s role may now be a sinecure, with diminishing importance in the president’s media strategy. Mr. Okupe, who has held several political posts and once eyed the Ogun State governorship, will assume primary responsibility for managing the image of the president and his wife.
Another source in Aso Rock told SaharaReporters, “Dr. Abati is a victim of a rumpus in the Villa over the 200 cars. The First Lady protested to the president on Wednesday evening over the bad publicity. She queried the relevance of the presidential media team, headed by Dr. Reuben Abati.
She insisted on immediate overhaul of the presidential media and publicity crew. The president now decided to move to hire an attack dog as a senior special assistant on public affairs.”
One source explained that Mr. Abati further infuriated Mrs. Jonathan when he tried to argue that it was the duty of her media team to handle her publicity affairs.
A Presidency source who witnessed Mrs. Jonathan’s fury told SaharaReporters that “The First Lady was close to tears as she desperately declared her innocence. She said, ‘I did not award any contract, I did not buy any car. Why are they writing this about me? And nobody in the media team could defend me and my family. Those coming for our meeting are not up to 200 First Ladies, but then they say I bought 200 cars.’”
The source said all the presidential aides who were around at the time the First Lady delivered her tirade were speechless.
Two sources told us that the Presidency decided that it was time to bring in somebody who is willing to act as an attack dog in the same way that Femi Fani-Kayode did for former President Obasanjo.
“Fani-Kayode would have been brought in, but he has been a big attacker of the president. So the president decided to approach Dr. Okupe,” said one source.
Mr. Abati, a former columnist and editorial page editor for the (Nigerian) Guardian, and Mr. Okupe share something in common: they are both indigenes of Ogun State.
A source who knows Mr. Okupe described him as needing “urgent financial rehabilitation” after a series of political woes. The source added that the Presidency has decided it “it has had enough of these attacks from the opposition. It is now fire-for-fire.”