Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati yesterday denied any existing conflict in the management of the president’s media and information process, saying the newly appointed Senior Special Adviser to the President on public affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe was hired to complement him in engaging the public coherently.
Also speaking at a meeting Abati convened to introduce him to State House Correspondents at the presidential villa, Okupe who dispelled report that he had been hired by the president as his attack dog, clarified that Abati remains the presidential spokesman, with all official policies and statements emanating from the President coming through him.?
“The position of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs is not in any way conflicting with the job of the Special Adviser to the President. The Special Adviser to the President remains the presidential spokesman. All official policies and statements emanating from the President are released through him.
Anything that is official, which has to do with what the President has spoken, will be spoken of by Dr. Reuben Abati. My job is public affairs.
Later this afternoon, Dr. Abati and the President will be travelling to Trinidad and Tobago, while they are away, issues become current, debates surface and somebody in Trinidad and Tobago cannot be the one at the same time engaging the public”, Okupe stated.
Explaining the idea of Okupe’s appointment, Abati said, “In the last few days, there have been a lot of speculations out there in the media; all kinds of theory, all kinds of assumptions on whether there is friction in the villa, whether there is confusion in terms of the President’s information management process.
This morning, I have called this meeting to introduce to you specially Dr. Doyin Okupe who has been appointed by Mr. President as the Senior Special Assistant in charge of Public Affairs.
“There is no conflict in our information management process. Dr. Okupe is joining our team with a lot of experience. He is a man that you all know very well. He is gifted with a lot of political savvy, very amiable, very highly-respected within the society.
He comes to this team with a lot of confidence in the Jonathan project. One thing we both have in common is that we both have a passion for the Jonathan’s transformation agenda and we believe in President Jonathan that he deserves the support of all Nigerians and that as many people as possible should join hands together to promote that transformation agenda, to support this administration and our responsibility in terms of how this administration information process is managed is to make sure that we engage the public robustly and moving forward, our team remains very strong.
“I know there will be all kinds of interests who will like to give an impression that they are fighting in the villa; that they are confused, that they have Reuben Abati, why do they need to have Dr. Okupe again. There is no conflict at all, we are working together as a team and you are not going to see any kind of friction. If anything, you are going to see us engaging the public with a lot of coherence”, Abati added.
On his part,Okupe who took time to define the role allotted to him said, “My relationship with Dr. Abati spans over 15 years. By chance, most of the things I believed in in the past, we have shared the same views and visions. He has been a tremendous pillar of support for me even while I was here in the villa. His place in history is a different one. He comes with a lot of integrity and honour. I have a lot of respect for him.
“So, my department which is not going to be in the villa, is to engage the public on issues that are current and of national importance. I am also to monitor development both in the media and the nation and to advise the Presidency and other relevant organisations as to what we are hearing. We are to interface between the Presidency and the public. That is the job. What you will see is a synergy, not a conflict”.
Maintaining that he was not hired as the president’s attack dog, he said, “Somebody said Okupe has been hired as an attack dog, if President Jonathan hires a 60-year-old man as attack dog, then he is employing a weak attack dog. I am not an attack dog. My job basically is public advocacy.
The opposition in Nigeria is a strong one; we must admit that, very boisterous. We need to engage the public; we need to engage opposition to deepen the understanding of the opposition on what government policies are. From time to time, what you can only find is a unity of purpose between my good self and my younger brother here.
“We are going to work together. Like he said, what we share is the passion for President Jonathan. One message I want you to leave here with is that Nigerians should give President Jonathan another look; take another look at this man called Goodluck Jonathan. Is he exactly what the opposition is saying? Nigerians should take another look”.