OUTGOING National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Alhaji Lai Mohammed got an unusual gift from the Senate last Tuesday. Certainly he would be surprised that his screening by the Senate was devoid of heat.
This was outside the expectation of many . Prior to his being ushered into the chamber , it was thought that the lawmakers especially those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stock would pummel him with questions . But that was not to be . Instead he was asked to bow and go . However, the reason for Mohammed’s smooth sail is fathomable. It was made so by APC senators. A member of the party put it this way “ the Senate President ,Bukola Saraki and other APC senators accorded Lai Mohammed the honour he deserves. I was pleased that our senators ensured that he had it easy at the screening”.
Virtually every member of the APC National Working Committee(APC) accompanied Mohammed to the chamber. In fact the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun ensured that his presence was felt by the Senators as he joked and laughed with those around him during the exercise.
That APC leadership is happy that the party’s spokesman is among the ministerial nominees and that he scaled the senate’s is not doubt, what is confusing is whether the party is at home with the implication of Mohammed’s impending exit as the spokesman of the party.
Though the opposition may not publicly utter it , there are signs that it is happy that Lai is leaving his current position as the spokesman of APC. Hate or like him , Mohammed has discharged his assignment in a manner that nobody could ignore him. And that is why he is unarguably one of the most popular politicians in the country today. For some, his popularity is anchored on his capacity to flawlessly dish out propaganda and half-truths in the defence of his party’s policies and decisions. There are those who associate his name with controversy . Lai is aware that such names are pinned on him. But they do not distract him.
Mohammed did not become APC spokesman by accident. His works at the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) handed him the office. Then an opposition party, Mohammed forced many Nigerians to follow the activities of ACN. Then leadership of PDP could not find an answer to him. This is how the former PDP national publicity secretary, Prof Ahmed Alkali described him “ Lai Mohammed is good in propaganda. He uses lies to confuse Nigeria . He issues hundreds of statements in a day . That is a sign that he is idle . I cannot do that because I am busy “.
Alkali, for sure, was trying to invent reasons for being unable to match Mohammed in the management of the publicity needs of his party. Till date many still believe that one of the problems of PDP is that its inability to recruit the right person to man its publicity office.
“We need to have a publicity secretary that is proactive , somebody who can match Lai Mohammed in his antics “, Dr Joshua Ikem, a PDP chieftain said .
The current national publicity secretary of PDP Olisa Metu, has, arguably, adopted Mohammed’s style in many ways. He has been proactive , criticizing and putting the government of President Buhari on its toes .
At the beginning of the administration , Metu was not as flawless as he seems to be right now in putting the APC government on its toes . Based on that , Mohammed derisively asked him to come for training. “”Metuh will need the training to effectively carry out his new, tough task. It is now obvious that he needs to understand that for him to succeed in his new role, he must be credible, empirical, more sophisticated in language use and very passionate, in addition to being able to operate on a lean or zero budget,” he admonished in a statement.
Metuh replied “Metuh said: “We appreciate the elementary knowledge of the APC spokesman in his new role, especially against the backdrop of his struggling to impress two masters at a time, Bourdellion and the President, who distributes the largesse at the moment, but Nigerians expect that in his search for job, he should be decorous, mature and on the side of truth and accountability.”
The PDP was reacting to Mohammed’s reaction to the issues raised by the party in a statement it issued on Sunday, accusing Buhari of scamming Nigerians with empty promises.
Mohammed had castigated the PDP for not appreciating the hard work of Buhari’s government, saying they were reacting to “beer-parlour gossip” and constituting a nuisance.
According to Metuh, the APC failed to address any of the issues it raised in its earlier statement.
Pointing out the issues, the PDP said the APC failed to address the issue of the recent organised public harassment and humiliation against the immediate-past First Lady and wife of the former president, Dame Patience Jonathan, at the Port Harcourt airport and the issue of resort to sole administratorship by the President in managing of the affairs of the nation.
“Furthermore, the nation is still waiting for the APC and the Presidency to address the issue of the divisive and tendentious statement by President Buhari who declared to the world that he would run a discriminatory government based on voting pattern in the last general elections, in clear violation of his oath of office and the provisions of the Constitution.”
Though it is contestable , Mohammed’s advice to Metuh was based on experience. He caused the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan a huge discomfort with his frequent accusations . Severally, the administration busied itself debunking the allegations and trying to burnish its image.
Administrations before Jonathan suffered the same fate. Mohammed pelted it with touching allegations. Bamanga Tukur, for PDP chairman , at a point , angered by Mohammed’s torrents of accusations described him as a bad omen in the country’s democracy .
Now, the question is , can APC cope in the absence of Mohammed in its media and public communications? Who can fit into the big shoes that Mohammed would leave behind?
These are questions ruling the lips of many people including non APC members. APC needs somebody in the mould of Mohammed at this time. It is currently faced with some challenges . There are crevices and cracks in its fold occasioned by the outcome of the June 9 National Assembly leadership elections . Some leaders are yet to put the incident behind them.
Apart from that ,the ongoing prosecution of the senate president by the Code of Conduct Tribunal has also polarized the party . This has led to some analysts predicting that the party may implode sooner than later. Mohammed has been managing crisis adroitly in the public space . Yes, he has a deputy , but how far can he go in managing the crisis in the public more so as he is considered by some as a controversial figure ? Next few months will tell .