Dear PMB, this will be my first open letter to you. I have decided to beat OBJ to his own game.
Congratulations and welcome to Aso Rock.
I chose the caption for two reasons; social media is a new concept and most people over 40 don’t get it. Secondly, my father is 72 like you and he can’t even send emails without assistance, so no one will get bug-eyed because a 72 year old man does not understand what social media is or how it works.
But understand it or not, the fact remains that social media, will to a large extent, define your presidency just as it played a critical role in helping your emergence.
I had an interesting conversation with two ladies a couple of days back over drinks at a watering hole in Costain; one of whom is a serious PMB supporter. Between three of us, were 7 university degrees. One of the ladies has a Phd. So, even though we were having drinks, we were not having a beer parlour discussion.
Our conversation soon turned to your nascent presidency and two issues that have come up in that time, issues which ended up ‘trending’ and going ‘viral’.
Dear PMB, in 1984 when you were military head of state, if someone used the term trending, it would most definitely have meant something current or fashionable and if someone used the term viral, it would refer to an infection.
Today, things have changed, just as Apple and Blackberry no longer refer to just fruits, trending and viral have become terms that mean something entirely different. Viral, might still refer to an infection but of a technological type.
A few hours after the inauguration, a story began to trend. The first lady was reported to have been wearing a wrist watch that was worth the annual wage bill of an SME. The story trended for hours then went viral moving from twitter and instagram and facebook to blogs and beer parlours then newspapers even and by that time the price of the wrist watch had tripled.
And it took over one week to stop trending.
Then another story came up about a lady who met ‘your daughter’ in a salon and was chased out by ‘your daughter’s’ security personnel. That story also grew wings spreading from twitter to facebook to blogs and beer parlours then newspapers.
Well, two things here. One, I believe the first lady can wear any watch she wants which is why we don’t report such stories on sabinews.com no matter how critical we may appear.
As I understand it, she is the only girl from a well-heeled family, she lists her profession as Businesswoman, she owns what we hear is one of the biggest spas in Abuja and Kaduna and while you have always projected an ascetic mien, your wife is a beautiful and fashionable woman who makes her own money so what is to stop her from giving herself a gift?
Before I am accused of trying to curry favours, let me quickly say that the above paragraph is actually an indictment of your social media strategy and not a defence. Your handlers had enough reasons to give to douse that rumour before it went viral but they did not.
With regard to your daughter and the so-called salon, I understand also that the young lady was in Italy on holiday when that story broke. So, why didn’t your handlers simply scan her passport to show her arrival in Italy then post it on instagram and twitter and facebook. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, especially on twitter and instagram.
Where am I going with this?
We hear you are shopping for a social media czar or to put it a little indelicately, a new Reno Omokri. Names have been thrown around from Japhet Omojuwa to Tolu Ogunlesi to Chude Jideonwo.
These are all brilliant young men, two of whom I am very close to. Tolu is an award winning journalist, poet and brilliant lateral thinker who commands great influence on twitter and would be perfect for reaching and communicating with a foreign audience; Omojuwa is said to be very smart and may be the top contender because of his closeness to El Rufai who many say has your ear while Chude has shown what he can do as PR man and strategist with the brilliant work his company, Statecraft did for you during the election and the work he continues to do with Red Media.
But being active and influential on twitter does not make you a social media czar, does it? The social media ecosystem is a virtual Wild Wild West and you need someone who doesn’t just tweet but who can influence the bloggers and change the trajectory of discourse in the beer parlours and buses, far away from twitter and instagram and facebook.
You need someone that is street wise and savvy, someone who commands respect amongst the army of bloggers with their rabid and insatiable thirst for rumours and speculations and hearsay.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, social media will define your presidency and your two spokespersons will not suffice; Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina are, with all due respect, old school.
So, who will run this critical function for your administration? Maybe it is not a who but a team? The suggestion would be to have a trusted aide, someone senior and social media savvy, like former governor Fayemi over see this critical function that will have a team that is then guided to provide ‘content’ directed at different segments; foreign audience, local audience, twitter, facebook, instagram, professional and trade websites, mainstream bloggers, fringe bloggers, and various shades of online platforms and incarnations.
If a Fayemi as overseer doesn’t work, then you may well go for a PR agency(ies) that will provide strategic direction and run interference without the burden of party affiliation but the PR agency(ies) would be new-school, with a handle on social media and influential amongst the daily growing mass of fringe bloggers who will be the main thorn in the flesh of your administration.
Mr. President, the honeymoon is over.