The Presidency And Omokri’s Faux Pas

Mar. 14, 2014

ThisDay Editorial

The government’s silence on Reno Omokri’s false allegations could set a nasty trend

Mr. Reno Omokri, the presidential aide in charge of the New Media, is zealous about his job. What marks him out is the use of both the social and the traditional media to burnish the image of his boss and the government he works for. Omokri writes with passion, full of fight, often lashing out at the perceived enemies of President Goodluck Jonathan, and making strong arguments about how this government has changed Nigeria. That, one would say, is fair enough. But recently, Omokri went beyond that right of expression and veered into a dangerous smear campaign that has rightly aroused torrents of indignation from many Nigerians at home and in the diaspora.

Under the pseudonym of Wendell Simlin, Omokri allegedly sent out damaging and false information to media houses on Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in the wake of the Central Bank of Nigeria governor’s recent suspension. The intention perhaps was to link Sanusi with the bloody activities of Boko Haram, discredit him and curtail the overwhelming sympathy his unceremonious suspension had evoked. But it backfired. Unknown to Omokri, he left behind some digital footprints which led to the scandal being traced to him. And since the scandal broke, Omokri has rather uncharateristically remained silent lending credence to the belief that he has no defence.

However, what is perhaps the bigger scandal is that for an issue that has been in the public domain for two weeks, there is not even a whispered criticism of the big blunder from the presidency. Even when reporters have sought their views on the issue, those who should speak for the president have chosen to also keep quiet. The implication then is that its either Omokri’s action had a seal of presidential approval or it is considered not important enough to merit any response. Either way, it says so much about the current leadership in Nigeria.

The silence from the presidency on the issue has, quite naturally, left many Nigerians very worried. In another clime, what Omokri did is enough to cause a serious crisis for any government in power and would have easily led to his dismissal from office. But apparently mindful that Nigerians already have several issues to contend with, including sundry reports of monumental corruption and biting fuel scarcity, the presidency has chosen to ignore the issue in the hope that it will go away. Yet this is not an issue that should be allowed to just go away because it touches on the integrity of the highest office in our country.

We condemn in its entirety this bizarre action and dangerous drift, done deliberately to label a perceived enemy of the administration in order to hang him. We have no shadow of doubts that this tale is fabricated not only to damage the reputation of Sanusi but indeed to undermine the peace of our country, ironically by the same people who ought to work towards securing same. Already, the daily carnage caused by the senseless killing of innocent people by Boko Haram, including women and children, is a major concern in the polity, setting everyone on edge. To further worsen the problem by politicising the insurgency and criminalising innocent people, under any guise, is not only wholly irresponsible but very dangerous.

This scandal raises the uncomfortable question of the government’s faith in the instruments it had put in place to resolve the crisis concerning the CBN governor and the presidency and perhaps the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Why bring in extraneous issues, made worse by their obsession with lies? Whose interest is being served by the cowardly resort to using fictitious names to peddle lies? Omokri’s action is, to say the least, damaging to the image of this administration. We call on President Goodluck Jonathan not to sweep the scandal under the carpet.