July 19, 2014
Levick is being criticised by Nigerians on micro-blogging site, twitter.
Following Thursday’s social media campaign launched by Nigerians against it, Levick, the Washington-based public relations and lobby firm, has denied it was hired to whitewash the image of the president as regards the kidnap of the Chibok school girls.
Levick, accused by critics of being hired to change the narrative of Nigerian government’s inept handling of the kidnap, said its job is to help the government to, among others, fight terrorism.
The PR firm told PREMIUM TIMES its mission is to help the government rescue the girls and fight terrorism.
Levick, however, did not explain how a PR firm, which essentially specialises in communication, has the capacity to help the government rescue the girls.
It also did not explain why after almost after three weeks of being hired, terrorist attacks, rather than reduce, has intensified. In fact, Friday morning, another attack occurred in Damboa, a community that is a stone’s throw from Chibok where the girls were kidnapped.
The attacks have continued despite the state of emergency declared on Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa since May last year.
In an email to this newspaper after an earlier telephone conversation, the Vice President of Levick, Philip Elwood, described his firm’s mission in the paragraph below.
“As the world witnesses the brutality of Boko Haram, and its cowardly tactics of using children as pawns in their terrorist campaign, LEVICK’s only mission is assisting the Government of Nigeria with its number one priority — the rescue of the girls and combating terrorism,” Mr. Elwood said in his email.
This is after LEVICK itself admitted to the Hill, an American newspaper specialising in covering parliament, that part of its strategy is to “amplify” what the president is saying and doing to find the girls.
“There’s got to be a way to amplify what he’s saying and doing to find these girls because over here in America, we’re not hearing much about his effort,” Lanny Davis, an Executive Vice President at Levick, had said.
The social media campaign, started after a statement was sent out to media organisations by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe.
Since Levick was contracted to handle the communication strategies as regards the kidnap of the girls and terrorism, the statement was believed to have been written by LEVICK or absolutely, with its approval.
Mr. Okupe’s statement attacked the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners and blamed them for the refusal of parents of the abducted girls to meet with the president on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, political forces within the Nigerian chapter of Bring Back Our Girls have decided to take this opportunity to play politics with the situation and the grief of the parents and the girls,” the statement said. “They should be ashamed of their actions.”
The statement also referred to the campaigners as engaging in “psychological terrorism.”
In a telephone conversation with this reporter before he sent the email, Mr Elwood denied that his firm was not hired to whitewash the image of the Nigerian government adding that it accepted the job to help the government combat Boko Haram.
He was however non-committal on whether or not the firm wrote the statement Mr. Okupe distributed.
“You used the term whitewashed. That’s not what we were hired to do,” he said. “We were hired to communicate what the government is doing to find the girl, combat Boko Haram. That’s it.”
When asked to comment on what observers consider government’s lethargy at the onset of the abduction, Mr. Elwood said Levick couldn’t comment on that.
The #someoneTellLevick hashtag trended in Nigeria on Thursday generating over 3,600 tweets, according to social media analytics site, Topsy.
Nigeria’s social media users accused Levick of despising and intimidating Nigerians regarding the over 250 girls kidnapped by members of the Boko Haram sect.
Three months after the girls were kidnapped; about 217 of them are still believed to be with the Boko Haram.