By Ademola Olarewaju
The opposition status conferred on the Peoples Democratic Party over a year ago necessitated a change in media approach and strategy. Central to whatever effort the party will mount in 2019 is the Publicity Department of the PDP and the questions: how will our media messaging be shaped going forward and how will the Publicity Department of PDP ‘partner’ with the APC to ensure that the ruling party performs and delivers on its promise of change which is now becoming a change of promise?
These questions are best answered in the personality that occupies the strategic office of the National Publicity Secretary (NPS) and of all the candidates so far who have indicated an interest to contest, Lere Olayinka brings a number of strengths that closely match what I am looking out for.
In grand political strategy, “playing one’s own game” is important. This is one of the ways in which PDP fell short in the last election: the spokespersons of the campaign did not play their own game but were forever playing catch-up with APC. In the presidential election, a wrong image of Goodluck Jonathan was portrayed and it was clearly out of sync with who he was in the eyes of the public. Media strategists must adapt their style to the style and personality of the brand they wish to project – be it a party or be it a political personality. Whereas Goodluck Jonathan was a meek person who ascended to presidential office on the back of massive emotional goodwill in 2011, by 2015, he was being portrayed as a strong figure, the head of the ruling cabal in an election in which most members of the ruling elite were against him. Whereas Goodluck Jonathan had won elections largely as an underdog, he was now being portrayed as the topdog.
This was the problem: Jonathan wasn’t the fierce lion that my egbons Femi Fani-Kayode and Doyin Okupe tried to portray and Nigerians knew this. Thus did our media strategy fail woefully.
I have observed this key trait in media messaging with Lere Olayinka, a media aide to Governor Ayo Fayose in Ekiti. Indeed, the popularity of Governor Ayo Fayose as a leading opposition figure in Nigeria and from PDP today cannot be divorced from Lere Olayinka’s relentless public commentary on the conduct in governance of the APC.
I first knew him on facebook in his role as a media aide to Governor Segun Oni. He defended his principal with a calm disposition that was keenly attuned to the personality of the man. Knowing how ‘ferocious’ he now seems, working with Fayose, I can confidently say that he understands the crucial importance of a media aide’s language being attuned to that of his principal or product: when Oni was calm, Lere Olayinka was calm; when Fayose is forceful, Lere Olayinka is the same.
Loyalty to the party is also important and here again, Lere does not fall short. Segun Oni in PDP but out of power during Gov. Kayode Fayemi’s tenure instructed his aides to work with Dayo Adeyeye as gubernatorial candidate and Lere Olayinka led the charge again, in traditional and social media. When Adeyeye aligned with Ayo Fayose and instructed Lere Olayinka to work with Fayose, Lere did and gave his best to his principal in the push for that election.
I had set up Fayose’s twitter handle (@GovAyoFayose) after informing Fayose himself who asked me to work with a particular aide to get campaign pictures and other materials. When this aide fell short as he regularly did and I got tired of complaining to Fayose, it was Lere Olayinka I turned to and every single day, he provided all I needed. It is a testimony to Lere’s ‘clearheadedness’ that when Oni defected to the APC, he did not go with him.
Recent experiences in PDP have shown me that there is a tendency of elected (and selected) officers to work alone or use groups only for personal advancement, collecting funds and claiming it was collected in a personal capacity. Lere Olayinka has three whatsapp teams (all to which I belong for over a year) with a combined strength of over 600 individuals yet we have never had one leak.
To be candid, Lere Olayinka is not perfect and I know no one person who is altogether without flaws but I am certain that he has the proper character to work with all of us who support PDP. He reached out to me personally about a week ago, despite knowing that he could take my support for granted. Indeed, I had once told him in Ekiti that he should aim for higher office but he impressed on me the need to do all he could to strengthen the Ayo Fayose government first in Ekiti. That effort has now paid off with Ayo Fayose becoming the leading voice of the PDP across the federation.
Any PDP chairman who works with Lere Olayinka will be our luckiest in history – Lere knows how to adapt his journalistic style to anybody he works with. Right now, our opposition needs a publicity secretary who understands the art and science of opposition and one who knows how to sell his own party. We also need a man who can carry a team along and ensure that every voice of the opposition speaks from the same political playbook.
Being an opposition spokesperson requires an eye for detail, a memory that recalls forgotten details and promises as well as a mind that can see connections between events before they appear and thus become a political prophet, making his statements look like predictions of what is to come. It also requires an ability to work through third party perspective to highlight what a partisan spokesperson can not.
I have no doubt in my mind that Lere Olayinka fits this bill most perfectly and I urge everyone who believes in our cause to support him in any way they can. In the next couple of days, his programme for PDP’s publicity will be released and I believe strongly that it will show why indeed he is the man for the moment.