Malagi: A Departure from Aggressive Propaganda to Productive PR
By Abdulrahman Abdulraheem
There is a common saying that if all a man has is a hammer, he sees every problem as a nail. But in this dynamic, contemporary times, it doesn’t look like every problem is a nail. It is not every situation that requires the hard-hitting measures a hammer offers. Some problems require a softer approach.
That is why in the process of recruiting people into sensitive positions, leaders should study the temperament of prospective appointees before taking decisions on them. Even the most competent person would fail on the job if his temperament was either not fit for the office or not good for the time.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was in power for a total of 16 years as the opposition consistently failed to wrestle power from it in 2003, 2007 and 2011. But when 2015 was approaching, a rejuvenated and united opposition made up its mind that it must happen in 2015 or never, and for it to happen, something must give. A change of strategy and approach, and the injection of aggressive propaganda into their communication to completely incite the voters against the ruling party and the then President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, had to happen.
A certain living legend, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, headed the opposition party’s communication team and with seeming combative propaganda, he did incalculable damage to the reputation and electoral chances of the PDP. Before the leaders of the ruling party could realise what hit them, they were out of power.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders believed in the popular words of Gloria Steinem that “power is not given, it is taken,” and went out for it with all the tactics they could find in the textbook.
After winning power, Alhaji Lai Mohammed became the Minister of Information and official spokesperson of the administration. It is believed in some quarters that the old war horse didn’t completely drop his combative approach after then. This could be because the APC was new in office and for it to win at least two more successive elections, stabilise and consolidate power, a lot of the 2015 style needed to be deployed.
The Ultimate Talent Hunter
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has done so well that people attribute a lot of skills and abilities to him. His greatest asset however remains his talent hunting skills. In the course of his enviable political career, he has always found the best and he puts square pegs in square holes. He doesn’t appoint someone who is carrying hammer when the job at hand doesn’t require it. And when the situation requires hammer, President Tinubu goes for a sledgehammer!
After recruiting Alhaji Lai Mohammed to bring the APC to power and stabilise it for a while, President Tinubu knew it was time for a fresh approach to speaking for government.
Malagi is Cooked for the Job
When the then publisher of Blueprint Newspapers, Mohammed Idris Malagi, was listed among ministerial nominees last year, everyone who knows, knew that President Tinubu had struck gold again and Spokespersons’ Digest boldly predicted that this gold was going to be deployed as the image maker of the administration.
Malagi is a media entrepreneur par excellence. His nomination by President Tinubu did not come to many as a surprise, as he had established himself as a prominent figure in the realm of Nigerian media and public relations.
In his illustrious career as a publisher, skilled PR expert, and brand builder, Malagi had earned widespread recognition and respect in Nigeria’s media landscape.
Malagi had always dedicated himself to enhancing the practice of public relations, particularly in northern Nigeria. He actively participates in the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) activities and plays a pivotal role in expanding its reach.
He was elected chairman of the NIPR, Kaduna chapter, for two consecutive terms. Additionally, he served as Vice-Chairman of the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN). With his profound understanding of the media landscape, he was well-equipped to bridge the gap between the government and the public, ensuring that accurate and timely information reaches the masses.
His visionary approach to brand building and strategic communication is now playing a crucial role in enhancing Nigeria’s global image and attracting foreign investments in millions of dollars.
Additionally, Malagi’s leadership is bringing a fresh perspective to the understanding of government business, fostering transparency and promoting open dialogue with citizens.
Professional PR Takes Centre Stage
Malagi’s time as the Minister of Information is a proud moment for PR practice in the country as the Tinubu administration is encouraged to appoint certified Public relations professionals as Spokespersons.
Rather than picking quacks on the roadside, and in line with the relevant laws and the consistent advocacy by the NIPR, key organs of government now have certified PR people as spokespersons. That include the spokespersons of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), security agencies and many top offices, especially in the public sector.
With his calm and gentle disposition, Malagi has brought something different into the management of the relationship between the Tinubu-led administration and the public. Both APC partisans, opposition supporters and neutrals can testify that under Malagi, government representatives no longer talk down on them and ask them to shut up when they criticise what is going on in the country.
Aside the use of periodic and timely press statements and television appearances to address burning national issues with facts and sincerity of purpose, Malagi allows other stakeholders including public officers to provide the right information in a responsible manner to disarm angry Nigerians. Under Malagi, no abuse, blackmailing or bullying of government critics.
Where necessary, he also deploys third-party strategies for counter and alternative narratives in explaining government policies, programmes, actions and vision to the people without any air of arrogance. It is not surprising that credible individuals and groups use facts, figures and in-depth knowledge of issues to explain developments in the polity in support of the government in the conventional and social media.
In fact, due to fuel subsidy removal, floating of the Naira and some other policies that seem not to be working yet as Nigerians grapple with inflation, high cost of goods and low purchasing power, the only reasons the citizens are not on the streets protesting is the calming influence of those behind the strategic communication of Tinubu’s administration.
Even in the midst of the current challenges, there are many Nigerians willing to give the President the benefit of doubt because they see the sincerity in his vision and they respect the clear-headedness with which Malagi engages them.
There is obviously no alternative to good governance. But there is no good governance without sacrifices especially in a country that has been mismanaged over time.
While Nigerians remain patient because they believe in the President they voted for, there has to be a Malagi to tell the world what the government is doing to fix the country as well as what they have achieved so far.
Every administration needs a a professional PR person in time like this.
Abdulrahman Abdulraheem is Managing Editor at Image Merchant Promotion (IMPR) and the author of “eNaira Revolution: A Peep into Nigeria’s Cashless Future”