By Bala Ibrahim
I read this morning with delight, the news that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Muhammad Sani Zorro, journalist, politician and former lawmaker as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs and Strategy, Office of the First Lady. The appointment is credited to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Although I got the news from sources that are credible, nonetheless, I chose to ply the path of the persuasive, by hearing from the horse’s mouth. So I put a call to Hon. Sani Zorro, who said although he is yet to receive a formal letter on the appointment, but on the strength of certain things, he can confirm the news, and by extension, the authenticity of the appointment. This is good for A’isha as the First lady, but best for Buhari as the President. And I would take time to explain.
For the office of the first lady, the importance of image making and media relations cannot be over emphasized, more so for one like Aisha Buhari, whose tenure in office has come with complex circumstances. Aisha Buhari had been in the news for bad news too many times, and the need to change the narrative is extremely important, particularly at a time like now, when the regime is walking the road of shift, or transition.
In a book edited by Dr.Lisa M Burns, a Professor of Media Studies, captioned, the Modern First Lady: From Jacqueline Kennedy to Melania Trump, where she examined the communication strategies first ladies and their teams have used to manage press and public interest in their private lives, to promote causes close to their hearts, and to shape their public image, Professor Burns gave scenarios and circumstances that seem similar to those of Aisha Buhari. The only difference may be is, Aisha is a Nigerian operating in Nigeria, while the rest are Americans that operated in America.
Unlike Jacqueline Kennedy, who was the first to have a staffer with the title “press secretary,” Aisha Buhari had inherited the office of the First lady with the full provisions for media teams and all the paraphernalia of the press in the office. But news from the grapevine said, she had a herculean task convincing President Buhari to permit her operate with the flamboyance of her predecessors.
PMB is known to be a modest and principled person that is not favourably disposed to ostentations, because they come with the attraction of exuberance and stylishness, which are distinctive features in the behaviour of his wife, Aisha Buhari, the First lady of Nigeria.
For Aisha therefore, she needs someone that is not only a professional journalist, but a polished politician that can sieve through her flamboyance, with a view to marketing her programmes at an acceptable balance. And in Hon.Sani Zoro, I see such qualities.
By virtue of his exposure and experience, Hon.Zoro has what it takes to manage the relationship between the First lady and the media, the role she is expected to officially play by her husband, and how best to circumvent the kind of catastrophic crisis suffered in the past by the First family.
I therefore congratulate the two of them for the opportunity of going into a symbiotic relationship, that would be a win-win.
The coming of Zoro would also bolster the efforts of the President’s media team in whatever tactics they are using in spinning the government. As rightly observed by Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), “Zorro, a famous journalist brings to the new job decades-long experience in media practice, publishing and unionist leadership. He was at various times President, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, West African Journalists Association (WAJA) and the Federation of African Journalists, FAJ. He was in the House of Representatives, where he chaired the committee on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Refugees and Initiatives on North East”.
Anyone with such intimidating credentials, can help in reframing, or modifying the negative perception of the public about a regime, especially one that is on the last leg of exit.
Only yesterday, while playing host to members of the APC National Youth Lobby Group at the Presidential Villa, PMB asked his Chief of Staff and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), to ensure that all Ministers and Heads of agencies, include young people with the requisite skills and experience in all Boards and Committees of the Federal Government.
With the coming of Zoro, who is a skilled shepherd in the business of spin doctoring, at a shift period like now, when public trust in the government is shaking, amidst a growing perception of it’s lacking political inclusion, one can say yes, the road for collective buy-in, seems sign posted.
Ordinarily, I should say a big congratulations, but knowing the significance and seriousness of the assignment, I am constrained to submit a silent sympathy to Sani for now. The congrats would come later, after a successful tenure, which I am confident about it’s coming.