“By the skilful and sustained use of propaganda, we can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise” -Adolf Hitler
The chronicle of how Lai Mohammed sustained the face of the Nigerian public relations and media politics and won with a Roman spirit will be better told through the lens of the long years of the bullying by the erstwhile ruling party People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Lai’s story is just another story of courage, intelligence, patriotism and professional excellence. Though propaganda has come to have a strongly negative connotation with the Nazi Germans’ experience during the World War II, Lai effectively used it to perfectly to counter the lies of the 16 years of PDP’s (mal)administration.
Lai did his National Youth Service in Abeokuta, Ogun State and worked as Graduate Assistant at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State. He was employed as a senior Public Relations Officer, and rose to the level of Chief Public Relations Officer at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
He will later join partisan politics when he became a foundation member of the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and later with the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election he joined the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to effectively bring an end to military misadventure in politics. He coordinated the 1998 Bola Ahmed Tinubu Gubernatorial Campaign and was subsequently appointed Chief of Staff to Lagos State Governor from 1999 to 2002 when his passion for his people will make him contest for the position of Kwara State Governor under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003.
Perhaps, Lai’s reputation as publicist rose when he served as the National Publicity Secretary of: Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and lately All Progressives Congress (APC). His loyalty and dedication to the opposition cause for better Nigeria has been unparalleled and well documented. As an opposition spokesman, he has an absolute media charisma and control which his counterpart in other parties cannot objectively match. His public relations genius has made him torn in PDP’s Olisa Metuh’s flesh. He is equally on record to have offered a free six month crash course to Metuh on how to be an opposition spokesman!
Analysing Lai’s offer to Metuh, we must acknowledge the values he mentioned that makes him a better spokesman and will make Metuh better spokesman. Lai has credible, empirical, more sophisticated in use of language, values that makes him exceptional. He noted in his offer to Metuh that as opposition spokesman he is expected to operate on “lean or zero budget” which means that he had to endured that for about 10 years doing his job. That’s the Roman kind of spirit of discipline and courage to press on even in the face of extremely limited resource(s) at one’s disposal.
We must give it to Lai that he added glamour to the role of party spokesman. Whoever will match him in the perfect use of language and propaganda will work extra hard on a higher ground. He was the man of the Senate during screening as former Akwa-Ibom state Governor, Goodswill Akpabio demanded that he “drop one or two propaganda” before taking a “bow and leave” the Senate floor during his Ministerial Screening some days ago. As against what many had thought will be a stormy session for him, they were happy and smiling looking at the man that thrashed and crumbled PDP with words and propaganda indeed words can be powerful and a pen can be mightier than a sword.
Let me quote him in his words, “Four years is too small to stay in opposition, they might have to stay longer. We will not be as harsh to you as you were to us when we were in the Opposition.”
Irrespective of what one’s views are about Lai Muhammed, one thing is certain: he did; he is doing and will continue to do his job like the Roman warrior fighting for the course he believed in. This is what it takes to be a professional. For me, if the story of the APC will be written, I am of the opinion that Lai wrote 50 per cent of it!
Kolade Gbolagade is a social commentator and public affairs analyst based in Lagos. He can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org