By Foster Obi
For some reasons, governments in developing countries hardly brook criticisms. This to a large extent has painted leaders in this clime as autocrats. Sometimes this inclination to dictatorship resonates even in so called democracies, traversing the smallest units of governance.
So, how should image makers employed to defend this type of leaders do their job. One definition of Public relations or image making is, saying or making even bad things look good.
At the risk of digressing, it will be nice to attend a masterclass where my former managing director at the Sun Newspapers and former image maker for ex-president Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Femi Adesina will be lecturing on how to manage a bad leader.
The current Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi is also quite knowledgeable in this regard.
Unlike Adesina, Adeniyi’s own is a little easier. While Adeniyi served as Nigeria Customs spokesman during the regime of Abdullahi Dikko Inde, his boss (though late now) was populist in ideals. He was humane in nature and empowered many people who encountered him in the maritime space.
We know very well how a political and social recluse Buhari was and because he was a teetotaler, revelers describe him as the worst person to pay a visit. Nigerians know the rest of the story. But this is not about Femi and Buhari.
While Dikko Inde was humane in nature, he shunned bad press and those that dare question his policies met with stiff resistance.
This was Adeniyi’s turf and he had some ‘errant’ journalist to contend with. While in The Sun, I did a centerspread expose on numerous extortion in Customs and the fleazing of importers by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), under the watch of now retired CAC Victor Dimka as well as the alleged outrageous auctioning of confiscated cars to cronies which was a big contract under that regime. The contention was that most of the seized containers have been officially exited by Customs officers on duty. Dimka thought I was after his job and almost roasted me. (I lost my job a few months after this. Only God knew what happened behind the scene).
Adeniyi did quite a lot to debunk this tag cast on the customs. In one of my discussions with him on phone, he queried why I had to do such a story without balancing it. But like journalists that we are, you hardly get response from the other side when the story is investigative.
With the benefit of hindsight, I have to give him credit for the professional way he defended his boss especially with so many allegations hanging as albatross on Dikko’s shoulders.
Put in a prism, ‘Wale’ like people call him is a focused officer. His antecedents suggest that a new customs that sticks to professionalism and integrity is possible.
A few steps he has taken so far and the appointments he made to some positions show that he is far sighted.
With Controller Dera Nnadi at Tincan port, Timi Bomodi at the border and Jaiyeoba Jide at Apapa command, many port users believe that was a materstoke appointment compared to what Hammed Ali did in his eight years in office.
One other area, that port enthusiasts bilieve Adeniyi should be careful about is who chairs FOU Ikeja command. The resort to arresting duly exited cargoes from the port by officers of the command is a professional error and did cast bad image on Dikko’s regime.
The CG should not just appoint any officer to that position. It must be for trusted and tested officers with professional credentials.
The N18 billion Customs patrol boats wasting at the Lagos Marina waterfront which costs the Service N5billion yearly in maintenance while lying idle is one of the biggest error of Hammed Ali.
The current CG will also be judged by this. Good a thing he has taken trips to the National Security Adviser and those linked one way or the other to border security.
It will be to his professional credit to get these boats functional to stop the menace of smugglers that have given the Nigeria Customs, a run for their money.
Wale as a spokesman is different from Wale as the CG of Customs. While many believe that this was one of the right appointments made by President Bola Tinubu, the deliverables will confirm or mar this assertion. Time will avail us this.
Picture: Bashir Adewale Adeniyi. Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service.