A hashtag #SomeoneTellLevick has began trending in Nigeria in response to an image laundering deal between Washington, DC-based public relations firm, Levick, and President Goodluck Jonathan. Levick recently accepted a deal worth $1.2 million to help manage Mr. Jonathan’s image that has taken a beating in recent weeks over the Nigerian leader’s inept handling of the abduction of more than 250 high school girls in Chibok, Borno State.
Some of the hashtag critics of the deal accuse the American PR firm of accepting blood money to help burnish the image of a Nigerian ruler who appears absentminded and disconnected in the face of a deteriorating security situation in his country.
The widening condemnation of the image laundering deal echoes the sharp criticism of President Jonathan’s wretched approach to his country’s security crises. The Nigerian media, Nigerian political groups and numerous international groups continue to scold Mr. Jonathan for his nonchalant response to the terrible plight of the abducted girls. The critics have also charged the president with insensitivity to the trauma that has befallen the abducted girls’ parents, siblings and extended families.
In the aftermath of the abduction, associates of the Nigerian president, his wife, Patience Jonathan, and officials of the Peoples Democratic Party openly raised questions about the authenticity of the abductions. Such doubts raised by members of the president’s close circle informed a policy of indifference and apathy by the Jonathan team, handing the Islamist abductors of the schoolgirls a critical advantage of time to secure their victims in hideouts.
In the thick of the controversy, Mrs. Jonathan ordered agents of the State Security Services (SSS) to detain and interrogate Mrs. Asabe Kwambura, the principal of the Chibok Government Secondary School, because the First Lady believed that the principal was part of a conspiracy falsely proclaiming that the abductions had happened in order to portray Mr. Jonathan as incompetent.
An SSS official confirmed to SaharaReporters that Mrs. Kwambura was detained for hours and questioned at the orders of Mrs. Jonathan. The embattled principal was subsequently driven to Aso Rock where Mrs. Jonathan personally interrogated her in front of numerous spectators gathered by the First Lady. The interrogation culminated in Mrs. Jonathan’s televised hysterical outburst where she delivered the broken-English cry, “Diaris God oh” (“There’s God oh!”). The video of the First Lady’s theatrics has since gone viral, parodied and adapted by Nigerian as well as foreign performers.
Three months after the abductions, Mr. Jonathan is yet to visit the school where the girls were taken from. Last week, Mr. Jonathan met with Malala Youssef, the famous Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for her open advocacy of education for Islamic girls. Mr. Jonathan used the occasion of the meeting to assure the Nigerian public that he was still interested in finding the girls.
However, the role of Levick officials in the meeting in Abuja suggested that the firm may have played a role in arranging Ms. Malala’s visit to President Jonathan Abuja. Levick denies the firm had a hand in arranging the Pakistani girl’s visit, but admitted to leading Nigerian officials to the podium to address the media the day of Ms. Malala’s visit.
Levick’s PR gimmick hit a snag when the families of the abducted girls refused to meet President Jonathan on Tuesday, stating that they were not sure that the Nigerian ruler was genuinely committed to rescuing the girls. The aggrieved parents said Mr. Jonathan had done nothing substantial to attempt a rescue of the schoolgirls or to rehabilitate the school and the community.
A press statement reportedly drafted with the help of Levick in Abuja blamed the opposition political parties and members of the #BringBackOurGirls movement for the humiliation of President Jonathan.