Olusegun Adeniyi, former spokesman of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, says he would have been a more effective spokesman if he was closer to Turai, his principal’s wife.
Adeniyi said this on Monday while speaking at a conference which the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) organised for the chief press secretaries to the governors of the 36 states.
He said the fact that Yar’Adua did not want to talk about his health posed a serious challenge to his work.
Adeniyi advised the press secretaries to study their principals and know how to approach them.
“I was a spokesman to a man who did not like to talk about his health and that was a major challenge. But looking back, I believe I made a strategic miscalculation. I told myself I was not going to deal with the wife, so I stayed off the first lady, I was not very close to her and I am still not close to her,” Adeniyi said.
“But looking back, I believe I would have been more effective if I was close to her, because I knew how close the two of them were. So, in trying to work with your boss, try to study the person. Studying the person also means studying the people around him that will help you to do your job.
“Osita Izunaso, who was then spokesman to the then Senate President Evans Eweremem, once told me a story of how he was worried about a story which was all over the media, and he went to see his boss to get him to react. He said the man looked at him and said ‘get out of here’. I thought I employed a press secretary, I didn’t know I employed CIA’. If he had studied his boss, he would have known how to approach the man.
“The moment your boss begins to suspect you even when you are doing the correct thing, there is no way you can be effective. Like I said, studying your boss also means studying those around him, who are the people close to him that can help you. Like I said in the case of my boss, if I had tried to be close to the first lady, I mean to his wife, I probably would have been more effective than I was.”
He told the press secretaries that they would not know their principals until they start working with them.
“Some of you were friends with your governor before your appointment, some of you were recommended by others, some of you were picked without knowing it because the governor has been following your career,” he said.
“But regardless of how you got the job, I can tell you, you don’t know your boss until you begin to work with him. And to know him you need to study him, know what puts him off and what he likes, what is the best and what you believe will help him do the job because basically, you are there to help him.
Adeniyi also advised them not to inherit the enemies of their principals.
He said they should build a team as they could no do the work alone.
“Don’t make your boss enemies your enemies. Don’t inherit anybody’s enemy. Don’t forget these politicians will still meet. I see a lot of chief executives spokesperson making enemies for themselves and their bosses. Remember there is life after state house. That was my number one guiding motto, I told myself I have a life after villa. Working with government is a compromise on its own.
“Your boss is a politician, he must have enemies, but it is not for you to inherit his enemies. If you have a job to do, do it professionally. If you must write a rejoinder, address the issues because your readers are also discerning.
“If you are addressing the issues, they will see it and if your rejoinder is not mature, they will also see it. There are ways to make people look stupid without saying so.
“Learn to build a team, you cannot work alone you need people around you. In my own case, I had people around me. I was not on social media and I told myself I was not going to be. Maybe as a spokesman now there is no way I would not have been on social media.”