WHAT WOULD OLIVIA POPE DO?
I remember very vividly the first time I saw her. It was on a Monday night in 2013 at about 8pm. At first I didn't take much notice, then something about her struck me. She walked in a manner that exuded confidence. Her steps were certain, purposeful. She seemed to know what she wanted and she knew she would get it. That clarity and certainty was written all over her face. She was walking through the blue carpeted corridors of the White House while I was stretched out on my couch sipping a cup of tea watching her on MNET West Africa. Her name was Olivia Carolyn Pope.
For those that may be confused as to who I'm referring to, Olivia Pope is a fictional character portrayed by Kerry Washington, created by Shonda Rhimes for the political drama series The Fixer (also known as Scandal in some countries). Pope is a Washington, D. C. based crisis manager who runs her own firm, Pope & Associates, that specializes in political situations. In The Fixer, she is a revered fixer who helped steer fictional United States President Fitzgerald Grant to win office. The fictional Pope is a former lawyer and White House aide. Pope thinks fast and effectively. Her employees have law degrees but do not serve as lawyers. Instead they are "gladiators in suits" who mollify or avert a wide array of political scandals for the rich and mighty in Washington D. C.
Olivia Pope is the first port of call for every celebrity, politician or public figure who is trying to hide or manage a scandal. From hiding an affair, to covering up a family secret, to diverting a controversy from the public eye, to stage managing an election campaign, Olivia fixes it all with steady poise and unflinching efficiency. Mostly she specializes in fixing political controversies and scandals which happens to be the crux of this article.
Lately, we've been regaled by mainstream and social media accounts of various faux pas and scandalous actions committed by politicians, their wives and public office holders. Some have tickled our funny bones and have even been the butt of various jokes and comedy skits. Most have been to say the least, shocking. When we consider the exponential rise in political scandals of late, the Nigerian political scene could provide endless opportunities for crisis managers, image consultants and political fixers. In fact I wouldn't mind opting for a career change and foraying into the crisis management business.
I intend to highlight these scandals and the steps I think Olivia Pope would take to avert or fix some of them thus offering politicians and their handlers practical ways of carrying out effective damage control. That is if this article reaches them or if they care to read it at all. Yes, yes I know. I sound ludicrous to think that I could use a fictional character to offer solutions to real life situations. Granted I might fail in this endeavour, at least it'll make for an interesting read.
Note that the scandals to which reference shall be made will be listed randomly and not in the chronological order in which they occurred.
1. STATEMENT OF THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE DSS AFTER THE OMBATSE MASSACRE: On Wednesday, May 8th 2013, over 100 policemen and 10 Department for State Security (DSS) operatives were killed when their convoy was ambushed by the Ombatse cult members. They were headed for Alakyo to destroy Ombatse shrines.
The sight of the grieving families of the fallen security operatives was heartbreaking. Usually, losing a loved one in such callous and gruesome circumstances can be devastating. Add to that an ill conceived statement from the Director General of the DSS to the effect that the DSS had "forgiven the Ombatse cult" for the massacre, the loss can leave you scarred for life. I'm yet to understand how a country's intelligence agency can be so lackluster to the point that criminals are forgiven for heinous crimes.
I have no doubt fixing an issue such as this would have Miss. Pope scratching her head trying to think of a way around it. In the aftermath of this tragedy, this is what the fixer would advise:
(I) When issuing a statement, console the families of the fallen operatives and tell them their loved ones were heroes who died in the line of duty defending their country.
(II) Tell them the perpetrators of this heinous crime will be brought to justice. When you say this it is important to mean it and follow through.
I fail to see how any fixer could carry out any effective damage control when such an un-calculated and not fully thought through statement is made, as this is probably a fixer's worst nightmare.
2. THE IMMIGRATION JOB RECRUITMENT SCANDAL: The images of thousands of job seekers crammed into halls and stadiums around the country for the purpose of writing a recruitment test is one that cannot easily be forgotten. There has to be a better way of conducting such a test in 2014.
You don't need Olivia Pope to figure this out. Any recruitment agency could figure this out for you. If however, she was helping you work out how to conduct a test for thousands of job seekers, she would tell you:
(I) To split the job seekers into batches for ease of administering the test.
(II) After splitting them into batches, there's the probability their numbers will still be large. So its important to ensure that the test venues meet the standard safety requirements i.e. emergency exits and paramedics.
If despite your proper planning or lack of it things are to go askew as they did, these are tips the fixer would definitely give you:
(I) In the aftermath of the tragedy, do not stay silent. Issue a statement and an apology to the families of the victims and the injured.
(II) When you do issue a statement, NEVER EVER blame the victims for the tragedy.
(III) You should take full responsibility, it happened under your watch. No buck passing.
(IV) Considering the fact that such a tragedy has never occurred before, it would be honorable for you to step down to preserve the integrity of the office. (We know this can never happen in Nigeria).
3. FIRST LADY'S CHIBOK ABDUCTION INQUIRY: Oh boy! Here's one for the record books. We all know the famous "Diaris God o" catchphrase that evolved as a result of this inquiry. From a crisis management point of view there are certain factors that make holding such an inquiry a very bad idea which I'm sure Olivia Pope would have brought to the attention of the First Lady. These are:
(I) It is illegal. The First Lady has no powers anywhere under the law to convene a committee of inquiry or to summon public officials to such an inquiry.
(II) Considering the fact that the inquiry is holding in the presidential villa which mostly runs on generators 24/7 with air conditioners in all the rooms, it looks highly suspicious for the First Lady to have a handkerchief with her at the time. It could be argued that a lady should have a handkerchief handy at all times but for this purpose it sort of gives the impression the subsequent tear shedding was part of a script.
(III) If the aim of such an inquiry was to defend the President from his detractors, it failed. Accusing the school officials and government of Borno state of staging the abductions won't help the President's approval ratings.
As a better alternative to holding an inquiry, Olivia Pope would advise the First Lady to:
(I) Address members of the press and express concern, show support for the girls and their parents, reiterate the government's commitment to their safe return. A photo op with some of the parents wouldn't hurt.
(II) Joining the #bringbackourgirls campaign would work wonders on two fronts. First, it would show the First Lady's concern and it would go a long way in raising the President's approval ratings.
If despite her best efforts Olivia Pope is unable to avert such an inquiry from taking place, how then would she go about mitigating the damage it has caused?
(I) An apology is rarely a quick fix for public scandals such as this, but it would certainly be a good place to start. Olivia Pope would painstakingly write a speech and set up a press conference so that the First Lady can apologise for convening such an inquiry and the rash accusations made against the school officials. Sure, the uproar won't subside all at once but it may ease a bit.
(II) In addition to an apology, joining the #bringbackourgirls campaign would be another way of carrying out effective damage control.
4. CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF'S SLIP UP: About two months ago, another twist was added to the Chibok incident when the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, in violation of military strategy and tactics, announced to the press that the army had discovered the location of the abducted girls. Olivia Pope is no soldier but I know that if at all the location of the girls is known to the army, she would offer the following tips:
(I) Such information must never be made public as it may compromise any rescue operation as well as the safety of the girls.
(II) From a military tactical point of view, making such an announcement will definitely lead to the loss of the element of surprise which is key in such a rescue operation.
This is the point where I would give damage control tips Olivia Pope would adopt in managing such a crisis. Alas, there are none. Such an announcement regarding the location of high risk hostages before they have been rescued is usually impossible to fix or mitigate.
5. NIGERIAN POLICE BANNING #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS PROTEST: About a month ago the Nigerian Police Force in what is considered an absolute affront to any democratic society, banned the #bringbackourgirls protesters from holding any more protests. Their reason was the protests were posing a security risk. That's strange. I thought the Niger Delta militants or Boko Haram insurgents were the security risk.
The fixer would advise you not to interrupt or ban protests as that is an embarrassment to any democratic government. In the event you do ban a protest, in clear violation of democratic values, the fixer would advise you to issue a statement retracting the ban and apologize to the public.
I could go on listing several slip ups by politicians and public officers for days, but I'd rather not. One thing I'm sure about is we need fixers in Nigeria. As my friends would say, market dey.
If anyone can get hold of Olivia Pope, please tell her we need her!
Please state other faux pas and how you would fix them in the comment section. Thank you.