President Goodluck Jonathan has retooled his social media team, sidelining his increasingly controversial point man, Reno Omokri by appointing Obi Asika as the new senior special assistant on social media. Mr. Jonathan move is seen as an apparent maneuver to re-energize his social media image following a growing slide in his electoral fortunes as well as a series of scandals involving Mr. Omokri, who until now shaped and ran the incumbent president’s campaign on social media.
A source at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that Mr. Omokri, who returned from California to boost President Jonathan’s political campaigns in 2011, had become a huge liability and source of distraction. Mr. Omokri, who also doubles as a pastor, came to be known as “Wendell Simlin” after tech-savvy Nigerian social media activists caught him red-handed as he circulated reports on the Internet that claimed to have found a link between former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and Islamist terror group Boko Haram. Enterprising social media sleuths discovered that the so-called reports implicating Mr. Sanusi as a sponsor of Boko Haram were first created on and disseminated from Mr. Omokri’s personal computer in Abuja.
A few weeks ago, a California-based woman, Deborah Campbell, who was once married to a relative of Mr. Omokri’s, told SaharaReporters that the presidential aide had stolen her son’s identity to engage in the circulation of fraudulent news that smeared Mr. Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano. Mr. Reno never denied the woman’s allegations.
Last week, Mr. Omokri was accused of leading policemen to burglarize a house in Warri, Delta State that belonged to his late mother. The occupants of the house, including Alex Oyoro, a well known PDP political figure in Delta State, alleged that Mr. Omokri had led a group of thugs and mobile police officers who broke into the property and stole N25 million in cash. The money, according to Mr. Oyoro, was meant for Mr. Jonathan’s re-election campaign.
Mr. Omokri denied being physically present at the scene of the burglary, claiming he was at his desk in Abuja and also doing some pastoral work at the time of the reported burglary.
A source at the Presidency told SaharaReporters that, in an attempt to present a more humane outlook as his electoral fortunes slip and his popularity plummets at home and abroad, Mr. Jonathan decided to push Mr. Omokri aside. Mr. Obi Asika, who has been elevated to serve as the new presidential strategist on social media, was described as one of the co-organizers of “Social Media Week” in Lagos. “Obi Asika is a serious personality who is also refined and self-controlled,” a source at the Presidency said.
Apart from his dubious activities and cantankerous personality, Mr. Omokri has committed a series of blunders in recent months that cast Mr. Jonathan’s campaign in bad light. He organized two online polls that eventually showed that President Jonathan would lose the 2015 elections to the opposition APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, by a wide margin. Several sources at the Presidency said Mr. Omokri’s cup became full after he engineered a poll on Twitter where informal posts showed that Mr. Jonathan’s electoral prospects had become wretched. “That ill-advised Twitter poll backfired and caused embarrassment to Mr. President,” said a source close to the Jonathan campaign.
In a short email obtained by SaharaReporters earlier today, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati confirmed Mr. Asika’s appointment to take charge of the president’s social media coverage. A source in the Presidency disclosed that Mr. Omokri was now in a subordinate position to Mr. Asika in the hierarchy of aides working on the president’s social media image.
“If Reno decides to remain here, he will have to be reporting to Obi Asika,” a source at the Presidency revealed.