Barely eight days after Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in as the new President of Nigeria, Ballard Partners officially announced its presence in Nigeria. Up until then, the American lobbying firm had been working behind the scenes; doing in America what Tinubu’s most resourceful business partner, Gilbert Chagouri, had been doing for the new Czar in France.
At a press conference in Abuja, the PR heavyweight unveiled Lai Mohammed, an ace propagandist and scion of Tinubu’s political powerhouse, as its Managing Partner on Government Relations. Ballard had said it was opening its first African office in Nigeria to expand its international footprint and build upon the work it has done on behalf of African nations and companies in Africa and the U.S.
Emerging facts show that before gravitating to the Tinubu political camp, Ballard Partners had provided services to Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President and lead challenger in the 2023 presidential election under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In September 2018, in the build-up to the 2019 presidential election that pitched Atiku Abubakar against incumbent Mohammadu Buhari, the PDP hired Ballard for a fee of $1.1 million.
The engagement of the firm had happened at a time Atiku was believed to have been barred from entering the US by the American government. It was believed that Ballard’s brief was to de-bottleneck the visa process for Atiku. Osita Chidoka, one-time aviation minister under the PDP-led government of President Goodluck Jonathan signed the contract with Ballard on behalf of Atiku. The ex-minister travelled many times in a few months to Washington to meet with the company founder, Brian Ballard.
Nigeria, with its high-voltage politics and recurrent sleazes, is a honeypot for lobbying multinationals. Lobbying, a practice often seen as an essential part of democratic governance, has been criticized for its dark and controversial side, particularly when it involves American, British, and French lobbyists preying on African countries.
Publisher of Education Tide, Iyk Osuagwu, insists that while lobbying itself is not inherently nefarious, it becomes deeply problematic when used to prop up corrupt African politicians and dictatorships with poor human rights records.
“One of the most troubling aspects of this issue is that virtually all the clients of these Western lobbying firms are corruption-plagued African nations. These nations, under the rule of autocratic leaders, often engage in embezzlement, mismanagement, and outright theft of public funds, leaving their citizens in dire poverty. Instead of addressing these issues, these leaders use public funds to hire foreign PR firms to help them portray a more favorable image in the eyes of Western governments and international organizations.
BUSINESS LEAKS gathered that aside from Nigeria, Ballard Partners has footprints in several African countries. It has plucked the sum of $300,000 from crisis-riddled Mali; $900,000 in service to DR Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi, and yet another $900,000 from the Liberian government at a quarterly payment of $225,000.