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Let’s Stop These Presidential Media Chats

Let’s Stop These Presidential Media Chats

If you succeed in taking anything away from the Nigerian, it is not likely that you will be able to deprive him of his optimistic spirit. Most of us Nigerians are pathological optimists. Let me give you an example: In the minutes, hours and days following each media chat that President Goodluck Jonathan has had in the four years, you are sure to find loads of criticisms, abuses, condemnations, threats not to ever waste time listening to him again and all such on the social media. But that never really happens. We all rush back home to catch the next Presidential media chat.

So, why do we do that? Perhaps, we hope that the President would have become more articulate within the space of the last three months or that he might have earthshaking gist to unveil – so much optimism.

As one of those Nigerians ever ready to give President Goodluck Jonathan another chance however, I sincerely do wish that his handlers would henceforth spare the nation the pains of two hours wasted in the name of a Presidential media chat. In so doing, they would not just be helping Nigerians save their time and money(since most people would have to buy fuel to power their generators to hear and watch what the President has to say), they will more importantly be saving their principal from the venomous odium which follows those interview sessions.

And I promise you, it would be impossible to fault the decision of those Nigerians who may have chosen not to pay attention or come back to pour invectives on the President in the event that we ever stage another Presidential media chat. Not with what we saw on the night of May 4, 2014.

That was a day in which not just Nigerians but possibly the whole world looked up to the President to explain what had and was being done about the over 200 girls that were abducted by the Boko Haram insurgent group. It was the day in which we expected the President to light up the fire of hope in us, but not only did we not get that hope, the President dampened our spirit.

As a Nigerian, it was one of the lowest moments in recent public office history that I can remember. I do not know whether Jonathan considers the following: “I don’t know where they are… there is no confirmation of the location of the schoolgirls; you are a journalist, you know more than me,” a prove of his forthrightness, but it came across as the most non-committal statement that any elected representative of the people should say at this point in time. At the time that he said this, Nigerians and the international community were already livid that it took close to three weeks for the President to speak publicly on the fate of the girls and then, he would go ahead to bring more uncertainty than we even felt before.

Each time I think about it, I am reminded of that Yoruba adage which enjoins the gods to leave the people in their current state if their offer would not better their lot. I imagine that it would have been better for Jonathan to maintain his silence on this matter than the statement quoted above. Not even the lame pledge that, “I assure you that we will get the girls …” could make up for the disappointment already in the air. It was only four days later that the President found the appropriate word, but I doubt if anyone was still listening when he said he could no longer sleep well on account of the girls’ abduction.

But that was not the only disenchanting point of the night for me. I found it very objectionable that the President has not found it right to institute a probe into the allegations against the Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke. Even if to just prove a point. He has apparently left the lady to run the Nigerian oil and gas sector like her personal colony. The President even argued that Diezani was not in court to stop her probe by the House of Representatives. Jonathan, who leads an administration which has sworn to transform Nigeria, justified the use of private jets by governmental bodies and made those of us who complain about its implication on the resources of the country smell like cheap lay-abouts. While I do not care about the diatribe that he launched at the House of Representatives since they know how to settle themselves, the President would have done his transformation agenda a whole lot of good by showing Nigerians that the era in which people spent billions of public funds on their indulgences was on the way out. The attempt to justify this by the fact that every arm of government does it is even more indicative of a leader who has given up on his plan.

Then the issue of the $20bn alleged to be missing from the Federation Account by the recently suspended Governor of the Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi, is another low point of the night. Rather than address the question on whether the government had made good its promise to investigate the matter, the President threw verbal punches at Sanusi, rambled about how the United States would have caught up with anyone who stole that kind of money and then landed at what I consider to be the most incredible proposition of the evening: Trying to differentiate between stealing of public funds and corruption. Almost sounding permissive of the former, Jonathan said: “People have been confusing corruption with stealing. If public officers steal money, they term it under corruption…” On that night, the President put a lid on any hope that his administration would do anything to fight the cankerworm of corruption which everyone but Jonathan sees as one of the major challenges that Nigeria faces.

So I ask myself what exactly is the purpose for which his handlers call him out to speak with the press every quarter? Is it just to see the President on television or for him to bring Nigerians, especially those who are not convinced about his capacity, up to speed on what his administration is doing to improve the situation in the land and possibly win more people to his side, a public relations strategy?

I suspect the answer is the latter but regret to say that rather than acquire more support, the President loses more friends from these media chats. I have argued that this is not the first time the leader of a country would be without charisma and colour and that we need look at the performance of the man, but Jonathan appears to present the image of someone who does not even understand the enormity of the responsibility on his shoulders. So how does he begin to address them?

Or is it possible that he knows what to do but does not just have the right words to express them? If that happens to be the case, then Nigerians should not have to rush home and sit for two hours to listen to him smashing everyone’s hope that things will soon get better in Nigeria by his wrong choice of words.

In the days after his last media chats, not just Nigerians but media organisations all over the word found demeaning words like incompetent, irresponsible in addition to clueless and other that were hitherto used to describe the President and his administration. This cannot in any way be the desire of those who encourage him to speak to the nation through media chats.

To save the President and the country from any further pains and loss of man-hour from these chats therefore, I suggest that his men should find a less counter-productive way to sell their principal. That is the hallmark of responsive perception management.

Source: Punch

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