Tag Archives: Reuben Abati


Changing Nigerian Political Landscape.

The Nigerian political commentaries never cease to amaze me. With the Jonathan administration scoring itself high and the opposition scoring him as poor; it again emphasizes the age-old wisdom that the truth is always between the two extreme positions. A perusal of the government report on itself will reveal a catalogue of self-praise and achievements; with no credible mention of its failures. And reading the opposition analysis equally reveal all that the Jonathan administration has done wrong without any praise for whatever it has achieved. This scenario portends badly for the Nigerian political discuss. It simply shows that the government is as bad as the opposition. It reveals a level of political immaturity and bitterness that is bound to derail any plan for national development.

Nobody and no government can be completely bad. I am sure there are plenty of people GEJin Libya and Iraq today that reflect on the regimes of their former dictators with glee and affection. As bad as these dictators were; they got some things right. There was better stability; less casual violence and there was definitely no daily killings by militia groups. Don’t get me wrong; I oppose these dictators; all I am saying is that as bad as they were; they still did some things well, no matter how few.

So why do the opponents of the Jonathan administration never seem to be able to get themselves to admit what he had got right and praise him for the good things he has done. Or are they saying that ALL decisions taken by the President since Day 1 of his government have ALL been wrong and bad for the country. Also why is it that the President cannot get himself to admit his mistakes and failures while promoting his achievements? Does he think Nigerians are fools? Maybe many of us are.

I am not a fan of the style of Mr. President; but I am passionate about Nigeria and I refuse to give up on the nation. So both sides have to be fair in their analysis. The primordial concern of a government mid-term report that only focuses on its achievements and not its failures is that the administration will not give attention to fixing the problems we all know exists; but which the government has not admitted exist. People do not make effort to fix a problem they have not admitted exist.  So a candid admission of its failures will assure Nigerians that at least the government can see what we all can see; thus giving hope that solutions can be found. But when government does not admit openly to problems everybody knows exist; it is difficult to have confidence of any imminent solutions. Sadly our political leaders live in a bubble that makes empathy with ordinary Nigerians difficult for many of them. But do they have to rub our noses in it?

As for the Opposition groups; I have even greater criticism of their performance. Opposition for its own sake is bad politics and bad for transformation of any nation. If truth be told; Nobody (regardless of their political sympathy); can honestly believe the Jonathan administration has been 100 percent bad. Not even Saddam Husain was totally bad. There will be more credibility in opposition groups if they produce balanced analysis of the government performance. That will require them to accept and praise the government for what it has done right and then criticize what it has done wrong and then A_street_in_Lagos,_Nigeriaproffer their own solutions. Simply going on about how bad the government is will not wash. This is lazy politics. Afterall; many of these opposition players have been in power in one way or another in the past. What did they achieve when they were in office? How did they transform their sphere of influence? We need to move beyond the politics of noise to politics of substance.

My recommendation for the opposition is that they should form a Shadow Cabinet to replicate the real government. And they should produce a quarterly scorecard for each ministry they are shadowing. Stating in a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) format; the activities of each ministry as shadow cabinets. This will make them look like government-in-waiting and it will also create a pool of people who will be better familiar with the details of operational activities in each ministry; thus making it easier for them to hit the ground running if they get into power. They must stop all these nonsense of headline grabbing abuse and criticism of the Jonathan administration; just for its own sake. Their opposition is against the government and not Nigeria. Hence in the interest of the country; they must oppose responsibly and constructively. Nigerian will believe more an opposition group that credits the government when it is due and opposes them when it is deserved. Nobody has a monopoly of solution; afterall there are educated and experienced professionals in the current government. So they must be doing some things right and it will make sense for the Opposition to admit the successes of the government as and when it happens. This is the kind of opposition Nigeria needs. It also strengthens the voice of the opposition, thus increasing their influence and credibility.  An opposition that always opposes regardless of the facts; will become a laughing stock.

As for the government; President Jonathan need to take note of a wise counsel of our ancestors that; if a man with a big head goes into the public square to speak and first jokes Nigeria_politicalabout how big his own head is; it neutralizes anyone’s subsequent joke about his big head. People will say we know…he has told us himself.  So a government that honestly admits its failures with stated plans for change and improvement will wrest from the opposition the power to influence the citizenry.  Putting your own bad news and failures on the table candidly will take the sting away from any subsequent criticism. So the government’s constant denial of all things negative should stop. The administration should be bold to state both its achievements and failings. People love plain-speaking and candid politicians. Politicians that say it as it is. Politicians that do not insult our intelligence by denying what most of us know as truth. The recent First Lady sickness denial debacle comes to mind.

So who should blink first? The opposition should reform their approach and consider the recommendation I made earlier. It seems however clear that the government has the resources to implement the foregoing changes more quickly that the yet to fully congeal opposition groups. Why not show leadership by changing the style of your administration Mr. President. Move from the lethargic posture to a more open and pro-active leadership style. And by the way; Mr. President; you need to get rid of Okupe immediately. You cannot secure credibility from a discredited mouthpiece like him. I believe that (given the right instruction and encouragement); Abati (though disappointed many so far but not yet fatal failure) can still do a better job than the politically scared and tainted Okupe.  I still believe Abati may be able to do better if given the right climate and rules of engagement. It is time for less spin and more spunk.


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Abati: The Jonathan they don’t know – A REJOINDER

I read today’s piece in the Sun Newspaper by Reuben Abati titled: THE JONATHAN THEY DON’T KNOW.  (Link is: http://sunnewsonline.com/new/opinion/abati-the-jonathan-they-dont-know). As official spokesmen go; Abati has done a bland job of promoting his boss and his administration. But clearly what is good for GEJ is not necessarily good for Nigeria. I am surprised at the naivety or deliberate misdirection of Abati in his article. In the world of real politics; Presidents wins or loses elections not because of what they do right per se; but the significance of what they do wrong or don’t do at all.

That is why the famous Clinton cliché comes to mind with regards to American politics. He said: It’s the Economy stupid. What that simply means is that if the nation’s economy is bad and people are in pain; it does not matter how many wars you won as president; how many women you appoint into your cabinet or how many hours a day you work; you will NOT win an election and you will not be popular with the electorate.  So rather than Abati telling us all this good things about his boss; why does he not tell us what he has done on the salient issues to Nigerians; Unemployment; Collapsing Infrastructure, Corruption, Government waste; Inefficient public services and so on.

I agree that sometimes the critics of Jonathan’s administration try to portray him as a man that has never done any good at all for the nation. That will not be true and I am not in that category. Nobody can be a hundred per cent bad; we all have some good in us. Also nobody has a monopoly of knowledge.  Hence the issue is not whether GEJ has done some good for the nation since his assent into office; but the vital consideration is what has he done on the Major issues affecting Nigerians and is the country heading in the right direction.

So this administration will be judged by how well it performs on the main issues affecting ordinary Nigerians and not by many of the banal statistics and credits that Abati seek to amplify. We care less how many times the President eats if he creates an economy that allows Nigerians to put food on their own family table. Nigerians don’t care about how many megawatts of power you generate; they will only judge by how regular their power supply is. And if this administration has fixed the power sector; Abati will not need to say so; Nigerians will know for themselves in their daily living.

There is a Presidential election in the USA in November this year and despite many of the excellent things Obama administration has done for the USA; he risks losing that election simply because of the bad economic climate in the country. So Obama is not being judged by the many good things he has done; but by his perceived inability to fix the American Economy. This is the real politics Dr Abati. Your boss will not be evaluated by Nigerians based on many of those things you stated; but by the basic human need for economic progress, survival and advancement. So, based on the major issues topmost on the problem list for Nigerians; GEJ administration is not performing; although he may be performing well in other subsidiary areas.

Some of the things Abati stated in his article are laughable if not ridiculous. Abati stated for instance that: He (the President) knows Nigerians want infrastructure. That is why he is telling Bi-Courtney to fix Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or get out”. What a joke. This is the President of the Republic we are talking about. He is “Telling” a Bi-Courtney….. after many years of inactivity. A better leader would have sacked the buggers and allow new people to get on with it. After all, Bi-Courtney has breached their contractual timeline by many years. Abati makes his boss sound like an adviser rather an the all-powerful Executive President.  Abati further stated; “That is why he has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds”.

So where is the proof or outcome of these directives?  How many have been arrested? How many cases has prosecution started? It’s all talk, talk and talk. We know the president can talk, but can he act? That is what Abati failed woefully to demonstrate in his piece. Showing us a president that can talk is not good enough; we need one that can act. Abati defended his boss by saying he does not eat much and does not get drunk. But what did GEJ need feeding allocation of almost N1Billion for in his 2012 budget. I know this was latter cut to over N700Million after many outcries. So the facts do not support Abati’s assertions.

But for all of us; Nigeria is what matters. Not GEJ or anybody else. So it is in our interest to help the nation succeed and not be blinded by partisan curtains. I believe the best way Abati can represent his boss is for him to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis of this administration.  An opposition will be more credible if it credits the government with some of the things they have got right; while still criticising them for what they have not done or got wrong. In the same way, a Spokesman for the President will be more credible if he does not insult our intelligence by making GEJ sound like the best thing since slice bread; but admit his mistakes, errors, corrective measures and of course successes as well. This will create more credibility for his views.

Finally, from my analysis, Abati and company are not using the right strategy to convey the message of their government in a vertically and horizontally complex media and communication landscape like Nigeria. It has already been said that politicians campaign in Poetry but govern in Prose. In an attempt to win the last election, GEJ promised the earth to everybody; now he is in power his performance is not meeting the expectations he helped to create. There are clear strategies to fix this imbalance and I will write about this in a future article. Not because I am a particular fan of GEJ; but I am a lover of Nigeria and will like to see this nation move forward for all our sakes. But in the meantime the spin-doctor should avoid spinning himself out of relevance.


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