31 January 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan's Information Handlers Are Poor


Chairman of Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, a regional platform, Mr. Manijar Seigha, spoke with Ayodele Opiah on some issues, both at regional and national levels. Excerpts:

Your group canvassed for President Goodluck Jonathan's election in 2011, how do you evaluate his performance now?

First of all, to evaluate performance, one must compare. If I were to compare President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to other leaders in Africa, he has done well in keeping the country together despite provocations that could have brought unexpected results. On that note I score him 80%. Second, if I were to compare him to other Nigerian leaders, let us say from 1999 to date. I will score him 75%, late Yar'Adua 65% and OBJ 50% using the first two years in office as a basis.

Third, if were to measure his performance based on electoral promises, for example, short term promises like - Electoral Reform, Respect for the Rule of Law, Press Freedom, Legislative Autonomy, Judicial Freedom etc., I will score him 80%. But on the long term promises like, Security, Power Supply, Road Rehabilitation, Unemployment, Development of the most critical economic area like the Niger Delta, Corruption etc. I will score him 30%. I believe the foundation he is laying will determine the elasticity of growth and development in the long term. The average score for his promises is 55% while the mean for all the input of 80%, 75% and 55% gives him 70%.

Performance should therefore be measured in terms of strategic planning and not just political expediency. At any rate, Power supply is definitely more stable than it was before Goodluck Jonathan came into office.

Your rating of the president appears high, but this is not in sync with general views. Who's not in touch with reality here?

We canvassed for votes for Mr. President in Lagos during the 2011 elections and he got 68% of the votes in Lagos. In October 2012, I met 8 of the families that voted for him and we discussed current happenings around the President. Six families said they would not vote for him again because the information at their disposal indicated that he has not delivered. One family said they would make their mind up at the end of his 4 year tenure.

The last family said, given the same opportunity, they would vote for him again. After spending some time with the 6 families who said they wouldn't vote for him again, 5 of the families changed their minds because they had fresh information that enlightened them on how Government works in terms of strategic planning and the limited resources at the disposal of the President.

My opinion, therefore, is that the President's enemies are taking great advantage of poor information management at the Presidency. The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku is perceived by people as a Government activist and a 'Seller of Government agenda' instead of being a 'Marketer of Government programmes'. He is certainly not reaching the masses with the right information. Reuben Abati is simply too academic while Doyin Okupe is perhaps too empirical in his approach.

The National Orientation Agency on its part seems not to have reached all households. A citizenry that is made to understand the import of Government policy is a bendable electorate. What is needed at the Presidency is the capacity to market the ideas and ideals of Government to the people. I strongly believe Information dissemination at the Presidency should be outsourced.

Do you think he is sincere about fighting corruption?

The truth is that corruption has grown to become something of an unwritten culture in Nigeria, believed by many, practiced by almost all and denied by all. Therefore, compelling President Jonathan to go and fight corruption the way we want him to equals telling him to put his neck on the guillotine. No single man can fight an element of Culture except the society in which that Culture is practiced decides wholesomely to do away with that element.

At best, Jonathan can only strengthen the appropriate institutions and motivate the personnel therein to do their job. However, what is most important and urgently desirable is for the Legislature to legislate precise and unambiguous laws regarding corruption and for the Judiciary to interpret these laws like a sharp knife. For me if the Legislature and the Judiciary can put their acts together, the Executive will have no choice but to follow the rules of the law.

The strength of the lion is in precision, no leakages no ambiguities; otherwise you can imagine the result. A case study on my argument is the Cynthia Osukogu murder case. The Executive through the Nigeria police has done its bit by investigating and arresting suspects, let us now see how long the judiciary, using our unprecise and ambiguous laws, will take to deliver justice.

How did you see Jonathan's posters flooding the FCT?

The Jonathan posters of January 1 were instructive. First, any discerning mind will instantly know that it was the handiwork of enemies of the President and mischief makers who were 'celebrating' the 1st of January 2012 anniversary in view of fuel subsidy reduction announced by Mr. President. They had already informed secondary information users through the rumour mills that Mr. President was going to announce another subsidy reduction on the January 1, 2013 but their plan B was to use the posters to heat up the polity in the event that he refuses to announce anything.

But Asari Dokubo was also reported as asking the president not to seek re-election?

No, my brother Asari Dokubo, a true Niger Delta patriot was misquoted in the sense that he did not really mean what he said. The truth is that he said whatever he was quoted to have said with passion and in anger. Asari Dokubo is a hardened believer in the fact that it is the turn of the Niger Delta to have her due share of leadership and representation at the level of the Presidency. Asari has only acted like an Ijesha woman who when angry, will curse and employ thunder to strike a juvenile child. Funnily, she loves her child and therefore only wishes him/her well.

Equally, a father who smacks his child for failing an exam actually wishes him well. You know the saying: "You spare the rod, you spoil the child". We all wish President Goodluck well, but sometimes we are angrier with him than his opponents because we cannot access him as easily as we would have wanted to. We don't want Goodluck Jonathan to have a quarrel with any Nigerian. Nothing and nothing at all should jeopardize our 2015 election chances. We are already planning to storm Ota to go and see our father and ascertain the reasons for the storm in the teacup.

Do you share the idea of Sovereign National Conference?

For me, a Sovereign National Conference could be desirable after some other necessary conferences have taken place. I feel there should be a conference between the 'Poor' and 'Rich' in this country. It is interesting to hear what the Poor say about the Rich and even more interesting to know what the Rich feel about the Poor. A National Conference between the two with the middle class as observer will assist the Government in planning. The second conference should be a conference of tribes or nationalities with the Federal Government sitting as an observer. The third conference should be that of religious groups, that is, between Christians, Muslims, and Traditionalists and how they want to live together.

Government, non-believers and borderline practitioners will sit as observers. The last conference in this order will be the civil society and the private sector conferencing with the Government with all its tiers represented. Religious leaders, traditional leaders and the Youth will sit as observers. After all these conferences, the desirability of a sovereign national conference will become pertinent.

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