13 February 2013

Nigeria: Revisiting Jonathan's Amanpour Interview

Photo: Premium Times
President Goodluck Jonathan


Of course I watched that Christianne Amanpour Clip on Nigeria, just as many Nigerians did. I could not have missed it even if I did not watch CNN. It was viral and really infected the world.

Besides, trust Nigerians to regale when someone tells the world their motherland's panties are showing. Christianne did not come to Lagos to shoot it. The story emanated from CNN and the correspondent in Nigeria provided the clip.

Why did she write the report? Apparently not to spite Nigeria and GEJ, but to link in all the absurdity, of an American unthinkable - a "power" outage that occurred in the middle of the Super Bowl. But unthinkable too was 9/11.

"Imagine a world, Super Bowl snafu is situation normal in Nigeria." This is the graphic caption given to Christianne Amanpour's brutal run down of Nigeria on CNN last week. Typical of Nigerians, without a tinge of defensive patriotism, frustrated by the acquisition of candlelight at the price of nuclear power, the Amanpour video was shared in whatever way you can imagine.

Ordinarily, Amanpour would not have gone into a three minute report in the main CNN news bulletin since she has her own show, under her own name. In Broadcasting, particularly television, this is the limit of accomplishment. More often than not, Amanpour is the subject being interviewed and she is a remarkable personality. But she "condescended" to offer a report because as she said, she received "torrents of tweets from Nigerians after President Jonathan said during the interview that electricity had tremendously improved".

Also because there was humour in it. Americans love it when you make humour out of any, and particularly a situation, and for stoic Amanpour, it was a chance to show some mettle in humour and sarcasm. The cause of angst in America is not even an abnormality in Nigeria.

Nigerians, disgruntled by President Goodluck Jonathan's last CNN interview claim of improved electricity, posted on CNN Amanpour blog, up to 107 comments, either backing the president, or denouncing his claims. Majority of comments denied that electricity had improved.

Amanpour was not the only one jeering at Nigeria when electricity went out in the middle of the Super Bowl America's equivalent of Africa Cup of Nations. Nolan W McCants, my American friend glued to a seat before a TV at home in the U.S., posted on Facebook:-

"My folks in Nigeria is like, "Power Outage", what's the problem."

And then tagged to me directly:-

"Mathias, NEPA has taken over the Super Bowl"

"OMG! Must be the Nigerians in the crowd! O'blimey!!!!!!!!!!" I replied to his post.

Although the blackout happened in faraway USA, it brought Nigerians and Americans into an experience of spectacle and sarcasm and for the CNN show, a flurry of tweets, texts and posts in the social media - thus it was enough grounds for Amanpour to make an input and earn her oats given the background that she has on "Power" in Nigeria.

We would remember that in Amanpour's first encounter with Goodluck, she got flustered a bit, not finding what the President meant when he told her that one among his greatest challenges as Nigeria turned 50 was "POWER". Americans do not call electricity 'power' - power is a sensitive political tool, used effectively there, to change life, but she recovered her composure when as Goodluck continue to speak, he clarified that the great challenge he was faced with was electricity, not political power!

And hence in the second encounter a fortnight ago, Amanpour was surer footed using her new found word, Power, to mean electricity and challenged Goodluck that he had not achieved as much as he had promised. Of course Goodluck said we in Nigeria are celebrating because there has been an improvement on "power".

"I would have loved that you ask the ordinary Nigerian on the streets of Lagos, Abuja or any other city this question about power," the president told Ms Amanpour. "That is one area Nigerians are quite pleased with the government that our commitment to improving power is working. So if you are saying something different, I'm really surprised."

"That is one area civil society leaders agree that government is keeping faith with its promise." This is the assertion that Nigerians responded to.

Amanpour was not fair to Goodluck, or even to the story. Ignorant of the giant strides government has made in the overall power sector, Amanpour simply substantiated her misplaced perceptions, showing the decrepit parts of cable connections and using only the in complimentary comments of people who are yet to feel the impact of power sector reforms. Christianne Amanpour did not come to Lagos to shoot it, and she did not have to. The opinions captured emanated from CNN and the correspondent in Nigeria simply provided the clip as should enrich the report with live talking heads as advance from the mere tweets.

Why did she write the report? Apparently not to spite Nigeria and GEJ, but to link in all the absurdity, of an American unthinkable - a "power" outage that occurred in the middle of the Super Bowl. But unthinkable too was 9/11. The snafu was "situation normal" in Nigeria, and of course this is true! Indeed in Nigeria, it is more normal NOT to have electricity, than to have.

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