Presidential Public Asset Declaration: Matters Arising


Presidential Public Asset Declaration: Matters Arising

By Taju Tijani

President Mohammadu Buhari’s recent declaration of his public assets has given him more mileage in his political journey. Though belated, it is nevertheless an action so widely favoured by all Nigerians.  In Nigeria where popular expectations of enthroning  integrity and transparency in governance have been raised high, the pain of inaction may have been most intolerable. And this is where we have to commend  both the President and the Vice President for keeping faith with Nigerians in their demand for a clear, thorough and comprehensive  public declaration of their material possessions. What is at play by this public declaration of assets is to inform Nigerians that we can now celebrate a return of hope and optimism in our ongoing experiment with western democracy.

Asset declaration is a strategic political victory and a pointer to a future of open, accountable and transparent democracy as practised in the developed world. It is agreed, regardless of class or political affiliation,  that Nigeria is confronted today by contested struggle and the challenge of hyper corruption which is fuelled by our loose commitment to prosecution, probity, integrity, honesty, transparency and accountability. In fact the sheer paucity of knowledge of the assets of our public officers has systematically encouraged corruption and stripped our democracy of the values of transparency and accountability which this administration has vowed to change.

Both President Mohammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibajo have done something heart warming through their asset declaration to shift the irritating paradigm where Nigerians are kept in the dark of the worth of their public figures who, in turn, exploit this political aberration to loot unredeemable public money. What the President and his VP have done is to bring reform to our democracy; win the trust of Nigerians, encourage hope and enthusiasm and the introduction of a new template for future public office holders.

However, the euphoria of the asset declaration aside, we note also some loopholes in the handling and delivery of the exercise. Section 140 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states, “A person elected to the office of President shall not begin to perform the functions of that office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in this Constitution and he has taken and subscribed the Oath of Allegiance and the oath of office prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to this Constitution.”  Going by the wording of the constitution, the president and his vice have obeyed this section of our Constitution in the breach.

The language of the constitution has no hidden obfuscation. Further, paragraph 11 (subsection 1) of the fifth schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) require all public officers including President, VP, Governor, Deputy Governor, Ministers, Commissioners not only to declare their assets before performing the functions of their offices but also to redeclare same after 4 years or upon completion of their offices. Therefore, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) must gird their loins and make sure that the verification exercise which they did at the commencement of the public officer’s terms of office must be repeated when their tenure of office ends and must be made public. So far the CCB has been docile in this function. The CCB must be up and doing and be seen to be enforcing compliance.

How then can the president and his vice turned a blind eye to this provision of our constitution? Without any irony, this action is unsettling. Further, the president promised to declare his assets in March ever before his inauguration but this promise was not kept. We may commend him but we would refrain from applauding him because President Buhari once declared himself insolvent and had to borrow money from his bankers to pay off the prescribed sum of N27million naira  for the APC Presidential nomination form.  Now, and almost suddenly, President Mohammadu Buhari has suddenly escaped bankruptcy and has N30million naira to his name.

There is also President Mohammadu Buhari’s ungallant hesitation to declare his assets publicly. He initially  declared his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) but when opposition pressures began to mount up, he then did the needful. It was alleged that his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, had to remind the president of his civic covenant with Nigerians before action was taken to go public with his assets. These are regrettable actions from a president whose affirmation of moral conviction  has endeared him to the highest estimation from majority of Nigerians.

We accept that President Mohammadu Buhari is driven by a strongest sense of purpose to bring sanity and good governance to our desecrated polity and that he is no saint, but when our constitution is not followed to the letter, we as gatekeepers have to call him to order. In taking account of the complex economic, social, political and cultural exertions occurring within the space of change, we may overlook some fault lines but in the matter of constitutional procedure we would not.  President Mohammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibajo may have made a public declaration of their assets, but their timing and open disregard to constitutional procedure and provision have both open their symbolic gestures to charges of undemocratic illegalities.

Nigerians are restating again that the public declaration so far made by the President and his VP are not constitutionally compliant. It now behoves the National Assembly to amend that part of the constitution that says ‘you have to declare your asset’ to read ‘you have to declare it publicly’.

President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration may be articulating what millions of Nigerians are thinking – fighting corruption  and dissolution of business as usual in government –  but the immediate task is to puncture this illegal orthodoxy  where our elected President and other public servants assume office before declaring their assets. This constitutional oversight has to be corrected and full compliance must  now guide future appointments – declare your assets publicly before the assumption of your national assignments and duties.

President Buhari Needs Hard Talking Ministers


President Buhari Needs Hard Talking Ministers

By Taju Tijani

“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth” Proverbs 16:13 KJV.

President Mohammadu Buhari’s 100 days of warming the highest seat of power in the land has come and gone. We all still remember with quiet nostalgia that breezy May 29, 2015 as a day of audacious magic that brought back the optimism of our collective will for a new Nigeria. To make a success of rebranding and repositioning Nigeria as a true giant of Africa, President Mohammadu Buhari must begin to love his critics and also arm his ministers with freedom of dissenting views.

In retrospect, it is a documented fact that ministerial silence doomed ex-President Jonathan’s presidency. During his tenure, Jonathan was made a helpless prisoner to reason by a cabal of fruitcake acolyte fringe who refused to say the truth but rather supported many of his bad decisions that eventually catalyze the loss of his presidency.

His political peers, Ministers and advisers lost the ethical commitment to relentlessly and unflinchingly speak out against all odds, against ex-President Jonathan’s excesses, against all entrenched privileges, and even against all hegemonies – real, imagined and self-induced. There was no gesture of defiance to save Nigeria, no challengers to bring us back from demoralisation, no statement of hope to cheer the intellect, no voices in their angry cadences to speak truth to power, no radical declension to stop the structural malfunction of a treasonous PDP government that lived and survived on turbo-charged corruption of incomparable global scale.

As a result of the silence around him, Mr Goodluck Jonathan lost all radical determination to fix Nigeria. He made no concerted effort to swing the political pendulum away from suffocating corruption fetishism. PDP Governors became political predators and resource hyenas who developed demonic and covetous attitude toward the total cleansing of our commonwealth. Billions of money was stolen blindly, carted away blindly to foreign banks and with equal measure was spent blindly on opulent passing fancies like billion dollar mansions, foreign homes, private jets, prestige cars, watches, sexual orgies, women and even on facelift.

The brutal stupidity of blathering Okonjo-Iweala (Jonathan’s Prime Minister), her lies and effrontery of normalising the abnormal showed the moral death of one of our compliant educated conservatives in government. It was a person like Okonjo-Iweala who lost the moral and patriotic battle to stand up to Jonathan and make a hell of a noise about the breathtaking bankruptcy of Nigeria’s economic condition. Rather, she played the welder-in-chief and soldered the economy with unutterable lies, innuendoes, false statistics, financial abracadabra and the ultimate insulting prattle like “the economy is fine.”

Rather than advise ex- President Goodluck Jonathan on the mood of the nation, his advisers fooled him with the idea that adversarial political messages against the person of President Mohammadu Buhari will swing the vote for him. But alas, Nigerians were ready to decide the Manichean struggle between integrity and banality, good and evil, freedom and slavery and the desire to change from the continuity of an evil administration. Voters voting pattern at the presidential poll was shaped by the sheer rational brutality and memory of 16 long years of PDP turning Nigeria into oasis of decadence, draught and economic paralysis. The soul of Nigeria was left in the hands of plutocratic technocrats and these hounds swallowed our riches in one gulp.

Even Femi Fani-Kayode, a commentator well known for inflated idea of his own brilliance, documented multiple insecurities, intellectual hooliganism, polemical rage, toxic propaganda, duplicitous effusions, errand boy mentality, hokey pokey game of political thrones, hectoring rhetoric, shifting allegiance, emergency cross-bearer for Jonathan’s sinking political roof and Pharisaic indulgence all combined to be more of moral hazard to the polity than the plan to capture hearts and minds through a monstrous spin of lies, slander, demonisation, defamation, fantasy and invalidated charges against President Mohammadu Buhari.

There was stark departure of collective outcry to speak truth to power and call former President Goodluck Jonathan to order on his hideous excesses. This is where President Mohammadu Buhari must embrace a timely lesson on governance. If indeed it is true according to the proverbs above that kings value the man who speaks the truth, then President Buhari must listen more to his future outspoken aides, critics and enemies more than his flatterers who want one favour or another.

What we want is ministers who will be courageous and patriotic enough to speak truth to power if the president is going adrift in his change agenda. We want ministers and advisers who will be audacious enough to trespass their turf by articulating cold truth without fear of retribution. Pursed lips or resignation to cowardice as happened during the time of ex- President Goodluck Jonathan among his ministers and aides should be seen as a crime against the voters who voted for change. Truth telling should no longer be silenced by material indulgence. Already, there is public outcry against President Mohammadu Buhari’s lopsided appointments, selective justice on war against corruption, his religious bigotry and even militarism.

He has to listen to these critics and make necessary correction. Nigerians would prefer a listening president who will respect the opinions and sentiments of internal and external critics who speak out against aberrations that might destroy the democratic renewal and reconstruction we all have been yearning for in the past 16 years. Rather than cosy up to his flatterers, he should rather warm up to his critics and respond to constructive ones with courage and conviction and admission of wrong in the true spirit of the time.

If indeed integrity and honesty are the twin pillars of President Mohammadu Buhari’s change administration, then these values must be elastic enough to accommodate dissenting voices and irritating critics who may have valid reasons to disagree with his public policy formulations. His Ministers and advisers who are closer to him must enjoy the liberty to express their mind when things are going wrong with the ship of state. The ongoing tragic emblem where appointed government officials are turn into demagogues, see no evil and speak no evil zombies should now be a thing of the past. The President should not be blindsided by sweet talk alone he also needs hard talk. That is the true meaning of leadership.

tajutijani@hotmail.com

Recasting President Buhari’s Integrity Canon


Recasting President Buhari’s Integrity Canon

By Taju Tijani

Today, Nigerians are reflecting on how integrity in governance is more than compulsive for a nation like Nigeria that has been tirelessly and ceaselessly plundered, exploited, abused, raped and left to rot by deranged politicians desensitised by decades of high corruption.

Before the memorialisation of May 29, 2015 as a day of audacious magic that brought back the optimism of our collective will for a new Nigeria, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and his circle of failures had been living insulated lives from the privations of those they pretend to represent – marginalised Nigerians.

Politicians, Ministers and advisers lost the ethical commitment to relentlessly and unflinchingly speak out against all odds, against Jonathan’s bad governance, against all entrenched privileges, and even against all hegemonies – real, imagined and self-induced. There was no gesture of defiance to save Nigeria, no challengers to bring us back from demoralisation, no statement of hope to cheer the intellect, no voices in their angry cadences to speak truth to power, no radical declension to stop the structural malfunction of a treasonous PDP government that lived and survived on turbo-charged corruption of incomparable global scale.

Mr Goodluck Jonathan had no radical determination to fix Nigeria. He made no concerted effort to swing the political pendulum away from suffocating corruption fetishism. PDP Governors became political predators and resource hyenas who developed demonic and tigerish attitude toward the total cleansing of our commonwealth. Billions of money was stolen blindly, carted away blindly to foreign banks and with equal measure was spent blindly on opulent passing fancies like billion dollar mansions, foreign homes, private jets, prestige cars, watches, sexual orgies, women and even on facelift.

Two things remain very striking about Jonathan’s government. First, the range of pandemic corruption. Corruption which should have been an offence to commonsense became agreeable in the political lexicon of his government. He was quoted as saying that “stealing is not corruption” in a  moment of proven drunken stupor. He headed a corrupt government defined by financial recklessness which then became doomed as a sinking Titanic.

The brutal stupidity of blathering Okonjo-Iweala (Jonathan’s Prime Minister) lies and effrontery of normalising the abnormal showed the moral death of one our compliant educated conservatives in government.

It was a person like Okonjo-Iweala who lost the moral and patriotic battle to stand up to Jonathan and make a hell of a noise about the breathtaking bankruptcy of Nigeria’s economic condition. Rather, she played the welder-in-chief and soldered the economy with unutterable lies, innuendoes, false statistics, financial abracadabra and the ultimate insulting prattle like “the economy is fine.”

Secondly, Jonathan kept on living on delusion. He was not disturbed that he had become a mirage of the desert; a passing meteor, a dry well and even a melting vapour the very moment President Mohammadu Buhari took him on as a challenger. Jonathan then encircled himself with morons, demagogues,  blind political prophets whose claim to political wisdom is nothing short of bringing the nation on its knees through selfish prognosis. Under Mr Jonathan, governance was drained of integrity, justice, core values, probity, fairness, protective structure and transparency. What he practised was primordial looting, clannish solidarity, blatant tribal marginalisation (the Yoruba), impunity and even political vendetta against the person of Rotimi Amaechi. He rendered his politics in token and parochial patterns.

Jonathan advisers fooled him with the idea that adversarial political messages against the person of President Mohammadu Buhari will swing the vote for him. But alas, Nigerians were ready to decide the Manichean struggle between integrity and banality, good and evil, freedom and slavery and the desire to change from the continuity of an evil administration. Voters voting pattern at the presidential poll was shaped by the sheer rational brutality and memory of 16 long years of PDP turning Nigeria into oasis of decadence, draught and economic paralysis. The soul of Nigeria was left in the hands of plutocratic technocrats and these hounds swallowed our riches in one gulp.

Even Femi Fani-Kayode, a commentator well known for inflated idea of his own brilliance, documented multiple insecurities, intellectual hooliganism, polemical rage, toxic propaganda, duplicitous effusions, errand boy mentality, hokey pokey game of political thrones, hectoring rhetoric, shifting allegiance, emergency cross-bearer for Jonathan’s sinking political roof and Pharisaic indulgence all combined to be more of moral hazard to the polity than the plan to capture hearts and minds through a monstrous spin of lies, slander, defamation, fantasy and invalidated charges against President Mohammadu Buhari.

What really mobilised Nigerians to recast their collective trust in Buhari is his constant emphasis on the two most fundamental values that have eluded our politics: honesty and integrity. Buhari’s integrity has morphed into Nigeria’s integrity as seen in the respect, honour and the ready assistance of President Barack Obama of USA to search, find and return looted public money back to Nigeria.

Of a truth, the architecture of leadership, all the theories and guidelines falls apart without honesty and integrity. Integrity is the keystone that holds government, organisation, home, business, community and friendship together. Integrity has to be sincere. Actions, words and deeds must be judged to be sincere. An integrity-driven leader has to set and respond to fundamental goals and values that will move the nation and followers forward.

Buhari’s standards, values and motives must be the template by which his appointees must act and react to eliminate the kind of ethical and geopolitical disgrace that characterised Mr Jonathan’s government. President Mohammadu Buhari’s job is to stay committed and articulate his values by constant preaching, persuasion and purposeful action. So far, his actions are mirroring what he says.

Buhari’s now famous slogan for the redemption of Nigeria, “For everybody and for nobody”, is a subtext for “I will stand for anybody that stands right.” It is then no wonder to see President Buhari’s many recent anecdotes and expressions aimed at looters, crooks, corrupt enrichment and unpatriotic parasites.  Ever since he became the president, Mohammadu Buhari has continued to attract success, respect, support, admiration and a positive image by the sheer power of transparent honesty and integrity.

For our nation’s social, economic, political, intellectual, cultural and spiritual rebirth to stand on firm foundation, we all must recast our faith in the president’s integrity canon and emulate it in our new movement of nascent determination to reclaim Nigeria back from the brink.

Buhari Backsliders, Cool Temper


Buhari Backsliders, Cool Temper

By Taju Tijani

Most cyber commentators are restless voyeurs who see the warts of the world, the imperfections of politicians and deformities of our democratic journey. Since the inception of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration, pessimism is the name of the game and transferred, aggressive discourse the order of the day. Unhaunted by the recent disastrous history of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s wrecking administration that was marked by massive corruption, goalless vision and massive pillage of public revenue, some commentators and pundits are making an anthill out of Buhari’s evolving style of governance.

Now what’s gone wrong? Has the universal euphoria of his messianic appearance on the political scene cooled? Who wants to set him on the impossible task of competing with Usain Bolt in the athletic art of hitting the ground running? Is Nigeria’s disease of impatience creepily asserting itself into reality? Has the Buhari’s revolution, distinguished by his legendary integrity, patience, persistence and perseverance no longer national monuments for our idolisation? Is Buhari fundamentalism no longer our ready opium? Is the personal and philosophical compatibility we feel at a distance toward Buhari receding too soon into a nameless ghost? Is our negativism and doubt in his vision not too early to form polemical dissection in a smoke-filled isiewu joint?

There is the reason why we all need to reclaim common sense and patience from implanted panic, hysteria and the desire to see speedy action. We have forgotten too early the criminogenic ease with which ex-President Jonathan and his consort of PDP oppressors brought Nigeria to the foothill of political, economic, social and cultural implosion. We have forgotten the sheer arrogance of the last administration and its abiding faith in its own infallibility until the onset of our seismic political shift that brought us back from political genocide.

If we could, through our complicity, mumu and dialectical capacity tolerated PDP government for 16 years, would it matter if Buhari takes three months to get ready and launch his APC capability-driven capsule into our political space? Nigerians have endured all kinds of leader-looters for 5 decades and the political wounds from bad governance are multi-layered and could be seen in our paralysed institutions, youth unemployment, social and political impunity, entrenched privileges, untouchable elites, systemic evil of corruption, monetisation of democracy and moral death. Clogging the nation’s aspirational arteries in the last 16 years include cabal of privateers, toll gate economy, ostentatious and vulgar indulgence of supposed public figures, runaway decay, democratic negligence, shameless elites, dead brained political jobbers, mogul interests and governance by carrot and stick.

Therefore, to right the wrong of 16 years of monumental national destruction, President Buhari must take his time, be cautious, ponderous and prayerful in his desire to appoint from the dizzying array of time tested, efficient and talented technocrats willing to assist in the salvage of what remains of Nigeria and its future. Buhari is undergoing the onerous task of removing the old landmarks that badly wobbled Nigeria. To euphemised his careful attention to details as “too slow”, “losing focus” and “no action” brutally summarises the emblematic and contrived ignorance of many of our impatient pundits, polemicists and commentators. So, Buhari backsliders, cool temper.

President Buhari Cyber Showdown Vs Jonathan Final Delusion


President Buhari Cyber Showdown Vs Jonathan Final Delusion

Taju Tijani

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s last political gimmick unravelled and consigned him to the dustbin of historical tragedy. Aware that he has lost the election, he carried on as if he had a fighting chance through some dumb voters who could still be swayed by his final delusion. He deployed some delusional tools, techniques and strategies.

For instance, he went on the offensive and bled the airwaves  with messages of a lost cause to perceived undeciders;  created election propaganda section headed by the renegade Femi Fani-Kayode of tattered reputation, manipulated online conversations, encouraged open cyber attacks, set up oppositional surveillance, bullied Professor Atahiru Jega, allowed mob illegalities through his proxies of OPC and MASSOB, let loose his Rottweiler wife as a mad dog on the attack and worse, massively pillaged federal government treasury to fund a lost election.

Welcome to a new Jonathan universe. Welcome to Jonathan delusion. I arrived Nigeria – Ibadan for real – early February to monitor the heart and mind of grassroots voters, listen to their pulse, fear, emotion, feelings, doubt  and aspiration for the future. I was a witness to Jonathan first delusion. His cancellation of earlier date for the election was a clear manifestation of fear of losing, insensitivity and political cowardice. Mum was the reaction among Nigerians. No groans, no protests, no grunts, no shouts and no fight.

Ibadan as a location for my field work provides an important context. Ibadan has divorced itself from its old, muscular, wetie stronghold into a pulsating, vibrant, promising metropolis of melting pot configuration where Igbo, Hausa, Ijebu, Egba, Ogbomosho, Kogi, Ede, Edo, Fulani and Benue live shoulder-to-shoulder as landlords, employers, employees, residents, friends, associates, rivals, husbands and wives. Ibadan is a new narrative of a healthy mix of tribal conurbations.

Ibadan represented a battleground in the many political wahalas of a shipwrecking President Jonathan who is shamelessly obsessed with power to the consternation of those he once fooled with hypocritical, humble narrativisation of a poor, shoeless Otueke  boy.

In the course of the last Presidential election, the humble boy morphed into Africa’s worse power drunk, power mongering and power obsessed dictator despised and hated even by his own people. If Habermasian’s conception of public sphere is a talk shop of rational and critical discourse among different actors in the society, then it is not farfetched to deploy his theory and test his prognosis among my own people. In the course of my  research, I criss-crossed the noisy hair dressing salons, Dugbe corporate axis, Gate spare parts junkyards, UI campus, mama put bukas, okada parks, bank halls, mechanic garages, barber shops and public transports. Without bias, I discovered massive support  for the triumph of Buhari as Nigeria’s next president. Voters readiness to elect Buhari as their next leader represented the beginning of a rising political shift.

Jonathan does not find any persuasion in the fact that he is no longer popular but prefers to live in a delusional bubble of you-never-know.  Jonathan’s unpatriotic last minute distractions; his gratuitous resource vandalism, his poll victory conspiracy, the fetishing of failed transformative agenda, his elevation of morons to national prominence, all, epitomise, the hubristic catastrophe of a deluded lame duck leader. Our PVCs sunk him. Oh, my goodness!!!

The balance sheet of his putrescent and vulgar 6 years delusional presidency has mired Nigeria in deepening poverty, economic decline, and social and tribal polarisations. Before the election the unhealable internal implosion within the PDP not only implied vision of electoral disaster but also the breath of Jonathan’s delusional hope of winning the presidential contest. Only the blind and mischief makers will disregard the massive tide of worldwide  affection for General Mohammadu Buhari. I also realised that certain aspects of digital technologies helped in shaping social mobilisation. I have come to believe that sophisticated use of social media is leading to intellectual, social and political emancipation among Nigerians. We are evolving into a nation of digital protesters. A real technological and cultural root is gaining acceptance!

Before the election, groups like Global Intelligentsia for Buhari, Nigerian Diaspora Group for Good Governance,  Nigerian Global Awakening Group,  Nigerian Diaspora Group, and Diaspora For Buhari discussed, commented and interrogated varied political, social and economic issues paralysing the Nigerian state and deployed ‘spin’ to achieve  subjective and maximum impact.

Major themes of discussions were bad governance, endemic corruption, poor policy implementation, infrastructural decay, power outage, unemployment and electoral fraud. These groups were digital attack forces that marshalled arguments to destroy all the canons of Jonathan’s lies, hypocrisy, corruption, resource vandalism, political vulgarity, baseness and other palette of abysmal failures of his presidency.

It is hardly any surprise that the use of the Internet and the Web, the so-called distance and time-shrinking telecommunication, has become a truly potent phenomenon among Nigerian’s digital protesters. In the sub Saharan African region, there is no country more ferociously hungry for media consumption than Nigeria. We inhabit a cyberian republic populated with warrior netizens who have come to embrace social media and deploy them as tools to fight, criticize, project and highlight various  social injustices affecting the destiny of their nation.

Even digitalised diaspora Nigerians who are oceans away from the centre of political, social and economic life back home, are daily engaging in online communities to register their participation in the social, economic and political processes happening in their homeland. Some find accommodation in blogging. Some take to twitter. Millions embrace Facebook. Others communicate through WhatsApp and other social media devises. In all the flourish, Muhammadu Buhari was the pillar of their hope for a new Nigeria. He was the centre of their gravity. Sai Baba/Buhari was the battle cry before the election.

The March 28 general election was Nigeria’s most troublesome and challenging election in living memory. Appropriately, activities among Nigerian voters on Facebook reached saturation point. Nigerians both at home and abroad converted Facebook into a platform for information diffusion, participation, mobilisation, propaganda, smear campaign, personality attack, abuse, ethnic polarisation, radicalisation, caricaturisation and empowerment.

Resources and time were deployed to encourage mass turn out for a Buhari’s victory. Articulation of arguments for his choice became a byword of digital unity.  The election was couched in the metaphor of a messiah coming to undo the work of a dark, corrupt incumbent bent on destroying Nigeria because of his inability to let go a transient power. Meanwhile, most Nigerians I interviewed desired a rebranded nation of peace, power, possibilities, promise and prospects.

The distillation of their ongoing conversations and democratic deliberations strengthened their resolve to CHANGE the worsening conditions around them  with a blast of Buhari’s unsoiled reputation, integrity and political honesty. Therefore, realising that there were no factory fresh political ideas to sell to Nigerians, Jonathan fell from grace into the desperate grip of delusions. His first delusion was the wasteful injection of billions of naira to saturate the broadcast, print and social media in a cowardly propaganda to damage the reputation of Mohammadu Buhari. He failed!

In another delusion, Jonathan  criss-crossed Nigeria, giving an average of N50 million each to traditional rulers, most especially in the South-West and the Northern parts of Nigeria. Letters in English and Hausa backed by millions in cash were dispatched to willing rulers in the region. Religious leaders, trade unions, youth organisations, outlaw groups (OPC and Niger Delta Militants), professional bodies, entertainers were not ruled out of the money sharing jamboree of a wantonly wasteful criminal Jonathan. He failed!

One of his laughable delusions was the last minute forced friendship with the Yoruba people. Yoruba are the famed, lionised, intelligent and resourceful race of omo Oduduwa that had remained rejected, mistreated and marginalised by Jonathan in a mysterious alchemy of geopolitical miscalculations. The fixer of our tribal quota relegated the Yoruba to nothingness under Jonathan’s presidency. The injury of Yoruba political oblivion under Jonathan would later bundle him back to swampy Otueke through a calculated electoral revenge.  His final delusion to force feed the renegade Afeniferere with billions of naira also failed. For the record, Afeniferere has emerged as a leprous finger of shame and scandal. This time there is no forgetting of their crime against Yoruba unity.

Another Jonathan delusion was the use of his shameless wife – the damned – Dame Patience as a trench warrior, fighting verbal wars on all cylinders and spreading quarrels and anger all across the geopolitical divide. Patience Jonathan illiterate quarrels and horrible comments in the public domain were forms of delusional tools used to woo illiterate voters like her. All noises and no substance! Her projected fears of a victorious President Buhari later came to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. She failed!

Her reduction of nuanced and intelligent soap box campaign into Bolekaja-Warri-pidgin-megaphone by a tempestuous, accidentally lucky housewife shows her vulgar upbringing.  Another of Jonathan’s final delusion was his blindness to see renaissance voters who were ready to defy his propaganda, promote the idea of CHANGE, of reconstructive democracy over transformative fraud and good governance over corrupt leadership.

Being slow to interpret the signs of CHANGE that were all around Nigeria, Jonathan’s biggest effrontery was the idea to save his face from electoral failure and bushwhacked Nigeria into the unpopular arm of Interim National Government – ING. Thank God, his evil desire to derail Nigeria from paradise into purgatory has backfired on his face. He failed!

Lastly, Jonathan’s attempt to reduce our democracy to a do-or-die and delusional farce blew up on his face. His 6 years of embroidered lies, stealing, plundering, impunity, marginalisation of the Yoruba- his burden bearers to the Presidency – naked ambition, over-heating of the polity and his crude benign blindness to see CHANGE all around him have all combined to bury him into the depthless darkness of political oblivion. The desire of most Nigerians to live under a new universe became an instant opium and all of us turned into Buhari junkies. Sai Baba won!!! Job done!!!

* Tijani is the Europe and Middle East Coordinator for Global Intelligentsia For Buhari.

 

 

 

Buhari: In Search of Masters of Propaganda or Public Communicators?


Buhari: In Search of Masters of Propaganda or Public Communicators?

By Taju Tijani

Doyin Okupe tried! Reuben Abati tried! Reno Omokri tried! In their capacities as media hounds for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan they all raised dust and hell in the execution of their communication remits. As these troika vacate their offices for President Mohammadu Buhari’s public communication team, the public is anxiously waiting to see who will front as presidential spokespersons for Africa’s largest democracy. The president public communication ecology is a critical unit of government. 

In retrospect, the duo of Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe failed to bring any freshness and new thinking into the job of fronting for the president as his public communicators. They made mistakes, committed communication suicides and failed in their communication handling of a weak, unpopular and vulnerable President Jonathan. Even the last minute injection of scandal politics-cum-communication by Raymond Dokpesi’s AIT failed in its obsession with vulgar and distasteful servings of damaging stories of President Buhari. What became obvious was the fact that AIT became a notorious and unrestraint defender of the Jonathan’s government.

What the AIT’s experience illustrates is the emergence of a close set of relations between politicians, businessmen and the media that leads to a routine blurring of fairness, objectivity and public decency. In the AIT post-election analysis, what is clear is that there is no distinction between negative political messages, political marketing,  demonisation, defamation, character assassination, party political broadcast, class and financial interest. What is not in conflict is Dokpesi’s overriding business and financial interests to follow survival logic and stay on the side of power no matter the consequences.

In the days of campaign hustling, President Mohammadu Buhari was exposed to damaging and vulnerable innuendoes. As a president he comes with his own imperfections in public eloquence. He has no sweet, audible and powerful microphone  voice. He is handsome, tall, experienced, respected, gallant and presidential in appearance. These strange juxtapositions of weaknesses and strengths, attitude and character will no doubt present some complex challenges to his public media handlers as his presidential style unfolds.

Who then should serve a president like this? Where are the public communication geniuses that will compliment a president who rode into power on a cusp of popularity, integrity and abiding passion to sanitise Nigeria from cultural, moral, social, economic and political anomie? What is the job description of Buhari’s set of presidential public communicators?

Should the new faces be tenderised souls or hawks with the strength to strike hard like a doped bull?  Is President Buhari ready for no-nonsense media rascals with palette of skills and experiences as moderators, proactive press officers, lobbyists, political journalists, damage reduction strategists, enfant terrible, provocateurs, devil’s advocates, challengers, cross carriers, propagandists, public relations experts, polemicists and to add a bit of brashness to the pedigree, formidable mischief makers?

What are their attributes? Aside from the job description above, Buhari’s new public communicators are expected to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent media match makers. Would the president try and test old and savvy practitioners like columnists, public commentators, bloggers, pundits, public intellectuals, writers, digital warriors, publishers, broadcasters, university teachers or plain gifted novices who are ready to carve their niches in the public arena?

The remit of the new players should be akin to that of media radar perpetually roaming the media savannah in search of damaging stories to shoot down. They must be great innovators and damage limitation experts who could simultaneously handle negative twitter feed, press conference, be able to write on-your-face, on-the-spot blog, handle and refute  Facebook abuse, ability to explain, clarify, educate and maintain smooth relationship between the print, digital, broadcast and televisual professionals.

In addition, President Buhari will be needing media strategists who will be straddling talk show studios in order to engage in key debates about government policies before they become problematised in Cyberia. Also we may need hunters who will be hunting down planted and incendiary opinions that would not be published or aired by mainstream media but may enjoy wide negative publicity in the social media. The centre ground must always be seized by the presidential media team rather than the public. In a rapidly mediating political culture, perceived opponents should not be allowed to set the agenda.

To make the team compact, mobile and focused, the president needs engaging, principled men and women of the moment. A team of rapid, responsive, proactive, blustering and highly dedicated spin doctors as opposed to dour and colourless trio of Abati, Okupe and Omokri  who have no effective presence in the info-democratic community of such powerful social platforms like YouTube, twitter and the freeloading Facebook site.

The battle for the Buhari’s presidency was fought and partly won through activities on the Internet. The Internet has morphed into a gigantic, out-of-control and empowering hub where diverse ideas are peddle minutely across the world. From America to Zimbabwe, social media as both rational and irrational political sounding board is not in doubt. 

In Nigeria, for example, there is active participation and presence of majority of the educated elites on the social media.  The Internet has unbound the innate talents of majority of Nigerians as rational discussants on major political anxieties of the day.  During the campaign there were chemically induced polemical interrogations of President Buhari’s feared antecedent as a Jihadist on the social media which nearly damaged his reputation. Now is the time to work on a positive public media template of the real Mohammadu Buhari as opposed to the feared ISIS-incarnate from the wastelands of Daura.

The old anxious wait for information is gone forever. Social fetters and cultural barriers to knowledge have all collapsed to the sweeping revolution of the Internet. With a single click, events in distant regions of the world pop out in nanosecond and in words and graphic images.

That aside, politics and politicians are now embracing technology and harvesting democracy dividends all the way. Majority of Buhari’s supporters contributed to campaign fund using the Internet. For example the #Bring Back Our Girls issue became a celebrated case of social media triumph which generated international interest and condemnation of the Nigeria government in the handling of the abducted school children.   

Politicians now employ old hacks as ‘spin doctors’ in order to influence public opinion.  Old journalist are turning into political gurus and lobbyists and many of them are being hired to assist sitting leaders to fight elections through the multiplicity of social media devices.

In the UK, online petitions and signature gathering are now permissible through technology. The emergence of a new era of teledemocracy is enabling open discussion and a far more responsive political system than before.  That is, elected leaders now use the Internet to engage with their constituencies and justify each action they take on their behalf.

Today we are all digitalised animals scavenging for the next apps in a netizen world of techno junkies.  I can safely say that technology is moving faster than society as we know it. But in a way we are all doubling our steps to catch the next inventions from the Silicon Valley. Alarm clock is now an old relic of bedside accessory. What now sits silently beside our bedside when we knock off is the ever faithful mobile phone.

At sun up what digital junkies in my rural Omi Adio, Lagos,  Mumbai, Jakarta, Rio and the Amazonian jungle turn on when the sun kisses their drowsy faces is the slim Samsung or Iphone on charge all night. IPad, Facebook and twitter have both changed the culture of communication across oceans. For instance, my 12 years old daughter has her own mobile phone and IPad. She now communicates with her friend through Facetime on IPad. She is being allowed to create her own world and be much more involved socially. This is a demonstration of Frank Webster’s assertion that, “contemporary culture is manifestly more heavily information laden than any of its predecessors”.  What Castells labels as ” the culture of real virtuality”.

Spatial barriers have given way as the Internet allows people to connect with family, friends, and work colleagues from across the globe at the push of a button. Communication options have literally exploded in the instant avenues of text and video based chat as well as the near instantaneous method of email.

Gone are the days where one had to post a letter and wait a week or more for a response and long distance phone calls are unnecessary for anyone with a computer, a webcam and a speedy Internet connection.

With the emergence of democratic renewal in Nigeria, the government has come to realise that the twin engines of telecommunication infrastructures and information technology are necessary accessories for the promotion of deeper democratic participation, economic development, employment, international connectivity, national security and sadly the promotion of selfish interest.

In Nigeria, most media houses (radio, print, television stations) are either own by serving politicians, past politicians or would be politicians. It is a legacy handed down immediately after the departure of the colonial masters. Each region had its own newspapers and broadcasting stations. Politicians then hijacked these media institutions to fan into reality their differing political ambitions most of which were parochial and selfish. 

That legacy has not changed till date.  Historically, media institutions in Nigeria are mostly government control. But the digital hurricane of the early 90’s opened Nigeria to a tsunami of media plurality. Politicians who stole from public fund began to establish newspaper houses and radio stations which subsequently became sounding boards for their political relevance.  The problem of divergent social meanings now become problematic especially for any ruling government which must view independent media ownership as threat to their existence. 

The Nigerian online community has over 48 million internet users among which are 6.6 million Facebook fans, an aggressive twitter community and rapidly, these growing social media users, have, over time,  metamorphosed into the country’s most formidable silent political opposition to unpopular government.

Internet penetration, alongside social media usage in Nigeria is surging and driving political, social and cultural shift and empowering our nascent democracy. However, in Nigeria, the desire of the political class is to subject their citizen to ignorance, muzzle social media and kill the light of rational discourse through over-regulation and protection of politicians over and above the public interest.  

 

In view of the panoramic assessment of Nigeria’s media ecology, what President Buhari requires include out-of-the-box talents either old or young, professional or starters that can handle the complexities of media image of a digitalised President  Mohammadu Buhari in the 21st century.   

 

*Tijani is the Europe and Middle East Coordinator for Global Intelligentsia for Buhari

Team Buhari: The Brightest and The Best – 1


Team Buhari: The Brightest and The Best – 1

By Taju Tijani

Winning election is a task. However, the greatest task is assembling the brightest and the best to implement the collective vision of a new government. Buhari needs the best economists, the best scientists, the best public sector workers, in order to manage a new administration and carry out viable and effective public policies. As an ex soldier, Buhari needs to listen and connect with our military, the police, the navy and the air force. These are professional officers badly trained and badly funded by PDP in pursuit of wrong and selfish priorities. In Nigeria, majority of these armed professionals are democrats and have families and friends beaten down by the injustice of this swindle that we called PDP.  They are fiercely patriotic and believe in the progress and prosperity of Nigeria.

Political leaders are elected to govern and show leadership vision. It is the people who make the hospitals, schools, media, and transportation work. Nigerian people have come out to show solidarity to Buhari and are ready to move Nigeria forward through his leadership by example. They are yearning to contribute to a reconstructive democratic project after the defilement of much of our national institutions by a nest of thieves called PDP politicians.

To win election is different from winning heart and mind. This is where Buhari has to bring the people along with him. I mean everyone who is committed to change and reconstructive democracy.  Without mincing words, the silent aspirations of Nigerians are clearly written. A government who will ensure that our children go to school in clean clothes and are well fed; stable and affordable electricity, elderly receive their pensions and are taken care of in the hospitals, our youths are gainfully employed, our young ones are in colleges, that Nigerians are housed in decent accommodation and the security of all Nigerians from terror attacks.

In one word, we want a new and reconstructed society that will provide the basic material conditions that make human dignity and happiness possible. But beyond this seeming altruistic vision is the importance of good leadership. Nigeria lacks good leadership. Again, good leadership. Throughout the history of the United States there have been many great leaders.

Several such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Roosevelts were great presidents. Yet there was one who rise above all of them. One who is consistently being ranked as America’s greatest president. This president though dead for more than 147 years ago yet still inspires and moves people from all walks of life. That person is Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, variously known as ‘saviour of the nation’, ‘great emancipator’, ‘honest Abe’ and the ‘railslitter’ has been magnified and catapulted to a level nearing sainthood.

Every school age child in America knows about Abraham Lincoln. Thousands of books and articles have been written on various aspects of his life. His image is everywhere you turn. His likeness is on the penny, the five-dollar bill, savings bonds and certificates of deposit. There are countless statues, photographs, paintings, and sketches of him throughout the United States and around the world. His likeness adorns courtrooms, schools, public buildings and private residences. His name has been associated with cars, toys, banks, organisations, streets and objects too numerous to list.

In a way Abraham Lincoln represented the summation of those leadership qualities that had helped to form a nation. Lincoln stood for all that was right, honest and self-evident. He grew up in poverty and this background grounded him to the aspirations of common people. He was a compassionate  and caring leader, yet, when necessary could put his foot down firmly and be decisive beyond question. He was patient, persistent, consistent and persuasive rather than dictatorial.

Leadership is an elusive concept that, at times, can be vague and ambiguous. As a result, there are no set rules or formulas for leaders to follow. There are only guidelines and concepts, perceptions and ideas, abstractions and generalities. This is why the art of leading people is so difficult to master and teach and why there is such a great need for role models as Nigeria slides into irreversible change.

Therefore, there is a great need for Team Buhari to be interested in Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style and philosophy. By our modern, digital age, Abraham Lincoln’s great accomplishment  would be regarded as no less than a miracle. Lincoln was the leader who personalised change and lived and died to this conviction. Here are some of his ideas and principles.

One of the cornerstones of his leadership revolution, an approach that would become part of a concept in modern leadership thinking 100 years later came to be known as MBWA (management by wandering around). It has been called “roving leadership”, “being in touch” or “getting out of the ivory tower”. Whatever the label, it is simply the art of stepping out and interacting with people. The art of establishing human contact. This is saying that President Mohammadu Buhari and his team should not become prisoners in their own office.

As change makers, President Buhari and his team must ensure an open door and encourage people to come and talk. Access to leaders tends often to bath them in positive and trustworthy light. Lincoln’s roving leadership style took him to hospitals to see wounded Union soldiers recuperating from the Confederacy war. He attended private funerals and visited his generals and men in the battlefield.

Team Buhari must have a common touch and through it enjoys a sense of commitment, collaboration and trust with the Nigerian people.  President Buhari and his team will even gain vital human intelligence (humint) necessary to make effective decisions. Reconstructive-driven democracy that has change as its philosophy must be led by a hands-on leader who has to be there when it counted – decisively taking charge, influencing, guiding, teaching and directing- rather than be a prisoner in Aso Rock Villa where he sees nothing, does nothing and hears nothing. That is a relapse into Jonathan’s lethargic legacy being swept away by APC broom.

 

* Tijani is Europe and Middle East Coordinator for Global Intelligentsia for Buhari.