On Progressives and Pro-aggressives

All advertising is based on the theory of Proof by Repeated Assertion which provides that a proposition repeated and restated regularly using the mass media comes to be accepted as true irrespective of any contradictions in the proposition being asserted. This theory is very effective and even more so in the modern world where attention spans are limited and people read headlines and draw conclusions without reading the story. Gone are the days of Ronald Reagan where that great communicator urged us to “trust but verify”. Nowadays, very few people are prepared to pay the intellectual price of verifying what they are served by the media and some individuals have clued in on this deficiency amongst Nigerians and the fact that we can be subliminally manipulated by what we read in the media and have used this deficiency against us.

You may disagree with me, but I will offer an elementary example. If you have been reading newspapers, listening to the radio or watching television, or even if you have been following the news online news media for the past year, you would have heard of the All Progressive Congress, APC, being described as a progressive party. Many Nigerians have bought this asserted labeling hook, line and sinker. But do the facts bear this out?

A progressive party is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a group “favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas” one that is “modern, liberal, advanced, forward-thinking, enlightened, enterprising, innovative, pioneering, dynamic, bold, avant-garde, reforming, reformist, radical”.

Let us pay close attention to this definition and then let us consider the facts.

For the first part, a progressive party has to favor or implement social reform and promote new, liberal ideas. Can those who promote the All Progressive Congress truly say that the party favours or is implementing social reform and promotes new, liberal ideas?

In recent times, President Goodluck Jonathan recognized the fact that there are structural errors both in our constitution and in Nigeria’s body politics and though he was previously against the idea of a National Conference, he realized that there was no way Nigeria could avoid it if we had to address the challenges that have caused friction amongst the people of Nigeria.

Thus, he conceived of the idea of having a National Conference in the year 2014 where those who were most vociferous in advocating the case of their region, group or professional and social organization could come and talk things out.

Obviously, objective persons would agree that this was a move that favored social reform and promoted new ideas that could radically change the way we do things in Nigeria.

However, the APC, which brands itself as a progressive party rejected the idea of a National Conference with many of its leaders saying that such a conference is unnecessary? Not stopping there, the APC asked its members not to participate in the conference, an advise which even its own governors wisely ignored.

The question to a reasonable by stander is going by the above, who between President Jonathan and the APC is progressive?

I offer another example.

Since the time of the late great President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, Nigeria has had issues with an insurgency in the form of the Boko Haram insurrection. If you have followed the media, the APC and its leaders have criticized the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for its handling of the insurgency, yet, they have not provided an alternative strategy to contain the insurgency.

On the other hand, the man they have consistently criticized has provided and implemented the following strategies to contain the insurgency;

On the 1st of January, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan temporarily closed Nigeria’s borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon to curtail the movements of arms and insurgents into Nigeria as well as declared a State of Emergency in some of the Local Governments most affected by the insurgency.

On the 24th of April, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North to dialogue with the insurgents and explore opportunities for an amnesty.

On May 14th, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan cut short his visit to South Africa and aborted a planned state visit to Namibia to address an upsurge in insurgent activities by declaring a State of Emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and constitutionally and democratically left the governors and governments of those states intact.

On July 2nd 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan sent 25,000 metric tons of assorted food items to residents of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to facilitate their participation in the fasting period. Borno state got 324 trailers of food, Yobe received 195 trailers and Adamawa got 170 trailer. An eye witness and indigene of one of the states on sighting the supplies said “this is an unprecedented initiative by the president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. I have not heard in history where this amount of food was released to any part of Nigeria in the past”.

Finally, on the 18th of March, 2014, the Jonathan administration launched a major economic recovery plan for the Northeast tagged ‘ Soft Approach to Countering Terrorism” which involves de-radicalising extremists and stopping others from being radicalized, mobilizing the society through strategic public communication and economic revitalization of the North-East states affected by insurgency.

On the other hand, the strategy of the APC has been to criticize Nigeria’s armed forces who are risking their lives by engaging the insurgents with the attendant risk that their morale could be affected. Without providing proof, they have alleged that the insurgents are better armed and motivated than our military personnel. This is besides the fact that they have blamed the military for civilian loss of life and damage to property without investigation.

Now, take a scale and weigh the responses of the President Goodluck Jonathan led Peoples Democratic Party administration and the All Progressive Congress’s approach to the insurgency and let your conscience direct you on who between the two is truly a progressive.

If you go back in history, it will be recalled that of all the parties that existed in Nigeria in 2011, ONLY the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, engaged in a presidential primary on the 13th of January, 2011. All other parties, including the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, chose their presidential candidates either by consensus or by imposition.

Now, fast forward to the 3rd of March 2014. The All Progressive Congress, which is composed of those same parties which did not engage in presidential primaries, announced that in a poll that they carried out, their unnamed presidential candidate was more popular than President Goodluck Jonathan and would defeat him if an election was held immediately.

Discerning minds would have noticed that from the above information released by the APC, it appears that the three parties which coalesced into the APC are up to their old games. How can they know their presidential candidate in March of 2014 when they have not conducted a presidential primary?

The answer is because old habits die hard and just as they did in 2011, they do not intend to hold presidential primaries and plan to coronate their already chosen candidate by imposition.

So, I ask my readers, drop your biases and preconceived notions and consider what I have written to you with an open mind and ask yourself whether the APC is a progressive party as they say.

Remember that the Oxford English Dictionary describes a progressive as one who is “forward-thinking, enlightened, enterprising, innovative, pioneering and dynamic”.

Who does this definition fit? The APC or the President Goodluck Jonathan led PDP administration? Let’s further consider other facts.

If a progressive is “forward-thinking”, what would you consider the action of President Jonathan in signing the Freedom of Information Act into law which essentially demystified governance and opened it up to the populace such that every Nigerian now has access to each line item of the executive’s appropriation and can tell how much the President spends on feeding and other sundry expenses? Has it ever happened in Nigeria before?

If a progressive is “enlightened” certainly, President Jonathan fits that mould as a man who is enlightened enough to be led by conscience and not ego and was able to gather EVERY living former Head of State and President to the Presidential Villa last month irrespective of party affiliation or recent history in keeping with the statement he made on the 18th of September, 2010 that “I have no enemies to fight”.

If a progressive is “enterprising” what would you call a man who met Nigeria’s Per Capita Income at $1091 in 2009 and grew it to $1721 as at 2013 (/y5tfwwd)?

If a progressive is “innovative” then tens of thousands of young Nigerians are witnesses to the innovativeness of the President being beneficiaries of the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) scheme which gave them quality business training and support as well as granted them between two and ten million Naira to start a business so they could employ other youths.

If a progressive is “pioneering” then what better effort can a man pioneer than to build schools for itinerant Islamic Scholars (aka Almajiri) complete with Malam’s Quarters, Hostels, Qu’ranic Recitation Hall and Science Laboratories?

If a progressive is “dynamic” then the President who goes about Nigeria fulfilling promises he made is dynamic.

Giving the opposition propaganda in the media about the President not fulfilling his promises, some of my readers may ask, what promises, if any, has President Jonathan fulfilled?

I would attempt to list just a few of them.

If you live in Southeast Nigeria, some of the promises the President is fulfilling for you are the 2nd Niger Bride now under construction as well as the Enugu International Airport. If you live in Northwest Nigeria some of the promises the President is fulfilling for you are new universities and schools for almajiris. If you live in Southwest Nigeria, some of the promises the President is fulfilling for you are the revived railways and the ongoing reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Rd. If you live in North-central Nigeria, some of the promises the President is fulfilling for you are the Zungeru Hydro Electric Dam, the Baro Port and the dredging of the River Niger. If you live in South south Nigeria, some of the promises the President is fulfilling for you are are the ongoing reconstruction of the Lagos-Ore-Benin road and the East-West road. If you live in Northeast Nigeria, some of the promises the President is fulfilling for you are a Green Belt to stop Desert Encroachment and new universities.

But perhaps the most significant promise the President has fulfilled to Nigerians is the promise of bequeathing free and fair elections for all. In fact, after the APC governor of Edo state was re elected in July of 2012, he personally visited the President at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa to thank him for fulfilling his promise of ensuring free and fair elections. Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s testimony with regards that election are so telling, so spontaneously true, that I think it best to reproduce them especially as he is of the APC.

Said Governor Oshiomhole, “what the Edo election has confirmed is that when the President and Commander-in-Chief puts the country first and conducts himself as a statesman, not just as a party leader, credible elections are possible, because people were apprehensive that the Nigerian Army could be misused. But of course, I told them I didn’t think they were right, but the President’s clear directive was that the votes must count. He warned that there will be no rigging, no manipulation, no ballot snatching and orders were given to the Army to ensure none of those things happened and the Army carried out the order. The Police IG was similarly instructed. He deployed his men probably much more than we probably needed and they delivered on the President’s orders. The SSS were fantastic because they were always at the collating centres where some of the manipulations can take place”.

You see, even an APC governor in a moment of candour recognizes the limits of propaganda. Recently, Local Government elections were carried out in some APC controlled states, I would eat my hat if anybody can come out and give the same testimony that Governor Oshiomhole gave with regards to those ‘elections’!

I have had people complain to me that the opposition is outspending the government in the area of media propaganda and my response to them is that if a government keeps fulfilling its campaign promises to Nigerians, then Nigerians will open up their hearts to that government. President Goodluck Jonathan has a habit of delivering on his promises in a way that no one else has done before him and has a unique way of winning arguments with his detractors not by words but by results.

So for instance, his opponents may hold a rally and spend a good portion of their time insulting and disparaging the President rather than telling the people what they would do for them and think that they have achieved some big thing. But in actual fact, what they have communicated to thinking members of their audience is the fact that Nigerians enjoy a far greater measure of democratic freedoms under the leadership of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan because had someone else spoken in such a manner about some of these folk while they were in government they would certainly enjoy freedom of speech but not freedom after the speech. But today, they can say what they want to say without fear because we have a true progressive as President of Nigeria.

It is little things like this that give a clue as to who is really a progressive.

You see, being a progressive is not something that you become because you constantly parade yourself as such in the media. No. Being a progressive is just like being powerful. If you have to tell people you are powerful then you are not really powerful.

A true progressive is a newsmaker and not a noisemaker. He makes the news because he has something to say and something tangible to deliver. A false progressive is a noisemaker who makes the news because he wants to say something, not because he has something to say. And I wager that in the final analysis, Nigerians are wise enough to know that if it is not panadol it can not be the same as panadol.

Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to the President on New Media.