The recent suspension of the erstwhile Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has ignited a debate on Social Media and as has become typical with many pundits, the discourse has been dominated by sentiments rather than facts.
As Sanusi has indicated that he will be challenging his suspension in court, I will not make this piece about him and recent events surrounding him. Yes, I will cite some examples of double standards as regards the approach taken by some analysts, but in my view, the matter is now best left to the courts.
What I will say however to those who are propagating the propaganda that the President suspended Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to stop him from speaking is this: it was Sanusi's job that was suspended, not his mouth and anyone who knows him knows full well that he will not let anything come between him and a microphone.
Opposition politicians and fifth columnists have continued to pay the price for underestimating President Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership abilities. They confuse analysis for paralysis.
In the first month of the year 2014 for instance, there have been several positive events that benefitted everybody in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s economy overtook South Africa’s as Africa’s largest economy. Not a squeak from the opposition. Internationally renowned firm, Renaissance Capital, revealed that Nigeria is the number one destination for Foreign Direct Investment in Africa – still not a squeak from the opposition. The United Nations officially certified Nigeria free from Guinea Worm in January – radio silence from the opposition.
But within the same month of January, the opposition have clung to every rumour, innuendo, gossip and careless talk that has the capacity of painting the president in a bad light. And where there is no negative rumour to spread, not to be undone, they make one up!
A most embarrassing example of this “opposition magic” was the news circulated by the opposition to the effect that former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, had upbraided the President for permitting the arrest of an APC operative. The operative had allegedly said that should the party lose elections in 2015 due to rigging (knowing the opposition, any election they lose is an election that has been rigged) “the only alternative left to get power is to take it by force; this is the reality on ground”.
Eventually, it turned out that Mr. Babangida had said no such thing. The statement was a fabrication which was traced to the Facebook page of the same APC official who said the taking of power by force is the only reality on the ground.
It should now be obvious to all Nigerians that these persons are setting the stage for a Plan B should their Plan A fail to materialise. The thing about a Plan A though is that you have to have one for you to even have a fighting chance of the plan being realised. Thus, an opposition that focuses on insulting the President instead of formulating a winning plan and sharing it with Nigerians obviously has no plans and therefore plans to fail.
And it is this lack of planning and coordination that fixates the attention of the opposition on attacking the President instead of his policies. Why do they do this?
Those who are discerning know that the only way you can effectively attack policies is if you have alternative policies. But where you don’t have alternative policies, you are left with no option but to go ad hominem.
The same people who were online attacking the President for allegedly budgeting a billion Naira for feeding at the Presidential Villa (and they deliberately suppressed the fact that hundreds of police and military officials feed at the Presidency) are today justifying the N1.257 billion that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under Lamido Sanusi claimed it spent on private guards and lunch for police officers.
The individuals who took to social media to attack the Presidency’s proposed travel budget of N2.4 billion in the 2014 Appropriation Bill are today justifying the N9.24 billion spent by the Central Bank on training and travel expenses for 2012.
Thank God the Presidency did not spend even up to N1 billion on legal services. If it did, the hired social media hounds would have used this for propaganda.
The question should be: why are they silent on the N20 billion the CBN under Mr. Sanusi claimed it spent on “legal and professional fees?” It is because these voices are procured. There is nothing wrong in offering your services to politicians, but do not hide this fact and pass off yourself as an objective and independent activist.
Alas, many in the opposition have successfully blinded the eyes of the public to their duplicity.
I cite an elementary example of the nature of the opposition. At the beginning of the year, I devoted the first few days of 2014 to tweeting about the achievements of the Jonathan administration and projecting the positive things that were already happening in Nigeria. When I tweeted, I had expected opposition sponsored elements – and there are many on Twitter whom I have christened Politwitters – to contradict these achievements. Not unsurprisingly, they chose to insult. When I provided evidence that Nigeria’s Per Capita Income in 2009 – the year before President Jonathan ascended to power – was $1,091 (N180,670) and that this amount had improved by 70% to $1,721 (N285, 000) in 2013, what I got thrown back at me was “Na that one we go chop?” or “How does that affect the price of garri?”
They scoffed at the Jonathan administration’s new National Automobile Policy, saying it was laughable to imagine that Nigeria would be a car manufacturing nation within a year. Well, Nissan has announced that their first made in Nigeria Nissan SUV would be rolled out in April. They criticised the President for declaring a State of Emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, yet their own governors found that the emergency had significantly eroded the terrorist’s ability to launch terror attacks ensuring that there was enough peace for them to visit Borno State.
And so, greeted with one success after the other of the President’s policies, the opposition has realised that they cannot compete with him on the level of ideas. And what do they do? They have carefully taken into consideration the President’s personality and have come to an awareness that he is a man that would not go negative or attack personalities and their conclusion is that that is the only front on which they can overwhelm him.
But they have not reckoned with the connection the President has with ordinary Nigerians. This is a President that does not keep secrets from Nigerians. A President that is secure enough in himself and his position to allow them to dialogue without any boundaries.
In fact, from studying President Jonathan’s style of leadership, I have come to the conclusion that the Jonathanian key to growing one’s influence is to speak to the public in a way that makes the public want to listen to you and to listen to the masses in a way that makes the masses want to speak to you. That is why Nigerians are excited about the impending National Conference. They know that their President is listening.
After all, he listened to them in 2010 when they asked him not to ban the Super Eagles from international soccer tournaments. He listened to them when they overwhelmingly asked him to run in 2011. He listened to them when they said they did not want Nigeria to succumb to the practice of gay marriages.
The President even said it himself on his first Presidential Media Chat that he has a great capacity to listen to people, even if they are talking rubbish, without betraying emotion, thus communicating with his listeners that he is giving the fullness of their being his focused attention in order to understand them which does not mean that he agrees with them.
And you know what that does? It ignites the type of folksy connection that the President now enjoys with Nigerians because they know that their President seeks first to understand them before he asks them to understand him. With President Jonathan, there is no monologue or dialogue of the deaf. With him, Nigerians can always count on a dialogue of interested parties.
Nigerians know that their President will never threaten anybody, be they human being, dog or baboon. Citizens of this great nation know that the man of peace they elected to pilot their ship of state will never tell the down trodden to “Go and die!” In fact, they know that even if they are in a war torn nation thousands of miles away, their gentleman President will send planes to get them out of harm’s way. They know that their President will never celebrate his birthday with N1 billion. Instead, they are certain that when they are hungry, their President will ensure that the down trodden will get billions of naira worth of grains and food staples so that they can hunger no more. This is why the 2013 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute applauded Nigeria for her significant reduction of hunger levels.
Nigerians further know that they have a philosopher king who reads regularly and who has encouraged Nigerians, through his personal initiative – the Bring Back the Book Project, launched on December 20, 2010 – to read. Readers are leaders and the President doesn’t just read, he also donates books to schools through the project since he believes readers become leaders, the mind is a muscle and reading is the only gymnasium in which you can build up your mind muscle.
It is precisely this mind muscle that many of those who attack the President with ad hominem words lack. Instead of having highly defined mind muscles, they have built up their ego muscle. Alas, the worst possible combination you could ever find in men is to have a weak will and a strong ego. Unfortunately, this is the case with those who throw stones because they are attuned to destroying rather than building.
So, let them keep insulting and casting aspersions on the person of President Jonathan. Those who engage in these ad hominem attacks on the President only prove the truism that you can take the man away from the gutter but you may not be able to take the gutter away from the man.
The thing that they forget when they indulge in that type of behaviour is that as MKO Abiola of blessed memory said, ‘Even if you change the name of honey it would still be sweet!”
And for those who wonder why the President does not ever respond to such opposition attacks on his personality, I would also use another proverb to try to assuage their wonderment; a man who is carrying an elephant on his head has no need to squash an ant with his toe.
Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media.