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Published On: Thu, May 8th, 2014

How not to chat

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President Goodluck JonathanBy Ali M. Ali

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”- Mark Twain

President Goodluck Jonathan is incredible. His naiveté is heart breaking. His latest media chat confirmed his eminent place in the hall of gullibility. Truly, his position in this gallery is unassailable. It is impossible to have another president that could possibly surpass the current one in that department.

His advisers and his handlers are doing a great disservice allowing their principal to routinely make a complete mess of eating boiled egg by himself in the name of media chat before a despondent local populace and a cynical international audience.

Having done that so often, and each time, so palpably ill-prepared, I have come to the sobering conclusion that his consortium of aides don’t mean well by laying him bare before the public. They know that the man can’t navigate such a terrain unaided. Unfortunately the very idea of that kind of chat is strictly presidential. It is not like budget presentation that he could dispatch the finance minister to ‘represent’. This was one ritual only the Commander-in-chief could do.

Lets call a spade by its name. The president is simply not ‘teachable’. He is a hopeless case. He can never be prepared. Having spent five years in the saddle as No1, his intermittent media chats are exposing his under belly as a despondent case incapable of grasping basic statecraft.

I know how that sounded. Unkind, uncharitable even. How heartless can one be to dismiss a Ph.D holder ‘unteachable?’

Lets face it. Jonathan’s mindset can’t think Nigeria. It is local. It is too simplistic. Everything is in black and white. It is either PDP or APC. Muslims or Christians, north or south.

This has nothing to do with his doctorate. I think his battery of advisers know this tragic flaw. To be fair, some past leaders too, were prisoners of this base sentiment. But the degree of the current president’s phobia of Nigeria as his constituency is numbing. The latest media chat buttressed this assertion. I wonder who came up with the brilliant idea of the man facing a panel of journalists, even if handpicked, when past efforts have demonstrably shown that it will earn him more public anger and rage?

This is so because in each of the chats, the President has progressively performed worse than the previous one. The defining one for me was that when he declared that he did not give a damn about public opinion over his unwillingness to declare his asset publicly.

Still, I admire the president- he is a ‘simple’ man hurled into the saddle to lead a complex country. He has often said so. He is a modest man. A humble man. The peg of his 2011 campaign was his humble beginning encapsulated in the ‘shoeless’ narrative. For the five years he has called the shots as Commander-in-Chief, he has demonstrated incredible naiveté.

Note his defence of the corruption charge leveled against his ministers. It was lame. Note his stark disbelief of the missing $20 billion. Note how he politicizes the Chibok abduction saga along the religious divide. Note his defence of Niger Delta militants as not being terrorists. Note also his contention about the nation’s booming economy that manifested in the country being among the top ten countries that have owners of private jets. Still our president contends that the economy is flourishing because Nigerians ‘are widely travelled’. God have mercy.

Our nation is steadily shutting down. Yesterday like today Abuja, venue of the WEF is a ghost town. Government offices and banks are closed for the duration of the meeting. It is meant to ‘facilitate’ traffic flow, and euphemism for fear of Boko Haram.

I digress. Last week I went ‘AWOL’(Absent without leave).I was missing on this page. I apologize to those who keep a date with this column. I give a ‘damn’ about you, my readers.

I won’t pass the buck to the muses for failing to ‘inspire’ me last week. They were blameless. I won’t also blame the writer’s ‘block’. The only ‘block’ I would probably blame was the ones mounted by the military to regulate inter state traffic. It caused heavy traffic and often caused avoidable accident. Sometime it stretched upwards to miles. Invariably, motorists are compelled to snake slowly to the actual spot of the checks and if you are lucky, you will simply drive pass without any scrutiny.

I have seen a couple of vehicles dented and some badly, in the insane desperation to get ahead from the sea of automobile at such points.

No. I was simply overwhelmed by the dizzying events of the week. They all happened at incredible speed. The day literally pounced on me while on transit and therefore, unprepared. I made a mental note to comment on Ahmed Gulak, the sacked presidential adviser. But time was the enemy as I drove through several checkpoints to get to my destination slowed needlessly by 3 hours. That is my excuse for disappearing.

Gulak got it coming. I was tempted to say it served him right. In a way his shallowness typified the government and the man he so ingloriously served. As political adviser, he discharged his duty like a motor park tout -constantly ‘head hunting’ passengers, bickering and quarrelling. He would be remembered for desecrating the office the venerated Chuba Okadigbo, the late Senate President, once occupied.

In the Second Republic, as Political Adviser to President Shagari, Okadigbo brought a certain intellectual swagger to the office. An ebullient man, he had enough panache and linguistic flamboyance to soften hardened political hearts. President Shagari was not a political neophyte like Jonathan, still, Okadigbo shone.

And Gulak? He was pedestrian and betrayed an unhealthy predilection to falsehood. He fancied himself as the defender-in-chief of the regime. He was unsparing of critics of his principal. He had an annoying quality that earned him public odium. Among his constituents, his name evokes the loathing image of a ‘lap dog’. Since he saw himself more as a ‘defender’ of presidential goofs than adviser for the exalted office he once undeservedly occupied, he was unsparing of opponents of the regime taking them head on. He, along with Metuh, PDP spokesman, another propagandist and the ‘attack’ lion, Okupe constituted the ‘tripod’ of ignominy in standing truth and history on their heads. Still Gulak out shone the two in public odium rating.

Rather than strategizing for the president and breaking new political frontiers ,the former aide courted new enemies. His sack was long over due. I wonder where Gulak would settle now.

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