Who Presidential Documentary ‘Epp?’

The Worst Government In the History of Nigeria (1), By Femi Aribisala

On Christmas Day, I stumbled on an interview given by the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina. Although it was a fairly lengthy interaction with the presenters of Sunrise Daily on Channels Television that morning, two things that the presidential spokesperson said amplify the fault with the President’s communication.
Confronted with a front page report quoting the National Bureau of Statistics as estimating that eight million Nigerians had become unemployed between January 2016 and September 30, 2017, Adesina suggested that Nigerians should be grateful that the administration allowed the NBS do its job.
He indicated that being an agency of government, it was possible for the President to have breathed down on the NBS and stopped it from presenting those damning statistics. In effect, we must be grateful to the President for allowing the NBS such independence!
I agree that Adesina is always entitled to his opinion but such a proposition attempted to take official subservience to a new level. The truth is that at no time in Nigeria’s recallable history has the NBS been subjected to government manipulation to warrant the credit that Adesina solicited for the government that he speaks for.
When he eventually got to address the question of the current wave of job loss, he clarified that not all the total number of 15.9 million loss occurred during the Buhari administration. He explained further that the administration had indeed created a number of employment opportunities from some of its initiatives. Asked to give an idea of the number of such employments, Adesina did not have the figures!  It was then he realised and actually did promise to collaborate with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to compile these figures!
That set an alarm ringing in my head.  I felt this was some unpardonable dereliction of duty more so as a few hours down the line, Adesina’s office was set to release a documentary on what it called the ‘human side’ of the President.
Before this Monday morning, the presidential spokesperson had engaged in his usual verbal fireworks with critics of his decision to screen this documentary which was supposed to reveal the humane Buhari that Nigerians did not know. Critics thought that the choice of a period in which Nigerians were under the heavy yoke of lack and deprivation signified by the failure of the state to provide the most basic need of the people (fuel), was insensitive.
Arguments ranged from the fact that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who usually travelled to be with their loved ones at the period were denied that opportunity this year, that hundreds of people slept in queues at petrol stations, millions of Nigerian workers were unable to access their monthly salaries at this period and that a series ethnic conflagrations had further worsened the fragile security situation in the country required.
In his reaction, Adesina expressed appreciation for comments which were “borne out of genuine concern” but gave fire back to those whose comments he classified as virulent. He described those as “inveterate complainers”, whose stock-in trade had become fault-finding, and who “if they mistakenly find themselves in Heaven, they would even complain against God.” Wow!
 Apart from the cheekiness of the suggestion that those alleged unrepentant Buhari bashers might not be natural candidates for Heaven, coming from a Pastor, whose commission is to recruit people into the same paradise, I say once again that it is unethical for Adesina to talk down on Nigerians, whose taxes sustain him and his boss in office.
For the avoidance of any doubt, spokespersons for public office holders must understand and respect the citizenship right of Nigerians to freely express. They indeed, must come to terms with the fact that the right of the average Nigerian, no matter their motive to comment on the activities of the government in power is critical to the survival of democracy in the country. And any attempt to bully the people from so freely expressing themselves is a disservice to the office that Adesina holds.
But more than that, after seeing the documentary, I think there are two reasons the President’s spokespersons will need to reconsider their strategy.
First off, this documentary is not just about the President’s soft or humorous side as the predominant narrative, which was literarily validated by Adesina. The part highlighting Buhari’s capacity for humour is in fact one of the segments of the documentary which include his close allies’ opinions about his democratic credentials as well as what each of them thinks Nigerians should know about the President.
Vice President Yemi Osibanjo spoke about the President having come 360 degrees from his military past and his ability to delegate and trust people to deliver on tasks. Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State spoke about Buhari’s capacity for fairness, concern for the ordinary man and capacity to aggregate opinions and accommodate divergent views, just as Governor Nasir el-Rufai, Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, and others spoke about his vision for Nigeria, his discipline, patriotism, managerial ability and what have you. Adesina himself spoke about his principal’s outstanding capacity to pay attention to details while Shehu Garba spoke about his self-discipline. The President’s daughter, Halima, also spoke about her father’s frugality and the fact that he had made it clear to his children from very early that the only legacy he would bequeath to them would be good education!
You therefore wonder how the import of the documentary became minimised to addressing the President’s ability to crack memorable jokes.
Even then however, I opine that neither the “human side” of the President nor the assorted leadership capacities ventilated by those who work closely with him, is auspicious at this time when Nigerians are becoming disillusioned from incessant social upheavals and diminishing capacity to live with their dignity intact.
For instance, millions of Nigerians who elected Buhari on March 28, 2015 wanted more than this so-called human side. In fact, the persona that endeared him to the people was that of a stern, no- nonsense, cult-like figure poised to save the country from the debilitating effects of compromises that had gripped the soul of the nation.
Buhari was sold to Nigerians by his party and friends as a visioner who saw the need to expand the base of the Nigerian economy and was willing and capable of doing it. We were told of his exploits as a military general and how he would bring his experience to bear on the frightening level of insecurity in the country. We were told that Buhari would lead us into an era in which the Nigerian child would attend school without hassles and hope for a bright future, in which unemployment would gradually become a thing of the past; where access to quality and affordable health would be the order of day and in which Nigerians would be happy and have a sense of belonging anywhere they are.
In effect, it does not seem that Nigerians desired anything other than the impeccable character, unstained integrity, disposition to serve the people and defend the downtrodden from the unbridled selfish political and financial elites who conspire to rob society of its commonwealth, which Buhari has created since he came into public consciousness with his appointment as Military Governor of North Eastern State in 1975.
As a result, this documentary would have been a better cut had Adesina and his office, through it, provided us with the number of employment opportunities already created by the administration through its agricultural and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises interventions-,  facts that Adesina is just planning to collate at this time.
It would have served the interest of government and citizens better to have a better understanding of how the administration has enhanced the opportunities of Nigerian fathers to bequeath good education to their children like Buhari did Halima and her siblings; what has been done to improve the quality of and access to health care delivery;  initiatives geared towards expanding the nation’s economy and banishing poverty, hunger and lack as well as  how much Nigerians are inspired to love themselves and their country more in the past 21 months.
To my mind, failing to communicate the effectiveness of the administration for the reductionism that was aired this week is puerile and unhelpful. It only furthers the compliant ideologue and poor advisory that define governance in Nigeria and gives no hope that today is better than yesterday.

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