By Dele Sobowale
“You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.” L.Howe, 1871-1936.
Phil Graham, late Publisher of the Washington Post, who committed suicide by shooting himself, once described journalism as “the first draft of history”. I am neither a journalist nor historian but it is my hope that some time in the future, historians, if history which Obasanjo banished from our schools is restored, will read this. It will reveal to them how miraculous it was that after the 2014-2015 political upheavals there was a country called Nigeria left for them to call their own. It was all well and good for General Buhari in 1983, as the military Head of State to state that: “This is the only country we have”. Most Nigerians, in 2014, are apprehensive, more than at any other time that good old Chinua Achebe might have left a curse with the title of his last and extremely controversial book – THERE WAS A COUNTRY. In 2014, everything which could lead a fragile federation to disintegrate is happening without any countervailing forces to reassure the citizenry that all will be well.
Elsewhere, the near emergence of two large political parties would have provided relief that after years of operating with one very dominant political party, operating with impunity, we are, at last, on the verge of having a strong opposition capable of offering real competition to the ruling party and giving hope that all the wrongs of the past would be righted. That the “new brooms” would sweep the Augean stable clean once it starts work. Unfortunately, those brooms are now looking suspiciously like something the witches left behind after a night party. It is already giving thoughtful people nightmares – never mind what their mouth organs in the print media tell you.
To start with, the APC, to me does not even begin to approximate a political party in the right sense of the word. At best, it is a collection of desperadoes hell-bent on seizing power at the centre at all costs and not because they have placed before the people of Nigeria their blueprint for governance at the federal level. The puerile point being made that Fashola, Oshiomhole, Fayemi etc have performed well and won accolades leaves out the fact the Akpabio, Babangida, Uduaghan and Amaechi (when he was PDP governor) also won awards as “BEST GOVERNORS”. However, the most important reason why APC cannot now be regarded as a political party rests in the fact that it has not yet met the acid test which late President Dwight Eisenhower, 1890-1969, established, namely, that, “a political party deserves the approbation of [the people] only as it represents the ideals, the aspirations and hopes of [the people]. If it is anything else, it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.”
Two examples will illustrate the point regarding the hopes and aspirations of people. In the entire Southern part of Nigeria, as well as most parts of the North, alcohol is openly sold and consumed – as a part of the freedom Nigerians are entitled to enjoy. In Kano Stae a state police had been in operation for years empowered to arrest transporters, distributors and to destroy the consignments they seize and courts have been established to jail “offenders”. Kano State Governor as well as the Lagos State Governor belong to APC. Which of these two governments represents the “ideals, aspirations and hopes” which the APC is out to promote if voted into power?
Similarly, in Zamfara State, unmarried young women were recently forced to marry, albeit, with the government footing the bill. But, the coercion was there; it was not an act of free will. In Imo State, the Governor would never contemplate it; his action will be resisted by everybody including members of his own APC. Again, which of these represents the “ideals, etc” of the party?
Anyone asking the leaders of APC or their spokesman or their media fellow travelers to tell the truth on this issue might as well ask someone from my village to speak Chinese – it is alien to them. But, the truth is; what is being offered, for subscription, as APC, is not a finished product; like some buildings, under construction, based on faulty foundations, is already threatening to collapse. Look at Ogun State and tremble !!
PDP is rapidly chugging along like a ship of fools in search of an iceberg on which its wreckage would be blamed. Since 1999, it had gone through about nine National Chairmen; the last one left last week. Another “sufferhead” will follow, gladly. The PDP apparently can never exhaust the pool of unarmed gladiators willing to be sent into the arena against the ever-present political lions ready to consume them. If the new “Suicide-Chairman” is lucky, he will be there by Christmas. A party, which in the last fifteen years had demonstrated that it cannot govern itself, wants to continue to rule Nigerians. As one of my American friends asked me on the phone last week, “Are you Nigerians stupid, or something?” Yet, if you ask any of those on both sides, you will come away with the impression that they are on a rescue mission – to save Nigeria. Totally hilarious; if not tragic.
JONATHAN MEN’S CONFESSION OF FAILURE 1
“The media as we know it in Nigeria is heavily in the hands of the opposition. Whatever the President says, they twist it.” Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity. PUUNCH, January 6, 2014, p. 5.
Abati also said a lot of things in an interview on Sahara TV, which will be left untouched for now.
A few weeks before that, the Minister of Information had announced, as if it was a victory, that “we are used to media criticisms”. He said nothing about trying to correct them or to help the President cultivate a better image by actually working to change the perception of government prevalent in the media. Yet, in my own view, that is the primary responsibility of those appointed by any president to work in his government. Because my longest experience was in brand marketing, let me draw from my own personal experience.
I was in the pharmaceutical industry from my first sales job in Boston in 1968 till 1980 in Nigeria. Then, I was appointed Marketing Manager for North Brewery, Kano. For someone who had sold the best multinational brands, widely accepted and respected, DOUBLE CROWN lager beer was shock. In Lagos, I had been drinking GULDER or STAR, both excellent brands. Suddenly, on my first day on the job, I was given my new brand which tasted awful. Later, I went to meet some distributors who advised we should improve on the beer. So, next day, I went to see the Managing Director on appointment. I told him that STAR and GULDER dominated the Kano market because they had a better beer. He looked up and said: “Mr Sobowale, that was why we hired you and are paying you the highest salary for a Marketing Manager in the industry. Go and turn the market around for us or go home”. I did not go home. I went to distribution channels “war” with the competitors and I finally left the brewery in 1988.
President Jonathan’s people have abandoned the media to their opponents and the President is getting pushed around everywhere. It is not fair. Whether Jonathan is re-elected in 2015 or not, the country still needs a fair contest. To me that means that Jonathan should receive fair hearing in the media on every issue. But, that equitable treatment will not be achieved automatically.
Let me return to my brand experience. STAR, GULDER and HARP did me no favours; they did not relinquish their market shares to us without a fight – a brutal war, as a matter of fact. But, by 1983, an independent research had established that DOUBLE CROWN was the largest selling lager in the Northern states. By then, the production had increased from 230,000 crates per day to one million per day. The market, which in 1980 was not absorbing 230,000 was requesting for more when four times was offered.
Let the President, his men/women and friends know today; the problem is not the media. They constitute the problem for the brand called “Mr President”.