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Nigeria: Tackle issues with common sense

By Yinka Odunmakin
NIGERIAN leaders are not known for telling the truth but sometimes the truth spills out of their mouths and they find it difficult to take it back. And since they are not gifted to give quotable quotes, such slips become their immortal words.

So it was in 1973 when General Yakubu Gowon at a time Nigeria was suffused with petrol dollars said that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it.That statement remains the most memorable quote of the General till date. In the year 2005, he tried to explain the context in which he made the comments claiming it was in a manner of speaking.

However, that honest comment captures our affliction as a country. Our squandering pattern over the years are more than convincing that money has never been our problem but the sanctified common sense to make good use of money.

Yakubu Gowon

I was with Oonirisa sometimes ago and some young men came to seek his support for a project. After their presentation, Oba Ogunwusi told the group to go and rework their proposal because what they needed most was the right ideas and that money should be the last of their consideration.

Compelling  narration

He told the story of his billion naira Inegbe Resort and all he had when he started. He told of how he deployed the power of ideas to start and complete what he did not have the cash to face. His compelling narration further reinforced my position that Nigeria would make no progress even if it were to have a hundred times of what we currently earn from commodities.

Our problem has never been cash but the financial sense to deploy the money. The point I made above reminds one of the sermon preached by Most Rev. Abiodun Adetiloye at the funeral service of Chief Michael Adekunle Ajaisin in Owo in 1997. For the younger folks reading, Ajasin was the Leader of National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, who wrestled with the military over the annulment of June 12,1993 annulled elections won by Bashorun MKO Abiola. He was governor of old Ondo State in the Second Republic and his testimony was that he left government with the same number of agbada he came in with. He also took two cars to government and came out with 1 and 1/2 as one became unserviceable!

His funeral took place under the tyranny of Abacha and the service was highly militarised because his deputy, Gen. Oladipo Diya was in the service. I saw the same Diya trying to find his way into a church service the other day like any other person and I shook my head reflecting on how those who occupy public office behave as though they would be in power for ever.

The militarised atmosphere at Ajasin’s funeral did not stop Adetiloye  from speaking the truth. He gave an allegory about what happened the day God was creating different countries of the world. He would create this country and give them one or two mineral deposits and call the next. This went on until it was the turn of Nigeria and he started throwing in all mineral deposits in there. It got to a point that all other countries rose in protest that God was being partial towards Nigeria. The Almighty told them to calm down and said: “Why don’t you wait and see the leaders I will give them before you start your protest”.

Since the end of creation all the countries that participated in that “we no go gree” have annually been sending emissaries to God to apologise for their error every time they see what Nigerian leaders have made of our plentious resources.

The latest team went to say “we are sorry again” when the Nigerian government could not find any profitable thing to do with N72b than to share it to one million Almajiris (yes, it takes an Almajiri to go and queue for N5000 monthly!) across Nigeria. The Human Development Report shows that over 80m  Nigerians live below two dollars a day poverty benchmark. Only the government that cannot count correctly how many Nigerians are knows how it would determine the poorest of these poor that would benefit from this N5000 a month which can only fill a 12.5 kg of gas cooker in Nigeria of today.

Yet, by the time we share N5000 to one million people in 12 months we would have flushed N72b down the drain and our government would count this as one of its success stories at the end of the year. What would any of those countries God gave common sense and less resources have done with N72b? They would call for SMEs to come forward with proposals for funding to the tune of of N10m per project. At the end of screening, they would have picked 200 proposals from each of the 36 states to share (I hate that word!) or benefit from the N72bn. Imagine what 200 enterprises would do to the economy of each state even at 50 per cent success rate. Each successful enterprise could generate at the minimum ten new 10 jobs.

Unfortunately, Nigeria was not around the day God distributed common sense!

Analytic Review of PMB 2017 New Year Message by  Ayokunle Fagbemi

AN analytic review of the 2017 Presidential Message must be done objectively by applying theoretical construct to reflect upon it vis-à-vis empirical reality, legal and policy frameworks.

From our perspective, the most applicable approach is by adopting the Speech Act Theory introduced by John L. Austin (1962, 1975) and revised by various scholars over the years including John R. Searle (1962, 1975, 1979 and 1999).

If analysts, the media and Nigerians, dispassionately do this objectively, the Presidential Message for 2017 remains an interesting academic exercise, which reflects the nature and character of the operational Governance Information Management System, GIMS .

Nature and character of GIMS: The operational GIMS indicate that the system remains predominantly “campaign and legitimacy seeking” at about 68 per cent and “governance service delivery and information sharing” at about 32 per cent.

Connecting with the audience: We acknowledge the attempt in the salutations to move into forging positive relations with the citizenry by adopting the phrase “My Dear Compatriots” as opposed to the formal use of “Fellow Citizens” used in 2016. Unfortunately, however, the remaining contents of the message appear to have exhibited some  disconnect with the salutations for multi-sectoral appeal and reaching out. This is notwithstanding the constant use of the phrases of willingness reinforced with the “I urge”, “Continue to appeal” and “I assure” in the message Comparison of Illocutionary Statements of PMB New Year Messages

Furthermore, comparing the 2016 with the 2017 Presidential Message indicates that the messages contain “illocutionary” force statements:

Variable on Style an d Reflective Rendition  % Score of 2017 New Year Message

Creativity and Innovativeness 40%
Positive Narrative Rendition of Issues Mentioned 60%
Reflection of Empirical Reality 40%
Consistent Historical Rendition 40%
Comprehension of Legal Frameworks 20%
Understanding of Policy Frameworks 20%
Appeal to Multi-Sectoral and Multi-stakeholders 20%

Class of Illocutionary Acts 2016 / 2017 Differential
Assertive 30% 10% -20%
Directive 12% 30% +18%
Commissive 28% 36% +8%
Expressive 22% 24% +2%
Declarations 8% 0% -8%

Analysing Public Perception and Feedback

I DO hope that the Presidential Speech Writing Team and those involved in the GIMS of this administration are sincerely and objectively monitoring, tracking and analysing the expressed public perception and reactions to the Presidential Message. This is because of the need to make future Presidential speeches, addresses and messages to reflect empirical realities, a fair comprehension of existing legal frameworks and an effective understanding of the extant policy frameworks. In real terms, the scores against some key variables indicate:

Thereby explaining the seeming negative perceptions associated with the Presidential Message in social media commentaries, public analyses and attempts by public officers to reconstruct the contents of the message on “Security” and “Economy” for positive reconnection with the people.

On Security, the expressed negative perception revolves around the seeming silence on the very homicidal killing of Nigerians that have continued to occur in the North Central, South East and emphatically in Southern Kaduna State. The narratives of some commentaries indicate element of the perception that the homicidal killings appear ethnoreligious cleansing in nature and smacks elements of deliberate displacement for land grabbing and occupation by extraneous elements.

Extraneous  elements

With regards to the Economy, the summation of the perceptions in public domain indicates that the people feel the President was made to reflect only on “macroeconomic indicators” devoid of microeconomic concerns that are people oriented and expressive of sensitive considerations for individual Nigerians majority of whom are adversely affected by the officially declared economic recession.

Broom analogy: The decision and choice of using the “Broom analogy” appears a patriotic APC act. Painfully, in our view, within the context of many analogies and deep cultural African myths, parables and injunctions attached to the broom, it is seemingly, not a well thought out analogy to use! This is because the myths and parables surrounding the broom take cognizance of the growing of the palm tree, the harvesting of the palm fronds, and the making of brooms by stripping the palm fronds of the green leaves to have the broomsticks tied together into a broom and the functionality and disposal of brooms.

Since the intention, as indicated in the message is for the continued unity and consolidation on the gains of the existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria then a reconsideration of the analogy should have occurred at the level of Speech/Message Technical Quality Control Check. This would have allowed for the required clarifications and explicit messaging required.

The Presidency may require gathering the perception data on the message, analyze and make inferences from the observed trend and emerging patterns of discussions to ensure that GIMS becomes more governance service delivery and positive information sharing in orientation.

Issues of concern and note

  • Envisaged clampdown on the media, analysts and political actors who discuss national issues.
  • Inclusive anti-corruption drive.
  • Increased surveillance on political actors, public comments and media publications.
  • Concerted efforts at economic recovery, improved employment, citizenry empowerment and self-reliance.
  • Ayokunle FAGBEMI is executive director of CePSERD



Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.