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MAGNUS ONYIBE

Magnus Onyibe is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA and a former cabinet member of Delta state government. Since the return to multi-party democracy in Nigeria over 21 years ago, Onyibe has written and published over 200 opinion pieces on the Nigerian economy, business, politics, leadership, governance and foreign relations issues.

HAVING defined the brand Jonathan that he desires,he should go ahead and make it happen because neither the media nor the opposition will do it for him.

In reputation management,one of the biggest mistakes  is to allow a competitor or opponent define your product or principal for you.

So engaging in emotional outburst against the very nimble social media matadors who are the main butt of Abati’s ire, is begging the issue and the fact that President Jonathan, like Obama, is an avid user of Facebook,Twitter and Blackberry,makes the option of courting the social media supremos more compelling than carpeting them.

In the business of news gathering,bad news is good news, so the opposition,especially the Action Congress of Nigeria,  ACN’s, Lai  Mohamed, leaves no stone unturned in unleashing into the public arena negative information about Jonathan’s regime which is magnetised by media hounds, neglecting the good news which, to the newsman, is bad news because it does not sell the paper, radio or TV station.This is why in reputation management,there is the Pull and Push principle.While negative news has a propelling tendency for gravitating into the media,the positive has to be pushed.Put succinctly,concerted efforts must be made by image/brand managers,in this case,Mr President’s handlers to prepare media releases about all the good things coming out of Aso Rock and beyond and push same into the media,possibly everyday because extra ordinary situations demand extra ordinary measures.Crying wolf, which Abati’s article and Mr President’s alleged comments appear to be, would only further alienate those that should be Aso Rock allies.

Admittedly,l have been in Abati’s position in the past so l can understand his pains.Privileged to package for the media,the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as presidential candidate of the PDP in 2007 and serving as his returning officer during the PDP primaries that produced him as presidential candidate and Dr Jonathan as his running mate at that time, l was pained when the Yar’Adua l knew was being portrayed in the media as a weakling and incompetent, similar to the image of President Jonathan his traducers would want the public to believe.

As a counter-measure to the allegation that he did not have an economic blueprint, l wrote an article “Understanding Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point Agenda”, which was published  on the back page of Thisday Newspaper by the then editor, Simon Kolawole and subsequently adopted by government as the cardinal programme of the administration(although without workshopping it). Similar articles chronicling that administration’s achievements followed, although seemingly unsolicited because my good friend, Segun Adeniyi, was his spokesman at that time.As it turned out, Yar’Adua proved to skeptics that he was quite the opposite of a weakling because it was he who had the bold initiative of spanking rights agitators in the Niger Delta to avoid further haemorrhage of the nation’s oil/gas resources and like a wise father swiftly cuddling them by granting amnesty to those who opted to surrender their weapons, thus pulling Nigeria back from the brinks of economic collapse.It takes a bold leader to relieve cabinet members of their jobs when they are found wanting as Yar’Adua did when he fired the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation,SGF, just as PresidentJonathan recently edged out of his cabinet, the National Security Adviser,NSA, as well as Defence, Transport, lnterior and now Power ministers for perceived inability to deliver on their mandate or for infractions.

Perhaps to prove that President
Jonathan is fully on the driver’s seat of his administration,a media chat through live interactive television show was hosted but not a few people considered it a poor outing essentially because of the gaffe of Mr President when he allegedly said, “l don’t give a damn” while trying to defend his desire not to declare his assets because it is not a constitutional requirement.That media gaffe was avoidable through the process called ‘mock’ interview and ‘filtration’?This simply means that President Jonathan could have faced a panel of in-house journalists with a barrage  of likely questions to be asked and his response evaluated and amended or modified before the actual live television show.

Nevertheless, President Jonathan’s recent ex-tempore comments at the Nigerian Bar Association,NBA, conference has greatly modified his public persona as his informed analysis of the vexed issue of state police and Boko Haram imbroglio through balanced understanding of the protagonists and antagonists, go a long way in demonstrating that Nigeria’s policies are subjected to critical thinking.

Perhaps, Abati would take solace in the fact that other Nigerian leaders are still being lampooned several years after they left office.For instance, it is generally believed, rightly or wrongly, that the regimes of Shehu Shagari,Muhamadu Buhari and lbrahim Babangida accumulated the debt that the nation is still grappling with.

Sani Abacha re-ignited the rights agitation issues in the Niger Delta via the extra-judicial killing of the famous Ogoni Nine, just as OBJ exacerbated the situation when he tried to suppress the consequential resource control struggle by ambushing and incarcerating leaders of the struggle.

But he also leveraged on Okonjo-lweala’s global financial contacts and secured debt write-off for Nigeria and Yar-Adua restored stability in the Niger Delta for improved crude oil/gas production and sale via the amnesty  he granted ex-militants and in the process inadvertently stoked poverty rights activism in the north masquerading as religious terrorism a.k.a boko haram which was inherited by Jonathan along with $45 billion dollars in external reserve and $ 25 billion in excess crude account,epileptic power supply plus decaying infrastructure.

Can President Jonathan leave a legacy not as blighted as his predecessors?He has been on the saddle barely one year,so there is still ample opportunity and many good reasons to celebrate if he is able to raise electricity power generation and distribution to 10,000 from the 2.8 mega watts where it was about a year ago, revamp decaying infrastructure i.e. roads,airports, railways, schools,hospitals, housing,and improve the dismal level of infant- maternal mortality rate as well as create employment through resuscitation of agriculture sector and industries . Albeit with cautious optimism,there are indications that president Jonathan may well be on his way to accomplishing the aforementioned lofty goals going by the preparatory progress because farming is receiving huge boost,power supply is ramping up to about 4.6 mega watts,airports are being revamped ,railway lines are being reactivated and value for money policies are being pursued by finance ministry and related agencies via probes into the fraud fraught pension funds administration and oil subsidy payment procedures.If these missions and visions of government are driven with more vigour,president Jonathan’s promise that he would be the most praised president at the end of his tenure during the opening of ceremony of Nigeria Bar Association,NBA conference recently in Abuja ,may be plausible.We must all also thumps up for president Jonathan for going out of his comfort zone to appoint people like Athiru Jega,an academic activist and Rueben Abati his known media critic into office which is a testimony to the fact that he is not a captive leader that appoints only his acolytes to office as Abati tried to refute in his article which is more or less an Ode to MrPresident.

It now behoves of Rueben Abati,a literary giant and man of uncommon patriotic  zeal(reflected in how well he fitted into Pat Utomi’s role in the defunct tv show,Patito’s Gang) to push all these interim  accomplishments  into the public arena thereby ensuring he has less grey hairs to remove from from president Jonathan’s head.

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