President Goodluck Jonathan was in Yola last Tuesday to commission the Air Force Comprehensive Secondary School.
Before the visit was over, new presidential controversies were ignited. The first concerned accredited journalists who were threatened with bodily harm, and molested and thrown out of the venue.
Stunned that the reporters were questioning an instruction to leave, presidential aide, Emmanuel C. Anita, unimpressed by the clutch of reporters, explained it to them: “You people are simply not invited for this occasion; do you want me to call my men to beat you up?”
That was inside.
Outside, the streets of the Adamawa State capital went dead: businesses and streets closed by a government terrified for itself by the Boko Haram menace. Businesses and neighborhoods, uncertain as to whether the militants or the government was the bigger menace, went on an imposed closure.
Earlier, a spokesman for the 23rd Brigade based in Yola, had announced that all of the city’s major roads would be closed as long as Jonathan’s very important feet were on the ground. By one published account, things got so bad that market women protested half-naked on Mohammed Mustafa Way, condemning the President for squandering public funds to inflict further economic hardship on Yola.
“I’m shocked by this kind of attitude by the soldiers,” one woman told reporters as they challenged Jonathan to resign if he did not trust those who voted him into power. “They cannot fight Boko Haram; it is us harmless civilians that have become their target. They should face Boko Haram and leave us alone to continue with our suffering that the PDP government is inflicting on Nigerians.”
Said another, “Even during the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s dark days there was nothing like this, but in a democratic government our President we laboured for to win an election is today denying us our daily bread.”
But Mr. Jonathan had very important things to say as he commissioned an institution for 50 students, and the soldiers simply wanted to make sure he was interrupted neither by pesky journalists nor by hungry citizens.
Worse was to follow as Mr. Jonathan suggested he had relieved top military service chiefs of their responsibilities recently because of unnecessary rivalry between them.
“I urge you to cooperate, but sometimes you hear of unhealthy rivalry amongst service chiefs and personnel,” AllAfrica.com quoted him as telling members of the armed forces at the occasion. “This will no longer be tolerated, as any unnecessary competition that will not bring progression to this country, so I charge you to work together.”
Daily Trust quoted him as saying. “I urge you to cooperate, sometimes in the recent past you hear of some kind rival competition among service chiefs, or security personnel, but this time around we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition, that will lead to friction in this country.”
According to Vanguard, President Jonathan said he sacked the immediate past service chiefs because of unhealthy competition which made it possible for Boko Haram insurgents to attack the Air Force operational base in Maiduguri…[that] the terrorists destroyed fighter aircraft during the attack and went scot free because of the rivalry between the former service chiefs.
“I urge you all to cooperate because in recent times some mutual cooperation among the service chiefs and personnel have been lacking. This time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that would be retrogressive to this country. We charge you to work together and I believe that we would no longer experience any unpleasant situation we had in the past because of some obvious lapses.”
According to The Guardian, Jonathan warned that the rivalry among the services would no longer be tolerated, and that the insurgency would be better tackled with synergy among the service chiefs. “I urge you all to cooperate…there has been some mutual competition among the service chiefs and personnel, this time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition…We charge you to work together… and believe that we would no longer experience any unpleasant situation we had in the past because of some obvious lapses.”
According to the Nigerian Tribune, President Jonathan said, “…This time round, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that will bring retrogression to the country…We charge you to work together because our country is exposed to cancer and I told the former chief of defence staff when I came back from a meeting in France, that was the time they attacked our five helicopters and a journalist asked me, ‘Mr President is it not shameful?’ And I asked him, If you were me, how would you have felt? And I believed we will no longer experience that kind of situation. That happened because of some obvious lapses.”
According to the Daily Sun, the President disclosed that …unnecessary rivalry among security agencies in the country and security lapses contributed to the successful attacks carried out on five helicopters by the terrorists…He warned the newly appointed service chiefs against embarking on unnecessary competition among themselves, urging them to work together and complement each other in the interest of the nation.
Those accounts of Mr. Jonathan’s visit were followed on Thursday by a robust rebuttal by his spokesman, Reuben Abati, who dismissed them as “untrue and misleading.”
He carpeted “sections of the media” for mischief and reckless sensationalism, saying they had deliberately chosen to misrepresent the President’s innocuous and clear call for greater synergy and inter-service cooperation in the war against terrorism.
According to him, President Jonathan did not in Yola say the former chiefs were guilty of undue rivalry or that such unhealthy rivalry was responsible for recent security breaches in Adamawa and other parts of the country.
“As Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief Security Officer of the Federation, President Jonathan is fully aware of the importance and sensitivity of all defence and security-related matters,” Abati defended. “If he had any reprimand or admonition for the former service chiefs, which he does not, he would not have cavalierly given it at a public function as the media falsely reported.”
The man fights the wrong war. It is a shame that in a democracy, his professional constituency is sadly disrespected by ordinary soldiers in a public event despite his presence at the scene of the crime but his only comment is to continue the normal regime of denials following another Jonathan gaffe. Evidently, the presidency’s communication strategy, if there were ever one, has collapsed.
What is worse is the incoherence in the government. In Yola, it seems Mr. Jonathan again struggled through some impromptu remarks. In the absence of a written speech, an experienced information manager ought to provide a quick and official readout of his principal’s remarks. The reporter is not bound to use it, especially where he has his own professional record, but then there are always journalists who were not there, or who may closer friends with the government.
Finally, there is also something that some public speakers overlook: You do not have to be an orator to be an effective speaker.
But you have to know your subject, and to stick to your comfort zone or prepared material. Jonathan’s nightmare is that he often lacks command of his subject, leaving the listener with dangerous errors and ambiguity. Then the doctor blames the patient for the wrong prescription he provided.
- Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.