Nigeria’s Presidency and the opposition political parties, notably, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) look set for the throwing of tantrums, in the manner of garage-like brawl at regular intervals. They look set to put all forms of dignity, in the process, into the garbage basket.
The Presidency, in particular, appears to have, with time, cut a unique picture of an institution that would brook no criticism or sarcastic comments from anybody, much less the opposition parties and their representatives. It looks ready to return fire for whoever dares it.
As a matter of fact, this attitude began to manifest right from the time Dr. Goodluck Jonathan rose to the position of Presidency, at which time Ima Niboro was his chief spokesman.
In short, the clear picture that has emerged over time, appears to have been ensconced in an African proverb that says: “if a madman tears your clothe in an open market, don’t let him go away without tearing his rag.”
The idea is that by the time you tear his rag, the madman would then know how it feels being naked, with the cold and wind playing deadly game on his body.
It is within this context that the Presidency is obviously operating, taking every criticism in its own stride: not allowing a criticism to pass without hitting back at the critic, at worse and defending itself, at best.
As a matter of fact, for some time now, hardly any week passes without Dr. Reuben Abati, the words-smith and fire-spitting Presidential spokesman being put to task to respond to, in particular, the outburst of the spokesman of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who, admittedly, has become a thorn in the flesh of the Presidency.
The Sunday cross-firing of bitter words between the Presidency via Dr. Abati and ACN, via Lai with the spokesman of the opposition Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Rotimi Fashakin in tow, certainly speaks volume about the kind of Presidency and the opposition Nigeria is being saddled with.
Reacting to Lai Mohammed’s obvious vituperation that President Goodluck Jonathan administration is becoming a despot, Dr. Reuben Abati, speaking for the Presidency, likened it to standing the truth on its head and indulging in the politics of abuse.
Abati insisted that ACN and its agents should not be allowed to get away with what he called “their perfidy,” adding that President Jonathan is a democratically elected leader who is running a people-oriented, inclusive and progressive government.
Dr. Abati asked: “does Lai Mohammed know the meaning of the word, despotism, or is he just throwing the word around for onomatopoetic effect?” without providing an answering the question, he thundered: “the paradox is that those who do not allow freedom and equality in their own party or backyard, those who are well known as self-proclaimed Godfathers and closet despots, are the same ones who are now quick to accuse others of despotism.”
The ACN, he said, should start by removing the log in its eyes, insisting that President Jonathan is not a despot but that “ACN is the real abode of budding despots in Nigeria.”
The Presidential spokesman did not fail to react to the ACN’s allegation that there is a disagreement between the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi and President Jonathan, saying: “Governor Amaechi has publicly stated that this particular allegation is a piece of fiction created by certain persons and the media. We insist that President Jonathan is not engaged in any quarrel or dispute with Governor Amaechi. “And it is wrong to use the matter of the aircraft that was grounded by the aviation authorities to concoct stories of persecution.
“The institutions involved have offered reasons publicly why they took their decision with regard to the unlicensed aircraft, which in any case is an asset of the state, not the Governor’s personal property. The President has nothing to do with that incident.
“The ACN claims that there is “a growing propensity to stifle the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
“The report by the Committee to Protect Journalists which the ACN quotes is not a comment on government-media relations in Nigeria. “This administration sees the media as a strategic partner in the business of nation-building. The government not only enjoys a robust relationship with the media, it continues to encourage the freedom of expression and of the press.
“Lai Mohammed tries to substantiate his dubious claim by seeking to build something on nothing. He tries in vain. The truth is that the Nigerian media is pluralistic, vibrant, independent and free; it has grown in scope, size and in terms of the freedom to practise under this administration.
“All lovers of democracy must join us in reminding the ACN and its spokespersons that they cannot pull down this house with mere spittle because our democracy is strong and solid and the man at the helm of affairs is a democrat and a progressive leader.”
Dr. Abati also on behalf of the Presidency lashed at the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) for daring to accuse President Jonathan of not being proactive on the Baga massacre, saying that it has become part of the CPC and its spokesperson to play to the gallery even when the occasion calls for maturity and sobriety.
“The problem with them is that they consider everything “very unacceptable” and in particular everything relating to President Jonathan. They deserve our sympathy.”
With the way things are going on between the Presidency and the operatives of the opposition parties, Nigeria may be heading to a new era of absurdity in governance: a situation where governance is reduced to blowing of grammar and reasoning above the heads of ordinary Nigerians at slightest provocation.
As a matter of fact, one would not be surprised if one wakes up one day to hear Alhaji Lai alleging that President Jonathan once a woman who delivered a baby boy, and the Presidency rising to react that President Jonathan had always been a man, with attempt to prove such assertion by producing all the pictures he had taken from his young days. Or Alhaji Lai alleging that President Jonathan has only one eye and Dt. Abati rising to occasion to say it is not true.
At such point, it would become difficult for Nigerians to understand what type of leader they have, for as another saying goes: “one may not be able to differentiate the madman from the healthy man if the two engage in a fight in an open market.”
In the hectic business of governance, one wonders where a leader would get all the time to be responding to every bit of comment coming from person or people that are virtually idle.