Why the phones no longer ring

I read with interest the article written by the former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity Dr. Reuben Abati titled “The phones no longer ring.” The article which generated mixed reactions was a reality of what becomes of a public office holder when he is out of office. As a matter of fact, the frustrations of a very prolific Abati that we used to read in The Guardian newspaper in those days to improve our writing prowess are well understood.

For an Abati, the phones will no longer ring like they used to, at least for now. As a matter of fact, the votes of Nigerians silenced the phones of his former boss from the moment the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Muhammadu Buhari winner of that memorable election.

Foremost, I have never been bothered about any ex- employee or appointee of former President Goodluck Jonathan because they have ‘Buhariphobia’ which is more than enough to cope with if found wanting and needing to make some ‘refunds’ to Nigeria.

However, I must say that I observed clearly an attempt by Abati to make his literary prowess a pedestal for which he needs to launch back into public space which he has hitherto missed during his sojourn to Aso Villa where his phones ranged for four years.

Of course, the truism that “he who pays the piper dictates the tune” cannot be left out of the situation the former spokesperson found himself. My reaction was orchestrated by my observation in what has become the personality of Abati in the last few years, even as he wrote his first article to regain back fans in his literary space.

The narration of Abati was a description of a service in a destabilised, defensive, disorganised and unwilling system. Think of this for a moment, from day one in office, Abati got a clear picture of what he was hired to do and was willing to play the card either for the glory of his esteemed office as a spokesperson for the then President and/or any additional reason(s) best known to Abati himself.

In reality, considering the cluelessness of the Jonathan government, all professionals hired to serve in that government were required to make up for the weakness of their boss which was lack of capacity to deliver on the designated tasks.

Even when out of office, Abati still referred to the then opposition All Progressives Congress as “desperate and hyper negative.” But today, the class Abati referred to as hyper negative elements are making clear difference to school him and his former principal how to run a government with adequate consideration to the feelings of everyone.

In Abati’s submission, I am worried that it is still not clear to him that one can speak for a government without recourse to insulting those with dissenting opinions about the policies of same government one works for. In most civilised world like America and Europe, spokespersons to the President or Prime Minister speak for the government but do not speak against the people as there is a clear cut difference between the two.

But it is obvious that because Abati is used to defence as conflicting strategies he has lived with for few years back, his very first article was premised on making an expose of the kind of pressure he went through in the hands of Nigerians begging for money or for favour. This is a sharp defence mechanism to attract pity and sway emotions on his side as a helpless former public office holder.

To Abati, a very friendly memoir of his account of office suitable for everyone’s consumption, possibly humorous, would have been a very good way to launch back to public space. Well, Abati has become used to verbal missile over the time. There is truly something missing in the public relation skill expected of an ex-spokesperson to the President of a country. The people win no matter how one looks at it.

Clearly, Abati is coping with the loneliness of his time, more so when the glamour of celebrating people who served with a bad government is gradually being detached from our system with on-going seriousness of the present government. I think that if not for ‘Buhariphobia,’ Abati would have bagged several post service awards of excellence weeks after he left office.

Simply, Abati missed those invitations for awards and accolades that would immediately follow his exit from public office.

And now, he should know the reasons why his phones are no longer ringing. The people are simply not interested in talking with him even if he is ready to do so.

Olulade is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Epe Constituency II

Copyright PUNCH.


ATIKU THE MASQUERADE! ...CAN'T HE JUST LEAVE APC ALONE TO FORM HIS NEW PDP?It’s time to move on, Atiku tells Tinubu, other APC leaders

A former Vice President and chieftain of APC, Atiku Abubakar, has urged leaders of the All Progressives Congress to shift from “extreme positions to a centrist one for the interest of democracy and the party, the new administration and the country at large”.

The former Vice President made the call Thursday against the backdrop of the APC NEC meeting in Abuja on Friday, 3 July.

A statement released by his media office in Abuja on Thursday, 2 July quoted the former Vice President as calling for the concentration of positive energies on building unity, cohesion and harmony among party leaders and other stakeholders.

“We can resolve our differences when our leaders individually and collectively shift ground from extreme positions and move to the centre in the interest of our party and our country.”…Read more here


BUHARI GOES FROM NIGERIA’S CHANGE CHAMPION TO ‘BABA GO SLOW’…BLOOMBERGNigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took office a month ago on a wave of hope that he would quickly deal with a deepening economic crisis and an Islamist insurgency in the north. So far, he hasn’t met those expectations.

While Africa’s biggest oil producer has been hit by a 40 percent fall in petroleum prices in the past year that has slowed economic growth and weakened the currency, Buhari, 72, has delayed naming a cabinet until September. As the momentum of being the first opposition candidate to win power at the ballot box fades, critics are mocking him as a sluggish elderly man, or “Baba Go Slow.”

Buhari has acknowledged the crisis, saying last month that his government is facing severe financial strain, with a Treasury that’s “virtually empty,” and his party is calling for patience. Yet his lack of urgency in tackling economic woes could leave Nigeria badly adrift, said John Ashbourne, an economist at Capital Economics in London.

“Every week that Nigeria goes without a cabinet increases the chance that it will face a dangerous shock — whether a revenue collapse or a currency crisis,” Ashbourne said by phone Tuesday. “Leaving the federation without a finance minister would be a questionable choice at the best of times; doing so during a period of economic instability is difficult to explain.”
Investor Displeasure

Nigeria’s currency, twice devalued in the past year in an attempt to cope with lower oil income, has weakened 7.7 percent against the dollar this year on the interbank market. The International Monetary Fund estimates that growth will slow to 4.8 percent this year from 6.1 percent in 2014. The naira was trading at 198.85 against the U.S. dollar at 2.38 p.m. in Lagos.

The Nigerian Stock Exchange Index hit its 2015 peak of 35,728.12 on April 2, the day after Buhari was declared the election winner. Since then it has fallen 8 percent.

The cabinet delay won’t please investors, said Alan Cameron, an economist at Exotix Partners LLP. They’re expecting tighter fiscal policy, a currency devaluation and a greater focus on tax collection after the drop in oil prices, he said.

“There was initially some hope that Buhari would be able to tackle these changes more quickly and with more credibility, but the time line has now been pushed back,” Cameron said by phone from London. “It’s going to be a difficult pill to swallow for foreign investors.”
Inertia Concern

The central bank has banned importers from using the foreign-exchange market to buy certain goods as it seeks to stabilize the naira and hold on to external reserves, which are down 16 percent this year to $29 billion.

“Even what little could have been achieved so far, such as the nomination of ministers, has not been addressed, and there is a sense of inertia,” Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, managing director of the Center for Public Policy Alternatives, a Lagos-based research group, said by phone Wednesday.

Buhari’s own party, the All Progressives Congress, has recognized the growing public disenchantment and pleaded for patience.

“Nigerians are right to demand even a faster pace. Nigerians are right to ask that a government be quickly put in place,” party spokesman Lai Mohammed told reporters at a June 30 press conference in Lagos, the commercial capital. “All we ask for is a little more patience, a little more understanding.”
Government Change

Buhari is facing a unique situation because his victory over the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, ended 16 years of rule by the Peoples Democratic Party, his spokesman Femi Adesina said.

“This is not a normal changeover, it is from one government to another,” he said.

Buhari, who previously governed Nigeria as military ruler in the 1980s, has moved more quickly in the fight against the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, which has waged a violent six-year campaign in the north.

He ordered the army to move its headquarters from Abuja, the capital, to the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the scene of some of the worst fighting, and has traveled to neighboring countries such as Chad and Niger to discuss cross-border military cooperation.

It’s the “one area in which the Buhari administration has hit the ground running,” Mohammed said.

Yet, while troops from Nigeria and Chad have largely dislodged Boko Haram from its self-declared caliphate in the northeast this year, the insurgents have stepped up hit-and-run attacks.
Corruption Fight

Buhari will also have to deal with shortcomings in his own army, which Amnesty International said last month should be investigated for war crimes, including unlawful killings.

In a step toward meeting his campaign promise to attack corruption that has crippled Nigeria for decades, Buhari disbanded the board of the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. The National Economic Council on Monday set up a four-member panel to probe its accounts.

Even some opposition lawmakers say Buhari needs more time.

“His approach may be different, but I am patient, I will give him some time,” Ben Murray-Bruce, a PDP senator, said in a June 29 interview in Abuja.

Where Buhari has come up short is communicating a sense of engagement to the public, said Gbadebo-Smith.

“He doesn’t say anything about anything,” he said. “The public would be satisfied with signals that say we are doing something about this, we are on top of this.”