14 Jan 2015

Jonathan Can Do Without These Blunders - by Uche Igwe

Since the Peoples Democratic Party started its campaign for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan last week, the President has been committing one blunder after another thereby raising the suspicion that he is unwittingly deepening his popularity deficit.

To me, the first blunder is the appointment of a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, as the spokesperson for his campaign outfit. For the President to have chosen such a controversial person for such a role says a lot about the kind of campaign he has in mind. If the President must do his friend some favours, are there no other ways of doing so rather than appointing him to such a sensitive position?

The second related blunder is that the President seems to have a faulty communications strategy. His recent speeches have been less presidential, full of outbursts, personal attacks, outright pettiness and other forms of adversarial communication unbecoming of an incumbent. Is it not odd that he attempted to quantify and justify the amount of money that a former Governor of the old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, was alleged to have “stolen” before he was jailed by Buhari in his time as a military Head of State? Besides, the President should have no business, for instance, with coming as low as to accusing his opponent of not remembering his phone number. His reference to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and its leader, Henry Okah, was unnecessary and even damaging to him. Many Nigerians are aware that he had defended that same group publicly in the past and so seeing him turn round to castigate it makes him come across as unsteady and shifty. That is an avoidable negative impression that will not help at this time.

The third blunder is that he, like his APC counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, has yet to start an issue-based campaign. This is a lost opportunity for an incumbent that should potentially work to his advantage. The President has not made clear and eloquent references to his achievements in the last four years neither has he told Nigerians what to expect in the future or how long they will wait for the resources and efforts invested to bear clear fruits. Instead, he has spent little time so far on the key pillars of his transformation agenda and the extent his administration has gone in implementing them. The President made several promises to Nigerians in 2011. What he ought to be doing now is telling us how far he delivered on those promises. That should be part of his key message to every geopolitical zone. He could easily have apologised on the areas where he has not delivered much. We also expect that he should tell us if he is having any challenges and how long it will take for such challenges to be overcome.

In particular, what has he done with the power sector? What has he done in the agricultural sector? How did he manage the economy? How does he plan to seek additional revenue to fund budgetary provisions and diversify the economy amidst progressive oil price slump? How many jobs has his government created in the past four years and how does it plan to create more? How many kilometres of roads has he constructed? How did he fight or not fight corruption? When will the East-West Road be completed? Why is the Petroleum Industry Bill still stalled? What is his foreign policy thrust and how did it fare in four years? If he fails to do these as it is now the case, how can he face us – the same people and begin to make fresh promises? How does he expect anyone to believe him?

The fourth blunder discernible from the President’s campaign so far is the way he is handling the issue of the insurgency in the North-East. That is one of the zones that the President is allegedly most disliked and one wonders why he is not doing much to remedy the negative perception about him in the area. In the last few days, there has been the reported killing of, according to military authorities, 150 people, in Baga, Borno State and about 40 persons in Geidam in Yobe State. The President has yet to publicly commiserate with the families of the victims of those attacks the same way he did with the French government over the killing of 17 persons in a terror attack in Paris last week. The President should have even visited these areas both to encourage the citizens that have been under attacks for some years now and to motivate the soldiers in the battlefield. How come that President Jonathan has not and still does not see anything wrong in that? Will the President scale up the battle against the insurgents and is there a clear road map to end the conflict? My question thus is whether the President will eventually visit that zone to campaign for votes. I will await what sort of speech he will deliver there or the explanations he will offer for such level of palpable dereliction of duty.

The Victim Support Fund established by the government and the efforts made or not made to support millions of the Internally Displaced Persons currently in camps in some parts across the country is another campaign issue yet untouched so far by the PDP government. A place like Baga which is one of the largest fish markets in West Africa has now been deserted. The same with Geidam, one of the largest cattle markets in Nigeria, where a whole market was burnt down. These potential voters are right to look up to their government for support.

Apparently, the President is under some pressure because of the dwindling support base of his party. But, his performance on the campaign trail is making it look very obvious and laughable, always looking visibly angry and even jittery, especially at the Lagos leg. He is apparently fixated on what his opponent is saying rather than offer a clear road map of where he is coming from and going to as a leader. That is critical for him to convince Nigerians that he has the capacity to continue to lead us. His lieutenants need to come to his rescue urgently. The inroads of the opposition party are clearly unsettling the most powerful Nigerian. He appears to be looking for any straw to hold unto to get the sympathy of citizens. As an incumbent President, Nigerians are expecting a less adversarial and more issue-based communication from Jonathan. That is not yet happening. What has he done in the last four years? We need facts and figures and not ambiguities. The President should be told that the 2015 election will be a different one from the 2011. The kind of strategy he used to get sympathy votes in 2011 will obviously not work this time round. He and his team should try something else and quickly too.

However, I wonder if the next 30 days will be enough for the President and his party to review his strategy and remedy his style before it is too late.

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