When it comes to public opinion, it is important to understand that silence does not change the mind of the majority of people. History has been created by events not idleness, by noise not silence; that is why the press has been a critical component of creating and maintaining narratives in the minds of its public. There are very many ways to allow an accusation made in public to cement its place in the minds of people, but the greatest of them all is to keep quiet. Quiet in this sentence refers to saying nothing and doing nothing.
In June this year, I was in a taxi in Lagos, during which I discussed with the driver about his perception of the state of affairs in Nigeria at that time. His opinion was that President Jonathan is the best president Nigeria in Nigeria's history. I asked him what evidence he had to back up his assertion and he told me that the president does a lot of great things but the newspapers controlled by the southwest refuse to shed light on these and as such the masses are not shown his many good works. I asked him what has he seen to convince him of this, what informs his opinion? He talked about the Edo state elections and the president allowing the people's will to prevail instead of muzzling their will with force. I asked for more examples but he wasn't willing to provide any other, he just believed that the President was good and was being attacked by wicked people.
Having said all that, what I gleaned from the conversation were the following: No one can give you credit for what they do not know you have done right but everyone can blame you for what someone else says you have done wrong. It is all about opinion and whether you or I like it or not, it matters and significantly influences public response.
Coming back to what will be the crux of this article, I will try to take a look at all the allegations made by different parties against the President and how his media advisers should have dealt with them if indeed they had no substance.
Allegation 1: 2015 election interest/Terms
Response: The president certainly has the constitutional right to seek the office in an election for a maximum of two terms. Having been elected once, he is indeed eligible to seek re-election if he so wishes; however the president is sensitive to the yearnings of Nigerians as well as the advice from the National Security Council hence will not take any decision capable of damaging the unity and interests of this country.
Allegation 2: Supporting Non-PDP Governors vs PDP Governors
Response: The president is aware of his responsibility as the Chief Security Officer of the nation and realizes he is responsible for all Nigerians. In cases where at the point of election, the people of a given state seem overwhelmingly in support of a non-PDP candidate, He cannot use instruments of coercion to disenfranchise Nigerians just to ensure his party wins the election. His job is to ensure his party creates the right program that the electorate will want to support; he admits that in some cases the party has failed in this regard.
Allegation 3: Mismanaging of the security situation
Response: The president understands the impact of the challenging security situation on the economy of Nigeria and the welfare of Nigerians. The boko haram issue in the northeast has been a challenge to all Nigerians and he must commend our security services personnel for the gallantry with which they have shown in the face of such threat. He has approached this issue with the use of various tools at his disposal, both carrot-oriented tools and stick oriented tools. The National Security Adviser is also compiling a recommendations in consultation with state governors and traditional rulers to come up with a comprehensive strategy that deals with all aspects of this issue and ensures security and prosperity of all states in the Northeast.
The threat against our oil and gas assets which jointly belongs to all Nigerians has significantly affected local and international confidence in the sector. Mr President has also assigned the National Security Adviser the task of coming out with a master plan to sort out the threat to security and the economy in the Niger-Delta once and for all.
Allegation 4: Tribal vs National loyalties:
Response: The president is a Nigerian first and an Ijaw man; the two identities are also complimentary but his loyalty is to Nigeria and all Nigerian citizens, the very reason why he is president of Nigeria and not an Ijaw chief. His loyalty to Nigeria supersedes all tribal sentiments and the president will not hesitate to call even his closest relative to order should they imagine creating any form of disharmony in Nigeria. All those who have been making noise about Jonathan 2015 or Nigeria will be destroyed are certainly enemies of Nigeria, and Mr President has told the likes of Asari Dokubo that whilst they have the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution, they must show loyalty to this country and not create situations that impact the general security situation in Nigeria negatively.
Allegation 5: Political watchlist and Armed Personnel Training for Selfish Political Interest
Response: Mr President takes this allegation seriously; whilst it is laughable to imagine that Mr President will do such a thing when it is clearly as against his own personal interest and that of the country, it is indeed a serious allegation; hence he has ordered the National Security Adviser, Col Dasuki (rtd) to initiate an investigation into this allegation and identify all parties involved if there is any hint of truth in the allegation and make it public.
Allegation 6: Presidential Support and Patronage for Murderer
Response: Mr President has never had any personal interest in the outcome of the case against Maj Al-Mustapha. The memory of what transpired during the Abacha regime is still very fresh and it will amount to being insensitive to the sensibilities of Nigerians and their perception of Justice. Up till today, he has never had any contact with the Major and he expects the military authorities to process his case as soon as possible in order to bring finality to his status. Mr President is also aware from news reports that Lagos state government appealed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and it is Mr President's hope that the wheels of justice roll quickly so as to ensure justice is done to all concerned.
Allegation 7: Apathy towards Corruption
Response: Corruption has been the greatest threat to national security for a few years now and all Nigerians are aware of its impact to our lives. Mr president has removed the Minister of Petroleum under whose ministry most of these acts of treachery have occurred.Mr president has also requested the National Security Adviser led committee to publish the outcome of the investigation into the Minister of Aviation after consultations with the National Assembly investigative committee so that Nigerians can assess for themselves whether she was indeed guilty of wrongdoing or not. Mr President is sensitive to the perception of corruption amongst Nigerians and the impact such has on their confidence in government. In the meantime, he has asked the Minister to go on leave until she can be cleared of the charges against her.
Allegation 8: Governor Amaechi and Water
Response: The people of Rivers state are Nigerians first before being Rivers people, so it will amount to a breach of sections of the constitution if Mr President who swore to defend the interest of all Nigerians now prevent the issuance of the African Development Bank loan to rivers state all because of any disagreement with the Governor of the state. To illustrate Mr President's neutrality in this matter, he has just concluded a call with Governor Amaechi, Minister of Finance and the African Development Bank executives to ensure that the loan granted to Rivers state is released. There are perhaps many things that occur without the president's knowledge and as soon it is brought to his attention, he ensures the right thing is done and the people involved are punished.
Allegation 9: Making enemies of critics
Response: Nigerians are free to express themselves and that is guaranteed in the constitution. Mr President as a Nigerian is also guaranteed that right equally. It will be unconstitutional for Mr President to attempt to muzzle dissent when it is obvious that no man has monopoly of wisdom; hence some critics who criticize in good faith have the best interests of the country at heart; those that criticize in bad faith are also free to express themselves. If his aides have tried to muzzle freedom of expression by abusing the use of security agents, an investigation will occur and those found guilty will be punished according to the law.
Mr President trusts that irrespective of political inclinations, Nigerians understand that every one of us has a role to play in the governance of this great country; hence let us work together to cleanse the country of corruption and other ills so that we can build a Nigeria we are all proud of.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.