Noel A. Ihebuzor
Several strategies are employed by the “opposition” in their reactions to any comment on social media that suggests that Jonathan has achieved anything! Each time you as much as suggest that GEJ has some impressive achievements to show in his four year presidency, what you get is panic, instant hostility & then a swarm attack from his die-hards opponents and “serial-opposers” in the APC – such facts and truths frighten them. The facts threaten to pierce the fabric of well told lies such persons have almost succeeded in imposing on major sections of the public as truths through a blend of strategies and tactics involving distortions, fabrications, cyber–aggression, bullying, threats and ridiculing of persons. A study of APC tactics in relation to Jonathan’s major achievements reveals the following as dominant techniques employed in trying to deny/downplay/diminish GEJ’s successes –
- One technique is the TOTAL DENIAL or OBLITERATION strategy. The man has achieved NOTHING. Point your interlocutor to some solid achievement and you get the retort – “but that is nothing”! Ask what then amounts as “something” and all you get is blabber and incoherence.
- A variant of this TOTAL DENIAL technique is the “WE ARE EVEN WORSE OFF TODAY THAN WHEN HE CAME IN” line of attack! Invite your interlocutor then to a “Before GEJ” and “Since GEJ” comparison in a number of key sectors using valid indicators and communication breaks down because your interlocutor now refuses to abide to comparisons based on valid “Tertium Comparationis”.
- Another technique is THE MINIMIZATION STRATEGY- Yes, the man has achieved but he has only achieved very little – not much at all! Ask your interlocutor what the cut-off point for “sizeable achievement” is and all you get is insult – “You people do not think”
- A variant of this minimization strategy is THE TRIVIALIZATION STRATEGY – what he has achieved is trivial and of minimal import.
- Another strategy is to recognize the achievements & then slam them as not been good or modern enough – this is NOT GOOD ENOUGH strategy
- Another variant is to recognize the achievement but then smear it with the label of MEDIOCRE – The MEDIOCRITY CONDEMNATION STRATEGY.
- Another approach is to recognize the achievement but then to counter immediately to say that its gains are not evenly distributed!
- Yet another strategy recognizes but derides the achievement by claiming it has minimal social impact potential and therefore not useful.
- Another strategy accepts the reality of the achievement but faults it by claiming it has possesses little beneficiary impact value. Ask your interlocutor to define beneficiary impact value and all you get is hot air.
- Another approach consists in accepting an obvious achievement but then to say that the choice of project focus shows poor prioritization.
- Yet another approach is to recognize the achievement but then claim that it costs too much to deliver.
- Yet another approach is to recognize the achievement but then rubbish it by saying that it took too long to deliver.
The opposition strategy to GEJ’s achievement can be described as one that MINIMIZES his SUCCESSES and then struggles to MAXIMIZE whatever SHORTCOMINGS he may have, mostly imagined, out of proportion. A GEJ success that is dismissed as nothing is usually praised to the high heavens should they have occurred in an ACN led state. The name of the game as played by opposition handles and spokespersons is inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty.
One is therefore better off taking whatever the opposition says on Jonathan’s achievements with plenty of salt and criticality. Very little truth and objectivity are found in their evaluations of what has been a fresh and humane centered approach to quiet but effective presidency, a presidency that has delivered despite having to navigate several roadblocks and minefields put in its way by an unholy alliance of the ungodly!
Noel A Ihebuzor
The presidency of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been the subject of numerous formative evaluations and appraisals, some formal, some not so formal, some by presidential spokespeople, others by members of the public and others by vocal persons from the thriving Naija blogger community. I suspect that we are going to see an increase in the number of such evaluations in the coming months and years and I share these thoughts to invite reflection and discussion as to what should constitute relevant criteria in evaluating a president. So, here are my thoughts on these criteria to kick the discussions off.
- Political and Policy leadership – what is the quality of policy under his/her watch? To what extent has he/she provided steer and direction to policy and strategic policy changes? To what extent does he/she exercise influence on the other arms of government – the judiciary and the legislature? Does he/she respect the doctrine of separation of powers? Is leadership achieved through consensus building or through bullying and arm twisting?
- Policy implementation – to what extent are agreed national policies and development plans implemented? And what has been the impact of the implementation of these on such socio-economic indicators as GDP, U5MR, MMR, Nutrition, Literacy, Poverty and Gender Equity, for instance? How has the nation fared in globally accepted measures of development – say the HDI, for instance? Have there been improvements or deterioration?
- Related to the above, to what extent have the “hard” (infrastructure) and soft (process and behaviour change) components of development interventions been effectively carried out under his/her watch? Here we could look at the following – energy generation and distribution, water supply and sanitation provision, education and literacy levels, primary health care provisions? Who and which social class have benefitted the most from these? How has the rural space opened up? How effectively has domestic space for dialogue and information been opened up? How have personal freedoms been respected under his/her watch?
- Economic and Fiscal policy – Is there a discernible and consistent economic policy in place? How is this applied? Does the fiscal policy in place promote growth? Is it pro-poor? How does the policy impact the domestic economy? How does it impact foreign direct investments (FDI)? How is inflation?
- Internal stability – how stable is the polity under his/her watch? What measures are being taken to stabilize the polity? How is internal security? What efforts are made to unite the different ethnic and religious groups that make up the polity? How neutral/objective is the president in matters of ethnicity and religion especially as these as affect governance? What is the speed of his response to internal security challenges? What is the default response mode to such challenges? Force deployment? Dialogue? or Graduated escalation?
- How are governance indicators, especially corruption, accountability and people participation/voice, under his/her watch? How has the nation fared on measures of corruption, say by Transparency International? Has the nation’s ranking changed positively or negatively? Are measures in place to check and limit corruption and ensure accountability? Are these measures applied with consistency?
- Presidential vision – what type of vision does the president convey? Bold, imaginative, positive and long range? Remember the passage – “my people perish for lack of vision”
- Gravitas, Character and Integrity – how does he/she fare here? Gravitas is difficult to measure objectivelyJ! For Character and integrity, is he/she honest, dependable, trustworthy, steadfast and reliable, for instance?
- Effective executive control – To what extent does the president project executive control but not micro-management. Micro-management is a negative. So, here we are looking for that “being in charge” leadership that is yet brave, confident and large enough to allow the president to delegate to and empower his/her ministers.
- Presidential appointments – to what extent does the president attract persons of high technical/professional competence and probity to his/her administration? To what extent are geographical spread, diversity and gender recognised in these appointments? How fair and equitable are these appointments? Is balance sought in the use of excellence and inclusiveness as drivers in presidential appointments?
- Problem Solving ability/Crisis management – How are problems solved? How is crisis managed? Are multiple stakeholders recognised and engaged? Are several options and scenarios recognised? How calm, composed, calculated and dispassionate is the response to crisis?
- Emotional intelligence and social skills – How sensitive and adaptable is he/she? How does he/she reach out to convince, persuade and carry people along? How measured and guarded are his utterances? How motivational are his speeches? Public speaking and presentation skills are important here but the public must be on the guard against demagogy and populism. Leadership involves taking the occasional hard decision and staying with it, in a spirit of tough love! As the Governor of Edo state said during the oil subsidy debate, and I paraphrase, – leadership is not about a beauty contest! Some decisions may make a leader unpopular but they may still be worth taking in the long term strategic interest of the polity.
- Perception by the other levels of governance – state and LGA. How well does he/she relate to the other levels of government? How well is he/she perceived?
- External perception and foreign standing – how are the president and the country perceived and respected under his/her watch? In our specific case, the key external institutions would be countries in our immediate neighbourhood, the ECOWAS, the AU and the UN. How is our standing with these? Are we recognised as a country as possessing a sphere of influence and are we consulted on matters involving countries in that sphere of influence?
These are just my suggestions on possible criteria. There could be others. Certainly, all the criteria do not carry equal weight and I have not presented them in any order. But I think it is important to recognise criteria such as these in any judgment/evaluation of a president. Perhaps more work involving a cross section of stakeholders will be needed to further refine, streamline and validate these criteria, including coming up with agreed indicators and guidelines on how to apply them. It is also important that in our choice of indicators, we focus, not just on indicators of input and output, but also on indicators of process, outcomes and impacts. Finally, relevant baselines and benchmarks would also need to be agreed upon and used to enable us reach more informed judgments even as we apply the refined and finalised criteria.
To conclude, we need a tool that would enable us to come closer to more objective evaluations/appraisals of political post holders. Such a tool would save us from the errors of bias and lead us to greater and demonstrable balance in our judgments. This is especially needed in our judgments and comments on persons holding the highest elected post in the land. The post of president is a heavy one. Evaluations of the performance of holders of that post must be done with some seriousness and not with levity.