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Nigeria’s leader fights propaganda war

October 7, 2010


Less than a month after launching his election campaign in a blaze of optimism, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has found himself fighting a potentially damaging propaganda war over last week’s car bombs.
    Jonathan’s assertion that rebels from his Niger Delta home region were not responsible for the twin bomb attacks near an independence day parade last Friday has laid him open to a barrage of criticism from rivals who accuse him of partisanship.

    As the first head of state from the southern Niger Delta, Jonathan already faced a tough battle convincing some in the ruling party to back his election bid and jettison a gentleman’s agreement that means the next president should be a northerner.
    The unwritten pact in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is meant to prevent tribalism and regional rivalries becoming a factor in federal politics by ensuring power rotates every two terms between north and south.
    Jonathan’s comments that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which claimed the blasts, was not responsible and suggestions from the authorities that associates of his main rival, former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, may be involved have infuriated and united his northern opponents.
    “The man … who only a few weeks ago moved us with lofty words of hope and a vision of transformation, shot himself in the foot and then put the bloody foot in his mouth,” wrote Tolu Ogunlesi, a journalist on Nigeria’s Next newspaper.
    “The incident momentarily stripped him of his presidential garb and wrapped him in the gaudy garments of a tribal chieftain,” he said.
    Babangida and three other northerners running against him in the primaries issued a joint statement slamming Jonathan for “exonerating” MEND and accusing him of using the bomb blasts as a pretext to intimidate his opponents.
    A separate group of northern politicians led by ex-finance minister and founding PDP member Adamu Ciroma described it as a “rude shock to the nation” and called on Jonathan to resign.
    Their fury was piqued by the brief detention of Babangida’s campaign director Raymond Dokpesi for questioning over the blasts by the secret service on Monday.
    The presidency said the investigations were being carried out on the back of U.S. and British as well as Nigerian intelligence and that anybody could be invited for questioning.
    “It is unfortunate that an unprecedented national tragedy of this nature has been politicised by people whose only interest is what they can get from the country and not what the country can get from them,” Jonathan said on his Facebook page.
    “They specialise in playing one part of the country against the other and riding on sectional sentiments to promote their narrow ambitions,” he said.
     Jonathan started his election campaign almost three weeks ago on a high, having unveiled plans to privatise the power sector and end chronic power shortages, better manage the country’s oil savings and fight criminality.
    He pledged a new era of leadership “uncontaminated by the prejudices of the past” and his campaign team hoped the momentum would carry him into the primaries, originally due this month.
    But the timetable was revised to allow the electoral authorities to overhaul voter lists, handing his northern rivals more time to steel themselves.
    The bomb blasts were another blow to his strategy.
    Beneath all the finger pointing and rhetoric, none of Nigeria’s political class emerge well from the episode.
    Jonathan was vice president when Henry Okah, a senior militant figure charged in Johannesburg this week with conspiring to carry out the attacks, had treason and gun-running charges against him dropped under an amnesty deal.
    Aliyu Gusau, another northern presidential candidate who has criticised Jonathan, was the country’s national security adviser until three weeks ago. Security experts say Friday’s attacks would have been months in the planning.
    Babangida’s opponents say his assertion that Jonathan does not have a firm grip on national security is rich coming from a man largely remembered for his 1993 cancellation of an election generally regarded as fair which led to civil unrest and a bloody crackdown by the security forces.
    “Politicians in Nigeria are very good at arguing with each other,” said Antony Goldman, a Nigeria expert and head of London-based PM Consulting.
    “But the temptation to try to extract political advantage from a national emergency reveals the deeper issue that ten years after the end of military rule, the whole political class struggles to make itself relevant to the people.”
    The propaganda war will rumble on and it is unclear what impact, if any, it will have on the candidates’ fortunes. But it bodes ill for any hopes that the elections will be based on real issues rather than scaremongering and personality clashes.
    “The bomb blast is a shame because it could have been prevented, but you know in Nigeria we don’t pay attention to the things that really matter,” said Kehinde Osho, 24, a graphic artist in the commercial hub Lagos.
    “Elections are next year and the voters are not even registered yet. We are fighting a lost battle — we won’t have a credible election with this kind of preparation.”


This was an apparently very ham fisted Effort and in stark counterpoint to the Facebook announcement, which received so much Positive Ventilation. Its a whole new c21st Landscape and it requires [I venture] some smarter and fancier Foot work.
Aly-Khan Satchu

Posted by AlyKhanSatchu | Report as abusive

This is an incendiary story. The facts are in correct. The President did not exonerate MEND. The fact is that MEND no longer exists. What the President of Nigeria said is no different from “We are not at war with Moslems and Islam” statements of Blair, Bush, Obama etc. “We are at war with terrorists who kill in the name of Islam, with people who have killed more moslems than they have killed persons of other faiths, with people who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam.” Now, would you say that Blair, Brown, Bush, Obama are exonerating Al Qeda and Taleban? Certainly, not. Then why would any sane, thinking person say that President Jonathan exonerated MEND when he said MEND as organization could not have been responsible but rogue elements in it using the name of MEND committed the terrorist act. Go figure.

Posted by Etcheson | Report as abusive

Here is the background of President Jonathan according to Wikipedia “Jonathan was born in Otueke in Ogbia Local Government Area of the then Eastern Region, later Rivers State, now Bayelsa State to a family of canoe makers.[1][3] He holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Zoology in which he attained Second Class Honours, Upper Division. He also holds an M.Sc. in Hydrobiology/Fisheries biology, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt. After obtaining his degree, he worked as an education inspector, lecturer, and environmental-protection officer, until he decided to enter politics in 1998.

Jonathan is married to madam Patience Faka Jonathan and has two children.[5] Jonathan is a member of the Ijaw ethnic group”. By education he is highly qualified to be Nigeria’s President but Nigeria is a complex society that successive leaders refused a chance to take off with the great exception of General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar who handed over to President Obasanjo. President Jonathan banned and unbanned Nigeria from FIFA competitions in days after the world cup. The President figured out those responsible for the October 1 bombing within hours of explosion. This man might divide us today to rule us tomorrow but definitely is not providing the Nigerian nation the opportunity to take off. Allow rotation to strengthen our democracy and allow all six zones to have a taste of the presidency. To use your last sentence ” Elections are next year and the voters are not even registered yet. We are fighting a lost battle — we won’t have a credible election with this kind of preparation.”

Posted by AfriView | Report as abusive

I would have to agree that a Propaganda war is on; however its not restricted to the President alone. All the so called Northern politicians are also engaged in one misinformation or the other, hell bent on remaining close to the center to continue looting and pillaging.The onus of showing innocence also rest’s on Babangida, whose 8 year tenure was fraught with Bombings killings and the usuals , its only normal to look in His direction(its like a pattern or a signature).I would encourage the President to remain resolute in deciding His next course of action. Its an imperative to weed out what has been identified as a problem for the country

Posted by NSIK | Report as abusive

It seems to me that the developed world at large and Nigerians in particular are seldom interested in the details of crime and the investigations that follow. In the developed world issues like the 10/01 bombing in Abuja are thoroughly investigated and if necessary laws are changed to deal with the particular circumstance. I have searched through all the newspapers and new wire services and all I see are mere write-ups without the in-dept research that should follow. Up till now we are(public) left to the political explanations of the president and his party or the South African version of events. Henry Okah has his angle and no one in the worldwide press deems it important enough to investigate this issue and at least get on the trail of the culprits. Contrarily if there was an obstruction in the flow of Nigerian oil to the world market, there would be 24/7 coverage. They preach globalization and yet they are not prepared to help us develope a “critical mass” that is necessary in nation building. I want to know the truth and I believe that is not too much to ask. Who bombed Abuja on Oct 1st 2010?

Posted by Bakiba | Report as abusive

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