INTERPRETERS OF MALADIES
Two truths are indispensable to leaders. First, they will be criticized. Second, criticism always changes the leader. Unhappy people tend to attack the point person. As a leader, how do you respond to criticisms? When the storms come and they will do you let fear, anger, and distrust take better part of you?
We all know that politicians are hypersensitive to criticisms. Fighting back his critics, President Goodluck Jonathan once said that he was the most criticized president in the world. If the president had been adequately briefed on events around the world by his coterie of media aides, he would count himself lucky to be a president in Nigeria.
As expected, the Aso Rock Attack Dog and Attack Lion of Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe respectively have been playing the offensive and defensive roles with exceptional brilliance to shield the president from criticisms even to the admiration of his critics.
Criticism and confrontation come within the territory of governance. But the defenders and apologists of the president do not understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. They fail to look beyond the criticism to see the critics. They ought to guard their own attitude toward the critics: don't get defensive but stay objective.
They forget that even good people get criticized. They should learn not to see only the critics but see the crowd whether the criticism is widespread or not. They should be matured enough to be patient and wait for time to prove the critics wrong. And above all, they should concentrate on their mission, correct their mistakes and focus on the big picture.
I borrowed the title of my piece from Jhumpa Lahiri's book 'Interpreter of Maladies.' I'll not bore you with summary of the book. However, I find some parallelisms in the themes, motifs, and symbols in the book with the utterances of the president, his cabinet, and his image makers concerning the state of the Nigerian state.
More often than not, communication between Aso Rock media hordes and the Nigerian people is haphazard, deceptive, and full of lies ending in damaging consequences to the administration. Communication breaks repeatedly in 'Interpreters of Maladies.'
Just like Mr. Kapasi, who is the interpreter of maladies in the book, has lost his ability to communicate with his wife, Mr. Jonathan, Abati the erstwhile Guardian columnist-critic of Mr. Jonathan, and his cousin Okupe the medical doctor turned propagandist, have lost their ability to communicate with the truth to the Nigerian people.
They all fail to see the truth in the criticisms of the Jonathan administration. That's the danger of romanticism. They romanticize the president and his 'Transformation Agenda.' This results in insensitivity and danger to the progress of our nation.
They see what they want to see. The scene from the hopeless Nigerian situation is separate from their own reality. Their arguments are based on nebulous facts of the daily experiences of Nigerian masses. They see critics through their tint that block others' views of the Jonathan administration. They watch critics through the rear view mirror which distorts their views.
Both the president, his cabinet, and damage controllers wear visors which prevent them from seeing clearly the Nigeria that majority of us see, hence their inability to engage with it. Rather than engage with Nigerians and the reality of the mess created by them, they resort to bland descriptions and pictures from their own lenses.
It is not surprising therefore that they construct a life that does not actually exist. They operate in a state of fertile infatuation and with imaginary willful ignorance and arms-length engagement than accept the disappointments and failures of the Jonathan administration.
The latest manufactured event from the stable of Jonathan's administration outfit of interpreters of maladies was the rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $510 billion, which make Nigeria the largest economy in Africa.
The Statistician-General of Nigeria, Dr. Yemi Kale, announced in Abuja few weeks ago with fanfare that the 'current GDP of the country stands at $150 billion.' The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recalculated the value of GDP based on production patterns in 2010, increasing the number of industries it measured to 46 from 33 and giving the greater weighing to sectors such as telecommunications and financial services.
The rebased GDP set off media firestorm coming at a time when the Jonathan administration has exhausted every ounce of oxygenated credibility and the looming 2015 presidential elections. Election propagandas are about to go into overdrive and the Jonathan administration has a huge platform behind it. One of its biggest ever-new product is the rebased or refurbished GDP.
While Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala and other interpreters of maladies of the Jonathan cabinet are beating their chests and with thumbs up for Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa, Dr. Jim Kim, the man who got the World Bank job ahead of Okonjo-Iweala, classified Nigeria among the world's extreme poor countries.
'The fact is that two-thirds of the world's extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,' said Kim.
All of us or most of us, have become wiser as time goes by. We now know that the Jonathan administration dos not sincerely care about people, but about propaganda that will win Mr. Jonathan a second term.
'Power,' Emerson once reminds us, 'resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state. The 'Transformation Agenda' of Mr. Jonathan continues to move precariously on pages of propaganda without any corresponding concrete evidence on ground to show for it.
The choreography of his electioneering campaign is now moving from four years of failure to another four years of guaranteed disaster for the nation. In the parallax of this double perspective, a dresses up, camouflage of the state of the economy is crucial to Mr. Jonathan's reelection.
The maladies of this administration have been interpreted or rather misinterpreted on all subjects and on all fronts. The president once told us, corruption in Nigeria was not as bad as it has been painted by critics and the media. In a survey in 2013, Transparency International found 84% Nigerians believe corruption had increased in the past two years, a higher percentage than most any other country in the world.
Dr. Precious Gbenol, Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Goals, said Nigeria had succeeded in reducing the number of people that were suffering from extreme hunger by 50%. 'The country as a nation has made tremendous efforts and has been able to reduce the number of people by half that suffers from extreme hunger way ahead of 2015,' said Gbenol. Which country is she talking about? How many Nigerian cities, towns, and villages did she visit to witness hunger at work?
The government claims it's winning the war on Boko Haram. But the fresh killings in Abuja this week by the terrorist group confirmed the opposite. According to the United Nations spokesperson on UNHCR, Mr. Adrian Edwards, 17,000 Nigerians are now refugees in neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger Republic.
Few days ago, NNPC rented a crowd of mostly women to stage a protest in Abuja in support of the embattled Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke. Alison-Madueke has been embroiled in a financial controversy over the N10 billion she spent on chattered jets.
On job creation, the Chief Interpreter of Maladies, President Jonathan last year claimed that his government has created 1.6 million jobs. 'We are keenly aware that in spite of the estimated 1.6 million jobs created across the country in the past 12 months as a result of our actions and policies, more jobs are still needed to support our growing population, Said Mr. Jonathan.
The story on unemployment reads like a funeral program for the middle class:
Forty million youths are unemployed. In 2012, more than 60% of Nigerian graduates are jobless. According to the Director General of the National Center for Technological Management, Dr. Willie Siyanbola said 2.5 million jobs must be created yearly by government and private sector to meet job demands of Nigerian graduates.
Project Director of the Sure-P Internship Scheme, Mr. Peter Papka said out of 83,000 unemployed graduates registered with the scheme, only 800 were able to secure internship with the scheme.
It was reported elsewhere that about 90 million Nigerians are willing and able to work, but 70 million of them have no gainful employment. So, Mr. President, where are the jobs?
On electricity, in a story published by SaharaReporters in January, Abati said 'before president Jonathan came to office, nothing was happening in the power sector, he went into that sector and dealt with issues of management and infrastructure.' 'President Jonathan has brought light,' said Abati.
'Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn't,' says Francis Bacon, 'and a sense of humor to console him for what he is.' Seems to me the interpreters of maladies of the Jonathan regime have neither.
The phony invention and reinvention of lies and maladies by President Jonathan and his administration have become a treasure political hunt for critics. The President's men and women behave like cooks without recipe books. They have become ingrained in indulgence sarcasm at the expense of dignity, credibility, and predictability.
Leaders must be willing to submit themselves to the governed. But those who hold leadership positions based on lies and other fabricated maladies find this difficult to accept. Willing subordination of a leader is required for greater leadership responsibilities and success.
The closer will get to 2015, the more we are going to witness maladies interpreted by lying cretinous propagandists. Nigerians brace up, the flight is going to get turbulent!
Written By Bayo Oluwasanmi