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Chidi Amuta's rot

By The Rainbow
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By Mark Onome
My first impulse on reading The Girls and the Rot by Chidi Amuta in Thisday of Wednesday May 14, 2014 was to laugh out loud. Old habits die hard, they say. Dr. Amuta's headline and opening sentences created the impression that he was minded to contribute positively to the debate generated by the unfortunate kidnap of hundreds of female students in Borno State by the terrorist gang, Boko Haram. By the time he was done, it became obvious to any perceptive reader that this hatchet writer's sole intention was to serve the interest of his paymaster.

That explains why Dr. Amuta, in claiming to write on the kidnapped girls of Chibok, saw fit to demonise Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Honourable Federal Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy (CME). Wrote Amuta: “From the desperate and clueless emptiness of the of the vaults of power in Abuja, it was a pitiable Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the beleaguered Finance Minister of the Jonathan government that was literally groveling and begging for international help to free the missing girls on CNN. What a pity.”

I asked questions of this Chidi Amuta guy and was assured that he holds a doctorate degree in English. Was this man not abusing the English language by saying that an appeal for help from the international community by a high-ranking Nigerian official was piteous? What was piteous about it? Amuta described the Finance Minister as “beleaguered”! In what sense was she beleaguered? In what way did Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala grovel on the CNN? The Finance Minister's appearance on the American television network was neither initiated by her nor by her office. By the time she appeared to talk on the problem in question, the President had asked for international assistance and received offers of help from the China, France, Israel and the United States.

Newspaper reports had earlier made it clear that the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, had in fact contacted the US in the matter of assistance and that both countries were cooperating on the thorny issue. Did Amuta then expect Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to go on CNN and negate the Nigerian government's request for foreign assistance? What is even more troubling, is that all Chidi Amuta could glean from the extensive interview, which was universally acknowledged as being brilliantly handled by Dr. Okonjo Iweala, was that she was begging and groveling for assistance. This is even after Richard Quest, the interviewer, acknowledged that she handled very difficult and sensitive questions exceptionally. It speaks to the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Chidi Amuta and throws up a worrying aspect of what has gone wrong with a small section of our media.

Terrorism is an international problem. Terrorists hold and maintain vast international networks and alliances. Boko Haram has been linked variously with Al Qaeda and Al Shabab. Does it make sense and is it possible in the circumstance for a nation like Nigeria to fight this terrorism alone, seeking neither help nor cooperation from other nations of the international community? Or is Chidi Amuta suggesting that the sin is in the fact that the Finance Minister added her voice to the Federal Government of Nigeria's call for international assistance? Would it have been fine for this man if a Minister other than Okonjo-Iweala had been on CNN asking for help?

If one managed to locate the institution that awarded Chidi Amuta his PhD, a couple of questions would be trained in their direction. First, is empiricism dead and buried in Nigerian scholarship? Second, had this man actually earned his certificate? This is what Chidi Amuta also wrote in the article under review: “We need help to retrieve our institutions, including unfortunately the Ministry of Finance, from the depths of rot and the vice grip of phenomenal incompetence that has become embarrassing to most decent Nigerians.” Really?

Chidi Amuta has been a Thisday columnist for over five years. Yet, as a patriotic Nigerian who yearns for the best for our country, not on a single occasion has he, throughout his period, written an introductory sentence on the “rot” and “phenomenal incompetence” in the Federal Ministry of Finance! Why is that so? If this man's motivation was altruistic, he would support and justify his outlandish claims with citations. Except he holds the attitude that all of his readers are numskulls. He had three quarters of the back page of Thisday to make his point. Yet he found no space to cite one example of the “rot” in the Federal Ministry of Finance. And he found no space to cite one example of the “phenomenal incompetence” in the Federal Ministry of Finance!

The truth must always be told. It is widely known that Chidi Amuta is an envelope journalist completely beholden to a specific political paymaster who holds a grudge against Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala solely for her insistence that due process be followed in a specific transaction. Since then it has been open season on her. Dr. Okonjo Iweala, being a thoroughbred international professional, would not be party to any schemes that cut corners.  Rather than applaud the Finance Minister's sound judgment and sense of prudence, Chidi Amuta resorted to curses and abuses. But complementing her would have been a marked departure because Chidi Amuta has a long history as a pen for hire journalist. That is why his current epistle on cleaning up the rot in the system is both comical and ironic and akin to Abubakar Shekau demanding that government do something about combatting terrorism.

There is a final point to draw the reader's attention to. Amuta could not conceivably conclude his diatribe without firing an invective in the direction of President Jonathan. This is what he wrote on the Nigerian leader: “As superlatives go, Jonathan's is the most inept government in Nigerian history.” As a matter of style Amuta did not provide a scintilla of evidence to support or validate his assertion. Compare his puerile journalism to the robust alternative offered by Femi Aribisala, the Vanguard columnist. Dr. Aribisala observed in his column of Tuesday May 13, 2014 that, “Goodluck Jonathan must be the most vilified president in the history of Nigeria. He is abused and bad-mouthed with ferocious intensity. This really has nothing to do with his record in office. He is by no means the worst president Nigeria has ever seen. As a matter of fact, he is one of the better ones.”

Unlike Chidi Amuta who, without evidence, throws “assertions” about like tantrums, Aribisala exemplified his position that Jonathan is an achieving President: “The Nigerian government did not fool the world into having the WEF (World Economic Forum) in Abuja. It took place here because Nigeria is by all accounts an emerging frontier market in the world economy…President Jonathan did not bribe U.S. President Obama to proclaim Nigeria as 'the world's next economic giant' in 2012. Obama's Nigeria is coming of age under Jonathan. The United Sates rebases its economy every two years. The United Nations recommends every country should rebase every five years.

Under this administration, Nigeria rebased its economy after 23 years, and yet some Jonathan traducers accuse the government of 419 for doing so. That rebasing has now shown that the much-maligned Nigeria is by far the largest economy in Africa. This should not come as a surprise. Under Jonathan, the Nigerian economy has been growing consistently by nearly 7% per annum. That is one of the highest growth-rates in the world. For the past two years, Nigeria has become the number one destination for foreign investments in Africa; according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.”

It is truly unfortunate because people like Chidi Amuta, who have an integrity deficit, continue to impugn a very glorified and respected profession when they stoop low to serve as  writers-for-hire.

Let me end by quoting a comment written by someone on Thisday online to Chidi Amuta's original article:  “I see Chidi Amuta's tactics and and that of Shekau converging at a point – use the calamity to advance their preference for control of state. Both cannot persuade me, at least, by the politics of their “activism” which belies grand mischief.”

This article appeared on the Right to Reply column in This Day