Failure to Communicate And Failure of an Elitist Spin

By Stanley Anozie

Dr. ObyEzekwesili, during her recent presentation at “The Platform” organised by Covenant Christian Center on April 30th, 2016,failed to communicate humanely without spinning. According to her, “During the first coming of this our new president [Buhari], a command and control economic system was adopted.”“During that era, inflation spiralled. During that era, jobs were lost.

During that era, the economic growth level dipped.” Mrs. Ezekwesili added, “That era wasn’t the best of eras in economic progress.”“What did not work in 1984 cannot possibly be a solution in a global economy that’s much more integrated.”(

It is hard to listen to some respected Nigerian elites, especially those who have cut their teeth in public service and commitment to national development. It is tough to see people with great political following in Nigeria mismanage opportunities to continue leading their followers in an intellectually accountable way, without tinges of insinuations, innuendos and provocative propaganda.

Dr. Ezekwesili’sinsinuations and criticism approach to President Buhari’s leadership and economic policies,on that specific occasion,truly missed ‘the manner’, but she does notmiss the point. She missed the opportunity to communicate humanely and persuasively push the point for accountability through convincing rational justifications.You can persuade people without spinning or using propaganda. Insinuations and innuendos are not quality manners of justifying an economic, social or political point.

We have to take our leaders to task. However, you cannot fruitfully hold one to task if one has no integrity and does not appreciate accountability. Nigeria has gone through years of poor leadership which crystallised corruption (political atrophy). Economic and social corruption or lack of accountability is a sign/consequence of failure of political governance (from individual or self-governance to local, state, and federal governance). President Buhari has brought to the table what Nigerians need to survive the onslaught of perennial corruption. Cautiously noted, there are people of honor and integrity in Nigeria.

President Buhari’s integrity, in our political context, represents (but not sufficient) what we need to push Nigeria off these political and economic crises.Nigeria does not really have economic difficulty as much as it has integrity problem.For instance, it is a shame to read from Nigerians statements like: “Bring Back Corruption” or “Mr. So and So…is My Hero” for doing only ONE THING. We have to put our fingers on the real problem: lack of a political culture of honor and integrity.

A Nigerian commentator /writer recently described Dr. Ezekwesili’s statementsdescribing President Buhari’s leadership style and economic policies as “archaic” and “opaque” to becoming from Dr. Ezekwesili--the politician rather than as an economist.I hate to use words like “politics” and “politician” to denote things/people we consider as negative.

To be involved in politics or being a politician is an honorable service or profession. It is sad that in many places around the world politics and politicians have been considered as corrupt, ethically bankrupt, and cruel. There are some honest politicians. There are people who are committed to a politics of integrity and honor.

President Buhari is the face of honor and integrity in Nigeria’s current political survival, even inrealpolitik. Nigeria cannot get rid of corrupt politicians in a swipe. It is an ongoing process with full energy of commitment by our people and our representatives in an enduring democracy.President Buhari’s return to politics,in a democratic context,is for me an honorable ambition and he is a ‘damn right’ person of integrity as far as I can see.

I understand that Dr. Ezekwesili has a point to make about the need for an integrated approach to our economic situation in a globalised world (global economy). I also think she understands that communicating humanely is a key to information consumption and incisive persuasion.It is unfortunate for Dr. Ezekwesili to trace current President Buhari’s leadership and economic policies back to his Militaryeraas Head of State in 1984.

It is not so much about her recollecting the past, but the impression she wanted to create among Nigerians. 1984 policies are 1984 policies. I am sure there were some good policiesthat could be imported with nostalgia and modified for the good of Nigerians in our current political dispensation. A policy based on honor and integrity does not easily become obsolete. A good policy only needs to be reviewed and modified to suit a present context.

For instance, Operation Feed the Nation (1976) was a good economic policy although poorly planned/executed. It is still a good policy that needs to be carefullynudged, especially now that Nigerians are talking about diversifying our economy (away from oil dependent economy).It is against the valueof political integrity to summarily write-off current economic and leadership policies of President Buhari as ‘archaic’, ‘opaque’, and encouraging corruption.

We are gradually becoming a society that is obsessively cynical and aggressive to age (I include useful professional and life experience that come with age. I think of a Nigerian Governorwho incessantly insultedPresident Buhari because of his age (73), but not debate him on real ideas. These attitudes are forms of ageism, stereotype or discriminatory comments against senior citizens).Political commentaries and opposition politics should be carried out in a constructive and respectful manner. We ought to communicate in an intellectually robust and persuasive way for the good of our community.

It is sad to banish all that President Buhari represents as ‘archaic’ and ‘opaque’ because of his age (as outdated in 2016), and because of his past policies and duties as a former Military Head of State. Today’s democratic opportunity for President Buhari is unique, and distinctly so, with experienced former Governors and Technocrats.FromPresident Buhari’s historically-proven-integrity (rare commodity in Nigeria for some time now) perspective, I am convinced in his total commitment to the emergence of a great Nigeria and an economically viable society.

I am not suggesting that integrity is all that Nigeria needs to move forward but it a ‘weighty’ virtue to move any country on the path to socio-economic prosperity. Political corruption ruined Nigeria. Most of what we experience today is the consequence of lack of a culture of honour and integrity. So far, President Buhari is part of the present and future foundation of Nigeria, but this foundation is only good enough as long as we are ready to build upon it for our people.

The intervention needed in saving Nigeria is an intensivepolitical nudging approach—“scheming virtuously” or persistent‘infiltration’ of our society with people of integrity and honor. We cannot afford to focus on winning or amassing “cheap propaganda points” instead of weighing our options for greater values. Dr. Ezekwesili missed the opportunity to make a clear demand on President Buhari and keep clean the ‘integrity pressure’.

Let our criticisms be clean, honest, fact-based and focused on common good rather than one of self-seeking social relevance, intellectual naivety and elitism. It is time for Dr. Ezekwesili to truly impact upon her followers (including my humble self) and give Nigerians the best. We can communicate in respectful ways while beingtenacious in demanding for transformational or 360-degrees accountability: relational accountability.

There is no doubt that at the end of it allDr. Ezekwesili could stand on same platform of honor and integrity with President Buhari (HALL OF POLITICAL FAME). In part, Dr. Ezekwesili got a point through. She said,“Mr. President should sit with his team and look at the economic evidence that speaks loudly. It’s time to sit back and review the well-intended idea of command and control economic principle….

He should do what the Americans say that if it ain’tbroken, don’t fix it.” I am sure that recent National Economic Council Retreat discussions on the state of oureconomy,led by the Vice-presidentProf. YemiOsinbajo, contributed to by some Governors, Dr. Ezekwesili, Prof. Wole Soyinkaand others, are welcome opportunities to speak on the economy but the content must be refined or trimmed. For content without concept is blind and concept without content is blind. Our Nigerian‘content’ ought to be communicated humanely and constructively without insinuations and innuendos that could diminish our Political Will.

As they say in boxing: KEEP IT CLEAN (no dirty tricks, no spinning)!Could Dr. Ezekwesili work on her ability to communicate without spinning? The capacity to communicate humanely (without propaganda gains or spins) is one of the best gifts we can offer to Nigeria- that is bleeding politically and economically because of lack of honor and integrity.

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