Saharareporters and Jonathans Presidential Debate

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  It blazed the trail of internet Journalism in Nigeria, for Nigerians and of Nigerians. But these 2011 elections are proving too burdensome for even the most disinterested observer. On Wednesday, March 30 2011, Saharareporters announced with glee that 'the media group which is organizing today's debate did prepare advance questions for President Goodluck Jonathan at least a week ago...equivalent of one student receiving the exam test papers in his own home while the others sweat in libraries and study rooms".   

Saharareporters said that is 'evidence that next month's elections are unlikely to be free and fair'. But a comparison of the 'expo' published by Sahareporters and the actual questions posed to Jonathan at the BON debate shows Saharareporters failed the litmus test of ethical journalism.  

These are the actual questions posed to Jonathan at the BON debate:    

PANEL: What is it that you think you are bringing to the table that is different from every other person and from what we have had in the past that should make Nigerians entrust you with power?       

PANEL: The yearly rating of Nigeria by the Transparency International as a corrupt nation has assumed the status of national embarrassment. Also, political appointments, as compensation for political support and as well as propensity for quest for office has been argued as impediment to fight against corruption, especially god fatherism. What criteria will you set aside as basis for key political appointment and what will you do to institutionalize a culture of leadership by example?       

PANEL: You have just spoken about the creation of the ICPC and EFCC as creations of the PDP government. Some people would say that in spite of all those institutions, corruption is still thriving in Nigeria. If you are re-elected president of Nigeria, what would you do differently to curb corruption?     

PANEL:Globally debates during elections have been used to strengthen the democratic culture in the society. Recently, there is this controversy that you did not accept debate invitations to one or three debates where your political contemporaries were also invited. This evening your three other fellow presidential candidates are not participating with you. As PDP presidential candidate, what is your disposition towards debates in Nigeria?      

PANEL: The role of the media in governance is among others, to educate the public for understanding of the government's policies and programmes, sharpen political direction and ideological focus but some successive Nigerian administrations, military or civilian have instead always sought to intimidate, harass, muscle and sometimes compromise the media. What will be your attitude and policy direction with Nigeria mass media especially the famous Freedom of Information Bill and broadcast license for community radio because it's only Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa that are without community radio?    

PANEL:Every promise to raise the power sector has so far proved difficult. The promise of 4000 megawatts does not seem to have been achieved. How would you specifically ensure adequate power generation and distribution to achieve regular power supply to Nigerians?

PANEL:What economic agenda have you fashioned for the nation?     

PANEL:Most of the refineries are shut down. What efforts are you making on this?    

PANEL:What measures will you put in place to ensure that budgets are facilitated to meet development?    

PANEL:About 70 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty line?    

PANEL:What is your understanding of leadership problem and how would you tackle it?     

The 'expo' published by Sahareporters:    

 1.Your emergence as PDP presidential candidate was mired in controversy as a result of the conflicting interpretations of your party's zoning and rotation principles: do you not carry a moral burden? 

2.When you talk of 'transformation' what are you really saying to Nigerians?

3.The Nigerian economy seems to be in the grip of an unending crisis, characterized by a poor growth rate, low capacity utilization, unimpressive direct foreign investments, bank failures and now a rapidly weakening naira. Is the situation redeemable? 

4.The complex of infrastructure in Nigeria is allegedly notoriously inefficient, inadequate, underdeveloped, derelict and neglected. Its all the noise about power not just hype?

5.What is your programme for taking the Nigerian Railways, roads, marine and air transportation into the 21st century? 

6.Employment is one area of crisis. 80% of Nigerian school leavers/graduates do not get jobs for years after graduation. What will your government do to cure this dangerous scourge? 

7.With Boko Haram in Bauchi and Borno States, endless killings in Jos, bombings everywhere, kidnappings in the South-East and armed robbers operating with impunity everywhere. Could it not be said that your Government has lost grip of the management of security in the country? 

8.Has your Government abandoned the fight against corruption in Nigeria? All the former Governors indicted since 2007 are sitting in the Senate, seeking re-election and playing active roles in the current electoral dispensation! 

9.Is the lackadaisical way the reform agenda in the petroleum sector has been handled not symptomatic of your approach to governance? Why has the Petroleum Industry Bill been so shabbily treated? 

10.Please, give us an insight into how you intend to tackle the rot in the education and health sectors. 

11.Are you satisfied with the outputs and growth rate in the agricultural sector? If not, give us an insight into your programme for the sector?

12.Your foreign policy seems to be defined by the contradiction between declaration and action on the election crisis in the Ivory Coast. Do you really have a coherent Foreign Policy? 

13.Is your corruption fight not compromised by the alleged involvement of your wife in money-laundering and what is seen as your own indictment by the Code of Conduct Bureau? 

 14.     Your wife is already exciting women about getting 35% of public offices under your Government, if you are elected. Are you really serious about fulfilling this promise? 

15.With hindsight, do you approve of your handling of the bombing incident at the Eagle square on 1st October 2010? 

16.Are you confident that your strategy for peace and development in the Niger delta is working? 


Interestingly, SR also said that "in addition to the questions submitted by the media group, the document also shows government functionaries feverishly trying to help Jonathan pass the test, with both questions and suggested answers carefully laid out for him".

It cited a purported "e-mail dated 25 March from Kassey Garba, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President to Professor Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah, the Minister for Agriculture, covers Questions 23 & 24, supposedly for that Ministry.   Since the questions from the media group are numbered 1-16, this suggests that Questions 17-22 were expected from other government bodies".    

How would Omoyele Sowore explain this apparent goof?  

Would I be minded to agree with the fictitious political analyst in Abuja quoted by Saharareporters who said:  

'This is a terrible tragedy, This is a sad day for both the media and this (saharareporters).   It is the old story of (news story, pay-to-write) being desperately sought by every desperate measure.  

This is a terrible tragedy.'
By Omoba Ikhara