Thursday 7 July 2011

Nigeria: The Court of Goodluck I - Special Advisers

Don’t waste this mandate

Nigeria is an amazing place; it boasts many things that span the extremes of poverty and potential, merit and mediocrity, service and self-service.

As President Goodluck Jonathan begins to bed in as a substantive president of the country with his own mandate since every other substantive political post he has assumed has been by the accident of his predecessor’s misfortune, the last have succumbed to the scythe of the Grim Reaper, there have been great expectations of this man.

I have also been caught in the wave of this because the thinking was he not being of the typical garrulous, mendacious, megalomaniacal, Machiavellian and rent-seeking political class presented the possible shift in Nigerian political values and direction.

As ones patience is reaching exhaustion one somehow has to retain the semblance of the benefit of the doubt that this man embodies positive change for Nigeria in the four years he has been given to be at the helm of Nigeria’s political hierarchy.

How special is advice?

He has now been engaged in the process of building a team to help dispatch his duties and one does wonder if the whole process has not been overrun with political machinations and the pretentions to change that on closer scrutiny looks phoney at best.

Besides the screening of ministers that number over two score to help in the delegation of executive function and power, he has appointed Special Advisers with titles that make the names of Snow White’s seven dwarves seem like a serious rocket-science exercise.

Looking at the list of special adviser roles, it is important to comment on what they might mean and if any of the roles inspire any confidence in Nigerians hoping for meaningful change from this regime.

Special Adviser on propaganda

Special Adviser to the President on NEPAD (The New Partnership for Africa's Development), much as there is a need for focus on Africa’s development, there are issues with what developmental process the president advocates for Nigeria beyond seemingly vacuous words.

Special Adviser to the President on Research and Strategy, it remains to be seen if this is really about objective technocracy or propaganda, I will plumb for the latter because the man in this role; Oronto Douglas runs the social media persona of the president which takes the art of obsequiousness to a level exacerbating violent emesis.

Special Adviser to the President on Energy; any Nigerian would hope that the person in this role has some good short-, middle- and long-term ideas that can be realised in tackling the energy issues of Nigeria from the good management of our mineral resources to the harnessing of natural sources of energy for the development of our infrastructure.

Phoney Adviser of ethics

Special Adviser to the President on Social Development; on does wonder exactly where this fits, for human rights, education, health, security, safety, equality of opportunity, social mobility and many other things that would give Nigerians the pride of existence and nationhood.

Sarah Jibril, the lady who earned one singular vote in the ruling party presidential primaries now has the role of Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values. This sound laudable and noble as it is pretentious. Cynically, one would easily think this is advise on what the president might get away with as opposed to raising the standard of government and governance to deal with corruption and the way audited sources of income allows for thieves to hold sway in the corridors of power and escape justice with impunity – Honestly, one is not impressed.

Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters; that is the snake-pit of Nigerian politics and the excess that Nigeria can hardly afford where those who have a duty to moderate executive power whilst promulgating legislation appear to have their snouts super-glued to the trough of Nigeria wealth that there is no time to them to sniff the air of reason – this job is probably important and it needs someone knowledgeable in the witchcraft of our obscure legislative system to wave the wand of getting things done in an affordable and hopefully an altruistic way.

Special Adviser on clueless antics

Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, this matter is well beyond advisory to one needing effective and useful action, the past few regimes have shown themselves clueless with militancy taking the spoils of amnesty whilst the people themselves still wallow in deprivation with the militants and terrorists pretending to represent their people.

Special Adviser to the President on International Relations; much as we need someone in this role, the greater example will be in running the country well. Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties; it would appear this would be the person to project the office and influence of the president in some as yet undefined assignment, they somehow seem to rise to command the influence of chief adviser.

Rueben Abati, the erstwhile Head of the editorial board of the Guardian Newspaper becomes the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, this in my view overlaps with that of Research and Strategy, that makes two propaganda demons ready to wage war on the sensibilities of Nigerians – we would not be assimilated into that quagmire, if we can help it.

Special Adviser on the interesting

Special Adviser to the President on Gender Issues; this will be a tough task, be it that of the emancipation of women, the matter of infant and maternal mortality, genital mutilation, domestic violence, childhood marriage, primary healthcare delivery from immunization to the rights of women in conservative regions that subjugate them on the premise of religious adherence and obligations and it should also address the matter of minority groups – this would be an uphill battle with societal norms, religion, traditions, customs and a stridently patriarchal system of power that we have acquiesced to without debate.

Special Adviser to the President on Technical Matters; how that would keep the next satellite launch from falling out of orbit remains to be seen as it could overlap with matters that concern infrastructure, power, effective transport, the proper documentation of government material for adherence to the Freedom of Act as well the effective adoption of Information Technology services in government.

Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters (Office of the Vice President); Special Adviser to the President on Legal Matters (Office of the Vice President) and Special Adviser to the President for Special Duties (Office of the Vice President), the need of all these seemingly duplicated posts albeit in the office of the Vice President would be an interesting recipe for political intrigue.

Can we afford this?

The president cannot in and of himself be the sole repository of ability and drive to run the country but there must be a basic quality of leadership and nous to do the job with the advisors in some case just helping to fine-tune the ideas and reframe them into working and implementable policies – you have to wonder what is the validator of good advice over sycophantic subservience to the president.

It is arguable whether the executive arm of government does really need all these advisers who must find the ear of the President to dispense advice that might be useless, accepted or ignored. Where the roles overlap, the people might be seeking to curry favour as those in the court of the President play factions against each other with glee.

The Psalmist talked of the noisome pestilence, you can imagine how fatigued the President can become with the paralysis of analysis and the deluge of advice that he has no time to think through one set of ideas before they are overtaken with new ones for political expedience.

Many are called

Ultimately, running the Nigerian ship of state is not easy task but it begs the question whether Nigeria really can afford this model of democracy that appears to convert every principal piece on a chessboard into a pawn aspiring to promotion that will never materialise as the President surrounds himself with enough cannon fodder that he can so easily insulate himself from opprobrium and responsibility.

I fear that some of these activities all seems like quid pro quo for assuming office than one that engenders confidence in the possibility of a changed Nigeria, I must however give the President the benefit of the doubt much as I am quite unpersuaded of that result, I can handle pleasant surprise.

The least we can do is welcome the Court of Goodluck I and his courtiers of lords, chiefs, elders, thieves, sycophants, advisors - Nigerians all, proud to serve and be served.

Source of news story - Jonathan to swear in special advisers today

The detail of the special advisers was excerpted from a news article on, I uncharacteristically forgot to reference it in my original publication of this blog and I apologise.

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