The Presidential Media Chat of last night was bound to generate a lot of talk, and it did so. The early questions were on the insurgency as expected, but President Goodluck Jonathan spoke on a variety of issues. Here are the highlights.
1. We still don’t know where Chibok girls are. President Jonathan stated very clearly that all efforts to locate the abducted girls have proved abortive and there is yet no clue as to where they are being kept, three weeks after they were seized from their school as they prepared to write an exam.
2. Diezani Alison-Madueke will not be sacked. There has been a clamour for the Minister of Petroleum Resources to be fired because of various allegations against her, but the president said there are allegations against almost every minister and if that should be the basis of sack, there will be no ministers left in the cabinet.
3. State of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa will be extended. He did not state this expressly, but he defended the effectiveness of the emergency rule in the three states despite unrelenting terror attacks. He, however, said he would consult before taking a decision.
4. No love lost between Jonathan and House of Representatives. The president accused the lower house of inviting Alison-Madueke for interrogation over 200 times in a year. He said that is “parliamentary dictatorship” which should not be encouraged.
5. There is more power in his tank than he is using. Jonathan said if he were to exercise 40% to 50% of the powers of an executive president as enshrined in the constitution, Nigerians will call him a dictator. He said in countries like South Africa, the president exercises his executive powers more.
6. “America Will Know”. The president has come up with a lot of sound bites in the last three years and he added yet another one last night when he said: “America will know if $50 billion is missing from NNPC. It (dollar) is their money.” If what he meant to say was that America monitors dollar transactions on the international level and would have seen such a huge movement of funds, then his choice of words let him down.
7. “Some of the cases they call corruption are just people stealing”. Now, this is something else. Even the panellists were as confused as the rest of Nigerians when Jonathan said this in response a question on what he doing to fight corruption. If stealing is not corruption, Mr. President, then let the stealing continue!
8. Jonathan has a sense of hubris. The president kicked the dead in an attempt to criticise the media for always being on his case. He said NEXT newspaper, founded by Pulizter-winning Dele Olojede, was set up specifically to fight his government and Diezani Alison-Madueke, and as soon as they didn’t succeed, “the newspaper died”.
9. “Luckily, most of the kidnapped girls are Christians”. His diction ultimately let him down yet again. He was trying to explain the task before the committee he set up to get information on the missing girls. Muslim women in Purdah (he did not use that word) would be difficult to interview because of “Islamic protection” (he used that phrase) but since most of the kidnapped girls are Christians, it would make the committee’s work easier. And the president said “luckily most of them are Christians”. Luckily?
10. Occupy Nigeria still hurts. The president used the opportunity to once again reinforce his allegation that the January 2012 protests against the deregulation of fuel pricing was sponsored – with comedians hired and “pure water” distributed free of charge. That was apparently the turning point for his administration and it is not surprising he still talks about it two years after.