Friday, July 12, 2019

Lai Mohammed: To inform or inflame?

Lai Mohammed: To inform or inflame?
January 25
09:57 2016

Arguably one of the most effective opposition party spokesmen in Nigeria is Lai Mohammed, now our minister of information and culture.

While his party, the APC that was formerly in opposition won the presidency on March 28th, last year and thus changed into the ruling party, Mohammed seems not to have changed his communication strategy to reflect the new change in the status of the party that he represents, hence he is still going into the archives, as it were, to compile mind-blowing corruption allegations cases in Nigeria (some of which are wild and spurious) and publishing same.

If the intention was to shock Nigerians, our new minister of information and culture might have discovered to his chagrin that Nigerians have become impervious to such information hence he did receive the feedback of national indignation as he anticipated after the media briefing where he regaled journalists with the claim that N1.34 trillion naira was stolen by just 55 persons between 2006 and 2013 which is seven years of PDP’s 16-year reign as ruling party.

One thing that came to my mind when I first saw the headlines announcing the staggering amounts stolen in Nigeria in the period he reviewed was to wonder whether the intention was to inform or inflame. In my view that piece of information was completely unnecessary as it would hurt rather than help Nigeria particularly with reference to attracting foreign direct investors into our economy.

I have always argued that the kind of foreign investment that is desirable for Nigeria is funds from ‘Mum and Dad’ investors in Europe and USA also known as pension funds which remains in the economy for long as opposed to private equity funds also known as hot money which takes flight out of Nigeria as soon as any firms of shocks or instability are noticed.

The key reason private equity firms bring their funds into a country is if return on their treasury bill is mouthwatering like when under Ngozi Okonji-Iweala’s watch as coordinating minister of the economy, treasury bills were selling for as much as 12%.

Conversely, pension funds flow into an economy, if the country is believed to have honest leaders and people as well as have in operation transparent and stable institutions that would facilitate trade and investments.

To attract the much sought after ‘Mum and Dad’ pensions funds from the European investors, as is the case of Dubai, where a lot of such money are being used to build the region’s infrastructure to the extent that the Middle East desert country now wears the combined looks of both the USA and Europe, our information and culture minister should be regaling the world with how much changes are taking place following reforms in the sociopolitical environment in Nigeria and not highlighting how much was stolen by corrupt politicians and civil servants.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to the country where he signed extradition treaty, amongst other bilateral agreements, must have further opened up his eyes to how a country in the Middle East, the hot bed of terrorism, has been able to remain free of terrorist attacks in the midst of turmoil.

Foreign affairs, justice, trade/investment and finance ministers who were on  his entourage would have leveraged the opportunity to also learn first hand about the highly innovative and efficient UAE land and property administration laws that enable transfer of ownership title of properties in 48 hours.The highly effective dud/bounced cheque law whereby an offender is held in custody until he/she redeems the value of an issued dud cheque must have also caught the interest of the justice minister.

On the issue of the publication of the obscene amount of money stolen in Nigeria in a space of seven years, my guess is that Mohammed must have commissioned that investigation while his party was in opposition but the party won the presidency before he was done with the compilation.In order that the exercise would not be in vain and therefore a wasted effort, he decided to use it anyway.

Mohammed has lashed back at his critics saying that the information that he compiled is already in the public domain, fair enough,but can the minister tell me anybody that would prepare a curriculum vitae and put as the first item in his academic qualification that he made a third class in his university degree examination and he scored F9s in mathematics and English language in secondary school certificate examination? That’s exactly, in my view, what the minister did by compiling and publishing those figures.Even if they may be in the public domain, as he has explained ,of what use is a govt in power packaging negative information the way the minister did? It’s tantamount to handing a loaded gun to an arch enemy who very badly want hurt you.

I have mentioned in previous articles how Russians and Egyptians in their national interest refused to admit that it was an ISIS bomb that brought down the ill fated Russian airline in Sham el sheik, Egypt late last year. Until the potential consequences of admission, such as street protests / riots against Russian president, Vladimir Putting for meddling via military intervention in the Syrian war, and the possibility of boycott of the Egyptian tourist heaven on security and safety  grounds by European tourists, had been mitigated, the two countries, on the basis of national interest, preferred to remain in denial.

In the light of the foregoing, my humble advise is that the new minister of information and culture, should concentrate his efforts in marketing Nigeria to the rest of the world to enhance trade and tourism potentials of our dear nation with a view to boosting our foreign exchange earnings in the light of the crash in the price of oil/ gas,Nigeria’s mono export product.

Perhaps, I need to remind minister, Mohammed  that Sham el-sheik, a tourist haven that has attracts visitors from all over the world, especially Europeans like Britons and Russians has similar desert environmental characteristics like Kano and Katsina in Nigeria.With Boko haram terrorists on the verge of extinction in Nigeria, if what the minister has been telling his compatriots is to be believed, why not think of how to create a new city like Sham el-sheik that would be dedicated to tourism in Nigeria ?

Such refreshing and progressive thoughts,in my view,should be occupying the mind of our minister of information and culture as opposed to raking up and highlighting the sordid muck of corruption in Nigeria to the extent that it’s looking like the nation’s mascot.

From experience, there  is pre- and post-election campaign strategies and activities. Emphasizing the negative virtues of the opposition party to win over the electorate, falls into the pre-election genre.

Mr minister must change gear into the post election mode which is the promotion of socioeconomic reforms  being made or proposed to usher positive change into the lives of the electorate.
The 2016 budget currently receiving attention at the National Assembly has generated a lot of bad blood from the electorate.

The misgivings surrounding the seeming profligacy of the presidency which jacked up proposed expenditures in Aso Rock villa,in some cases by about 100% over the previous year’s budget,and the presidential letter proposing amendments to reflect the austere mode of the nation ,should be given publicity to endear mr president to the masses.

The beauty of mr presidents’s swift response to the public outcry against some aspects of the budget proposal which he is changing after listening to viewers during his media chat must  not be lost and one of the ways of achieving that objective is to push it more vigorously into the public space to douse the negative vibe from the initial mistake.

The task ahead is too enormous for the minister to waste executive time looking back instead of looking ahead, so my brother Lai Mohammed, be guided.

Onyibe, a development strategist and futurologist, was commissioner in delta state govt and an alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA  sent this piece from Asaba.


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