Threat from the presidency: A need for communication overhaul
President Buhari often struggles to convince Nigerians he could not be impartial or encouraging the killings in North-Central Nigeria. On Thursday, July 5th, while receiving members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) from the 19 northern states and Abuja at the presidential Villa, he wondered why anyone in his right senses could suggest that he, being Fulani, must be encouraging these satanic acts (herdsmen killing) even as he, “an elected President even with substantial votes in the affected areas, will for any reason do harm by an act of omission to those same people?”
But most of the words and feelers coming out of the presidency indicate that the government is firmly on the side of the killer herdsmen. For instance, the defence minister, Brigadier-General Mansur Dan-Ali, has virtually assumed the position of spokesperson for the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association, berating states for passing the anti-open grazing law and calling for its suspension or abrogation as the only panacea for peace in the troubled region. Ditto the Inspector General of Police.
As if the damage done by the partisan slant of key members of the administration on the crisis wasn’t enough, the spokesperson for the president, Femi Adesina, last week, charged those against the administration’s cattle ranching and colony programmes as solutions to herdsmen killings, to have a rethink, noting that they are better off living with the ranches and colonies than dying through persisting conflicts.
The National Economic Council has recommended ranching of cattle and creation of cattle colonies as a solution to the constant killings and urged states to donate lands. Against the background of protest from some states that they had no land to donate for ranches and colonies, the presidential spokesman issued a direct threat to those resisting. Speaking on an AIT programme in response to a question on ancestral attachments to land, Adesina went berserk: “Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are talking about ancestral attachment, if you are dead, how does the attachment matter?”
He continued: “If your state genuinely does not have land for ranching, it is understandable; not every state will have land for ranches. But where you have land and you can do something, please do for peace. What will the land be used for if those who own it are dead at the end of the day?”
Of course, many interpreted that to mean a threat from the presidency for them to surrender their lands for cattle ranches and colonies or face death. How can a sensible government ever make such comments? Even if that was not the intent, how can a government whose main dramatis personae are of the Fulani ethnic stock and who are already being seen as biased towards the Fulani herdsmen, the main aggressors in the conflict, be so careless as to be seen as threatening people who have suffered tremendous physical and psychological violence from the killer herdsmen and who have been alleging that the ultimate intention of the herdsmen is to dispossess them of their lands?
This is a major communication mishap by the government that calls for the complete overhaul of the government’s communication team. By engaging in such reckless talk, the government may have unwittingly hardened the minds of those already opposed to the idea, created in them the feeling that they are indeed, under siege and deepened the suspicions and disunity among the various groups in the country.
Added to the inability of the president to build bridges across all parts of the country, this totally irrational and senseless talk by the administration’s minders is actively hurting the country and giving ammunition to ethnic champions to continue to call for and work for mobilisations along ethnic lines while actively working to subvert the goal of building a united and strong nation.
It is more unfortunate that such blunder should come from an otherwise respected journalist who should choose his words carefully and should always present the government in as good a light as possible. Clearly, Adesina has lost himself in the job and will go down as perhaps, the worst presidential spokesperson who does more damage to the government anytime he opens his mouth to speak on behalf of the government.
We urge the government not only retract the threat, apologise for the damage done, but also overhaul its entire communication team and replace them with communication experts who would be trusted to convey the views and thinking of the government to the populace in an urbane and compassionate manner as possible.
Big Read |