But it is interesting that the Managing Director of NAN declared his mindset. Somehow, it says that Buhari is worried. It also says that those around him are working hard at writing a narrative which will soothe his pains a little. It is not impossible that Onanuga’s effort is part of a larger attempt to dance for the master and make him look good when indeed the situation outside his castle is bad.
I found it difficult to understand what a very senior colleague and Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mr. Bayo Onanuga, wanted to achieve in an update he made on his facebook page on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. In case you did not read it, Faceboom had asked the MD of NAN the same question it asked you -‘what’s on your mind’? Mr. Onanuga, without compulsion, said what was on his mind. He wrote: “My daughter was on the Virgin Atlantic Flight that took off from Lagos to London today. I asked her to find out whether the plane was filled up or going to London near empty judging by the noisy campaign from a section of the country about the ‘hardship’ in our country.
“My daughter sent back this one-line text, after boarding: “daddy, the flight was filled up o”.
“This makes me to wonder whether all the seeming orchestrated campaign in the media was not mere propaganda to make the Buhari regime look really bad.
“I was in Bauchi and Jos at the weekend, I also found that food was cheap everywhere. In our hotel, we paid about N700 for a plate of semovita, or eba with a choice of cat fish or chicken. On the roadside, I found to my surprise that with just N1000, I bought over 50 oranges, two giant water melon and 10 pieces of sweet potato. I had experienced a similar thing in the market at Abuja, where I found that with N1,400, I could make a big vegetable soup, with tomato, pepper and roasted Titus fish.
“Are the media and bloggers really painting a correct image of our country? It’s time for the media to objectively conduct a reality check about our reports, whether we are not over sensationalising so-called hardship that we talked about”.
Whatever the MD of NAN wanted to achieve with that must have been communicated wrongly given the comments that followed.
I guess his reading of the comments brought him closer to the reality of the present situation, which he has been quarantined from, forcing him to write another seeking to clarify and, or, explain himself. Unfortunately, his later attempt failed to strike the sort of chord he would have liked because he had already sold himself as one who has crossed the red sea and now laughing exuberantly at those whose pains, and deprivations, oil his present comfort.
Honestly, Onanuga’s view of reality means nothing to many Nigerians given that it is traditional for those who get to work with government, especially at the federal level, to, literally, spit on the graves of those who bear the brunt of very bad government policies. But for the recession the country’s economy has been worked into, and the consequences on ordinary humans, it matters.
To dissect Onanuga’s comment would show exactly where he is coming from. First, it was about his daughter on a flight from Lagos to London; Normal scenario for the bourgeoisie in Marxist philosophy. It’s a class thing. He did not tell you how his daughter got to the airport and what she observed along the way. Those were not necessary because they would be indicting and not add any value to the sort of narrative he wanted to push forward.
Secondly, the NAN boss says: “This makes me to wonder whether all the seeming orchestrated campaign in the media was not mere propaganda to make the Buhari regime look really bad”. In other words, the Buhari ‘regime’ is not yet bad despite public confessions, and admittance, by Buhari himself, that he is aware that things are bad for the people.
Recall that Buhari had, on July 28, 2016, while addressing a meeting with the Council of Abuja Imams at the State House, in Abuja, urged religious leaders to use their positions and keep calming the people. Also on September 6, while the NAN boss was attempting a hype against hardship in the country, Buhari was in Edo state to prop support for Godwin Obaseki. There, he told Nigerians that “I assure you that we will get out of our economic doldrums”. Would there be any need for the promise if there was no hardship? So far, all what Buhari had said as assurance to take Nigerians through the biting hardship had been published by NAN. Yet, its Managing Director suggests that hardship reports were propaganda against Buhari.
Thirdly, Onanuga took a tour to Bauchi and Jos and reported that he had a plate for food for N700 with choice cat fish or chicken to go with. Next he tells us that the he bought some oranges and watermelon for ‘just N1000’. Further he said he made a pot of soup consisting of vegetable, tomato, pepper and smoked fish for N1,400 only. In other words, the MD of NAN wants his audience to believe that he walked the streets of Abuja and into a market where he shopped for soup? While this is not impossible, I think the narrative lost its soul when one realises that the same man who said he shopped for soup, at N1,400, in an open market in Abuja got his daughter flying to London on Virgin Airways.
Besides, If indeed a man at his level as Managing Director of a Federal Government agency, with all the prerequisite of office and pay packet, would shop for soup at N1,400 only, isn’t that a huge statement on the purchasing power of the ordinary Nigerian who may have lived without salary in the past six months or more. If the rich cry, what would the poor do? Does Mr. Onanuga realise that there are families crying to touch N1,400 in a week?
Take this! I was in a restaurant at the POWA Market in Ikeja recently. I watched as a man walked in and asked for what was available. Next thing he did was to ask for cost details. The lady attendant told him. Eba, Fufu, Semo, Wheat with any soup and goat meat N700; Eba, fufu, semo, wheat and any soup with beef N500; with fish is N800. The man shook his head and asked; don’t you have kpomo (cow hide)? The lady responded in the affirmative but said that would cost N200 with any of the range. The man then heaved a sigh and asked that he be given a plate of fufu with melon soup and kpomo. That was in Ikeja. If a man would come so low, what else was left in him? N1400 would have guaranteed that man seven meals if he goes with 0-1-0, or 0-0-1 or 1-0-0. That would mean seven days meal. Meanwhile, there is no possibility that Bayo’s pot of vegetable soup would last 48hrs. I therefore suggest that as Mr. Onanuga drives home from office, at the close of day, he should kindly drop N500 into the hands, or plates, of any of those guys hanging out around Area 10. Their reaction will educate him further on the reality.
Lastly, he asks: “Are the media and bloggers really painting a correct image of our country?” Then he suggests –It’s time for the media to objectively conduct a reality check about our reports, whether we are not over sensationalising so-called hardship that we talked about.
By describing the hardship as ‘so-called’, the NAN boss beliefs it does not exist. His belief rather is that the media (which he is part of and used so very well in the recent past), and bloggers (which his party, APC, had deployed in the past as a tool to demonise government) are to blame. Here, he attempts to push his summary of “over sensationalising” over to the media (traditional and online). This, to my mind, is a continuation of the culture of blame which has characterised government’s inefficient handling of the economy. Under this culture, the government takes no responsibility for anything; the responsibility for its failings lie somewhere else. And for reports of hardship, it is with the media and bloggers community, not with the one whose policies, and decisions, caused the hardship.
But it is interesting that the Managing Director of NAN declared his mindset. Somehow, it says that Buhari is worried. It also says that those around him are working hard at writing a narrative which will soothe his pains a little. It is not impossible that Onanuga’s effort is part of a larger attempt to dance for the master and make him look good when indeed the situation outside his castle is bad. But that has also failed. I would think that responses to Mr. Onanuga’s commentary on his mindset should be feedback to President Buhari. I suggest he prints, and forwards, them to the President, if he has such access. Otherwise, he could seek out some cartoonists to turn the responses into cartoons and have them published in a newspaper, as a series, so they would, by chance, catch attention of the President, who Garba Shehu told us entertains himself with cartoons each time he picks up a newspaper.
My last take: I think Mr. Onanuga should be more cautious on his public communication given the position he occupies as the MD of NAN. As head of a federal government agency, his comments weigh more. He is no longer Bayo Onanuga of The News. I say this because his June 2, 2016 update on his facebook page came with loads of disdain and advocacy for bloodshed. Then he wrote: “The Niger Delta Avengers are avenging for whom really? Is it for some of the governors of the region such as James Ibori and Alamieyeseigha who plundered the resources of their states or the former warlords who became overnight billionaires? Or are they on political vengeance because an Ijaw man lost a presidential election and you wonder what the son of the soil did for the region during his five years in charge to warrant revenge? President Buhari should spare no effort in routing these economic gangsters intent on crippling our nation. What they are doing is worse than treason.”
This shouldn’t come from the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria.