By Dann Jacobs
When something serious happens in any part of the world, you often hear the question asked in the western media, what’s the mood in Washington, in London, in Rome (the Vatican), in Moscow, in Paris, in Beijing or in any other world capital? In the same way they may ask, what’s the mood in Abuja? But they don’t. A lot is happening within Nigeria and elsewhere in the world and one is justified to want to know what Abuja is thinking about them. May I ask, what’s the mood in our own capita!? Are you about getting into the same philosophical mood with me? Relax, Abuja is thinking nothing. Our capital is not sensitive. It has no opinion to offer about any major world event. The question is asked, because people want to know how that country is moving on. In anticipation, how is any world event affecting people? How should we be responding? Abuja does not know it has a responsibility to be ready at all times with its official position on world events and issues. This is not lethargy. It is not knowing what to do, and therefore doing what a dog does with a broken pot – walking away only to return to drink from it.
For instance you would like to know the mood in Abuja over the recession into which the Nigerian economy has plunged; over the free fall, of the country’s currency; over the rising unemployment; over the increasing poverty rate, etc. In the international arena, who would be the next American president? Has Abuja any preference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? How is Abuja getting prepared for the outcome of the election? Does the recent G-20 summit concern Abuja? What is the mood there about the summit? Is Abuja concerned about what North Korea is doing, the brazen, repeated test of its nuclear capability?
Are Syria/Aleppo or South Sudan matters of concern for Abuja? What of ISIS? Do its activities affect the mood of Abuja? What is the mood of Abuja over the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the day nearly 3,000 Americans perished in New York in terrorist attack of its World Trade Center’s twin skyscrapers? What is Abuja’s mood over the surge of immigrants many of who are Nigerians? In attempt to cross over to Europe through the Mediterranean, thousand have drowned? Are you telling me that the entire immigration crisis does not affect the mood in Abuja? What is Abuja’s mood over Israel and Palestine or the Middle East? Abuja may have excuses in the fact that its hands are full with domestic challenges. But not taking interest at all on account of this in world affairs is equally inexcusable. As a member of the international community, Abuja’s isolation from world events could make it unable to learn from them. The inter-relatedness of world events is indisputable and any country looking at them with the detachment and aloofness of Abuja does so definitely at its own peril. If Abuja doesn’t have feelings about things happening in the world, 1 partly blame it on the country’s media and their practice of leadership protectionism. But Abuja must initiate a reflection of its mood on the world stage, before the media can follow. The Nigerian media do not ask questions that will show how sensitive, competent and honest our leaders are. That will expose their employers, the leaders whom they serve. They are not supposed to expose the leaders because that is what they are appointed not to do precisely. Where the nation’s leaders cannot react to developments in the world, it is because they cannot handle the issues involved, and so they are afraid to say something. They lack the boldness and sense of enterprise that professional competence bestows. They feel inferior. They are indeed inferior. That makes them timid. Silence, you know, is golden. Ignorance is bliss. That’s what the issue is. What the media do in situation? where the leaders cannot talk is to use erudite people who can correctly assess the mood and say it as they honestly and fearlessly see it. This can however not happen with the kind of leadership the federal government imposes on the media’- the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Radio Nigeria (FRCN), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Voice of Nigeria (VON) and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). These organs decide largely what we hear or see as information.
They largely influence our thinking. They are gate-keepers that prevent the people in power from being affected by adverse information. They must be able to do just that for them to be appoint-ab!e. Within their organizations, they are always ruthless about this assignment. They must also have an ethnic bias because it is from their ethnic area that they can recruit loyalists to this nefarious and despicable cause. They act as a blanket over the eyes of the largest public, deliberately disallowing them seeing the functional inadequacies of the people in power. They make the leaders never to suffer the consequences of their shortcomings. They are there to prevent the government being held accountable during and after its term. The media are pipers paid by the government. They play the tune dictated by the government. They go out of their way even to compose tunes the government likes. The DCs and directors appointed by the government thus are tune-composers for the government. The people have no choice about the tune they want to hear. See the point? With this, the mood in Abuja is a non-issue. That’s why there is no mood and people do not ask. The government therefore cannot unclench the fist that grips the Nigerian media. In countries where you can monitor the mood in their capitals, media chiefs are not appointed by the government. They are insulated from all influences. Any- attempt to dictate (or even suggest) what the media do is prohibited by law, actionable and also severely punishable. But this is anathema and another no-go, non-negotiable, abhorrent area after the issue of unity. The media chiefs will tell you not to waste your time going into that issue. While people all over the world clamor for media freedom our media chiefs fight tooth and nail to remain in their bondage. What we have is a Freedom of Information Act, a veritable paper-tiger which serves no purpose and is not worth the paper on which it was promulgated, I don’t know how all this came about. It might have started by accident. But to think that some leader someday came up with an evil design like this is hard for me to believe. This type of tightening and control of the mass media of information is the most anti-democratic devise the world has ever known. Yet the civilized world let it remain and be practiced in a place like Nigeria. Let j me in this regard give a tip-off of what happens in a place like the USA. That makes people ask of the mood in Washington. And when you do get the mood there, people get wiser by it. In an office building near the White House in downtown Washington D.C sits The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). There, an impressive corps of specialists, scholars and former policy-makers serve as advisers and a key source of policy ideas for the administration. You can go to them and get the mood in Washington, first hand and good, A non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research organization, it concerns itself with the international implications of current and prospect.ve foreign and domestic issues. It is assumed that the policy maker does not have the time to read a detailed work on the pressing issues of the day, hence the need to provide this “intellectual brokerage house” for government policy makers to get resource materials for their job.
The center’s resident scholars number about 50, though its staff today is about 100. The Center has put together an impressive roster of experts and solid advisers since inception who have even worked on transitions from government to government. Instead of the adhoc, motley and unprofessional set ups we use here that mess up things during our transitions, this one is permanent and experienced to transfer power seamlessly from government to government, CSIS started modestly with a budget of $100,000 in a small townhouse. It expanded rapidly. Today it has access to an annual budget of $4.5 million and sees the need to remain independent of government. Until recently, the center refused to accept federal research contracts and grants, thinking that it would be inconsistent to rely heavily on federal funds while essentially being critical of and commenting freely on government policy. CSIS continues to refuse to conduct any classified research for the government. Its aim is to produce non-partisan policy analyses and would take no official : stand as an institution in order to remain objective and reliable. For the existence of bodies: like GS1-S in the US, you can ask and get the mood-in Washington which is a distilled opinion, not that of one person who may have not sat down to think about the issues at all. I ask again, what is the mood in Abuja? Is Abuja unaware, unconscious, oblivious, and unmindful of everything? Is it insensible? Is it nonchalant of what is going on? How about things happening in the country? We don’t have-to see the mood of Abuja about them? Is it just there looking? I want to see its mood. It is too quiet there. Why-does Abuja not give out the Nigerian official viewpoint? Who will speak for Africa? Who speaks for the Black Race? Is leadership just occupying Aso Rock, hosting and attending meetings and subjecting us to the whims and caprices of the people occupying the Villa? We have to know what they think and do everyday, and especially even their mood. This will tell us how committed and how busy they are. Otherwise, it looks like a place where people were elected go to sleep.