Tuesday, 25 April 2017

An Interrogation Of Benjamin Netanyanhu’s March 2015 Speech At The Us Congress Vis-A-Vis The Strategic Significance Of A Nuclear-Armed Iran To The Security Of The Middle East – By Johnson Sesan Michael

Executive Summary:

Fundamentally, the Middle East region of the world is a convoluted and capricious region with avalanche of historical crises such as the Arab-Israeli Wars, Iran-Iraqi War, the Gulf Wars, the Suez Canal Crisis, etc. Currently, the Syrian War, ISIL/ISIS terrorism and discussion on nuclearisation project of Iran are front burners. Importantly concerted efforts at solving the impasse between USA and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme culminated into the Nuclear Deal Iran signed with the World Power (P5+1). Whereas, Israeli Prime Minister addressed the US Congress in March 2015 before it was finally consummated.  The chief aim of this discourse is to interrogate Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress in March 2015 particularly within the framework of the strategic significance of a nuclear-armed Iran to the security of the Middle East. In this historical speech Netanyahu believed that the deal between Iran and world powers (P5+1) is a bad deal. Netanyahu remarked on the impending precarious situation his nation (Israel) is about to face if the Nuclear Deal with Iran is crystallized. Critically, Netanyahu established the threat poses by Iran to other states within the international system, particularly in the Middle East. This conversation pointedly mentioned the reactions of Saudi Arab and Turkey. In addition to this, Netanyahu beamed more lights on Iran’s destabilising activities in the Middle East. He reinforced the claim of Iran’s support for global terrorism particularly in the Middle East. Premised on the mutual mistrust and misconception between Iran and her neighbours in the Middle East, there is no doubt proliferation of nuclear arms in the Middle East will be one of the shades of reactions and counter-reactions to any attempt on the part of Iran to develop nuclear bombs. This conversation noted that this Iran’s nuclear deal could precipitate a rift or row between the USA and Israel particularly based on the public criticism of the US president by the Israeli prime minister. Arguably, this portends a precarious situation within the framework of the security of the Middle East.  Fundamentally, the March 2015 speech of the Israeli Prime Minister is our main source, nonetheless other sources and extant literatures were also interrogated.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Amidst the Picture-Puzzle Metaphor from the Presidency - By SMB Johnson

I join other well-meaning Nigerians to welcome president Buhari back home. Yes, that President Buhari has returned back into the country (Friday, 10 March 2017) is no long a breaking news. Having spent about 50 days in London as part of his official vacation, PMB landed at the Kaduna airport from the Presidential Aircraft before entering a chopper to Abuja. Why landing at Kaduna? Remember that Abuja International Airport is undergoing a repair which started on Wednesday; hence, Kaduna airport now serves as an alternate airport for Abuja airport.
Without mincing words, this write-up is a follow up to my last week write-up titled “PMB, the ‘Silencer’: The Paradox and Corollary of Buhari’s Silence” published on this platform. In the aforementioned write-up, I did a diagnosis and a prognosis of the intrigues and nuances that greeted the president’s medical vacation vis-à-vis the rumour spree of the purported death of president Buhari, the silence of the president, pictorial communication by the presidency and the phone calls to selected individuals. For a full grasp of my cogitation, you can read up the write-up. I will like to reiterate here again that following the rumour spree of the purported death of president Buhari; a censorious analysis of the political communication strategy of Buhari’s government vis-à-vis it’s Machiavellian, iconic, ritualistic, laudatory and dramatist mode shows intrigues, nuances, injudiciousness, discordant cognition and complexities.

The pictorial communication on the health issues and medical vacation of Buhari by the presidency reached its climax on Thursday, March 09, 2017 when there was a pictorial display of the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Abuja House in London. Media politics (particularly on social media) that greeted this series of pictorial communications is historical in the political history of Nigeria. Arguably, I consider this as ‘picture-puzzle metaphor’. Reacting to these pictures, there have been varied and cacophonous interpretations, misinterpretations, deconstructions and reconstructions. There were also attempts to prove that the pictures were ‘photo-shopped’. Some Nigerians even went into the extreme ends of ‘photo-shopping’ some of the pictures released by the presidency.

By logical reasoning and perversity occupying my muse as I pen this write-up, I am tempted to submit that the use of pictures by the presidency to convince the Nigeria’s public seems intrinsically unsuited to monothematic political explanations especially within the framework of the complexity and heterogeneity of the make-beliefs around the president’s medical vacation. Just as history is said to be a set of objective hard core of facts with outer layer of subjective interpretation, these pictures as released by the presidency are now part of historical facts or should I say facts of history which are now coloured with diverse interpretations and which will still be subjected to more analysis, interrogation and interpretation. Observably, almost all the pictures released by the presidency which ordinarily would have attracted interpretation that is clearly plausible and apparent, and which could have become obvious and immediately convincing to the public became inappropriate, unprofessional, inadequate and too naïve. Evidently, pictorial communication as characterised by puzzle-solving and concomitant affects is an unexpectedly flexible metaphor which political leaders must be cautious in employing even as the president returns from London and getting back to work in order not to give room for premeditated misconstructions and concocted interpretations. Now, those that are not comfortable with the release of pictures from the presidency should relax. Evidently, PMB has returned home and at least the video of the president’s return is now real in our social spaces. As I write this piece, I am highly opinionated that the president will soon address the nation. In the mean time PMB has asked PYO to continue as Acting President.

PMB, the ‘Silencer’: The Paradox and Corollary of Buhari’s Silence - By SMB Johnson

What does not exist in the media does not exist in public mind. Politics is based on a socialized communication and on the capacity to influence people’s minds.  In other words, politics amidst its cacophonous matrix, permutation and combinations is calculatedly stage for the media. The workings of the political system are staged for the media so as to obtain the support, or at least the lesser hostility of citizens who become the consumers in the political market. On the one hand, the media acts as bridge between government and public. On the other hand, political communication is the connection between politics and citizens and the interaction modes that connect these groups to each other. Calculatedly, political communication is often manipulative in intent vis-à-vis what should be communicated and what should be withheld, with the aim of taking into account and influencing public opinion, and creating strategic alliances and an enabling information infrastructure and public acceptability templates for both domestic and foreign policies of the government.

Following the rumour spree of the purported death of president Buhari; a censorious analysis of the political communication strategy of Buhari’s government vis-à-vis it’s Machiavellian, iconic, ritualistic, laudatory and dramatist mode shows intrigues, nuances, injudiciousness, discordant cognition and complexities. In another shade, critical look on Buhari government shows that nonverbal communication including body language, silent reactions, the use of pictures and music in political communication, etc. is used more extensively than direct verbal communication to convey political messages in the mass media. 

President Buhari has kept silent about the state of his health, though; his aides and cohorts such as Femi Adesina, Saraki, Garba, etc have been speaking on his behalf. But why is the president not speaking for himself? Is the purported sickness affecting his vocal cavity? No, that’s far from the truth. After all, the president has been speaking to his Acting President (I mean his VP) and others. At least the president spoke with the most powerful president in the world (Trump). Hence, if PMB has been speaking to some individuals, then, his silence or refusal to speak to Nigerians must be a political communication strategy. Evidently, Silence considered as an absence of speech or noise – has been generally ignored as a form of communication in political domain because it represents inaction or non-behaviour. Silence is neither not necessarily inaction nor is silence, as many believe, a failure to communicate. Traditionally, silence is a powerful form of communication. Sometimes it could mean someone is still cogitating a response to a hard nut question. It could mean a sign of fret, agreement, dissent, frustration or anger.

There’s a popular parlance that says that ‘silence is the best answer for a fool’, hence, silent insults. Some opine that Nigerians do not have any business to do with Buhari’s health. They claim it’s the president private matter. But can we say Buhari as the president still largely has a private life except the issues of national security or can we also claim that Nigerians got no constitutional rights to know the health status of their president. Can we conclude that PMB does not hold Nigerians in high regards? After all he’s speaking to those he holds in high regards. Is PMB considering the masses of Nigeria as fools, since silence is the best answer for a fool? No doubt, Buhari’s silence is insulting the mass of the people that voted for him.

If indeed we must buy in into the developing theory by a school of thought in Nigeria propounding that Buhari’s vacation particularly his refusal to speak to Nigerians (silence) is a political strategy, what are the deductions we can make from this? Should we accept the claim that Buhari left the scene for him and the nation to have time out to cool off tensions? Should we accept the verdict that Buhari got no remedy for Nigeria’s problem, hence, the need to go off field of politics (just as basket ball players use to do) waiting for an opportune time to stage a comeback? Is it true that his face is not adding ‘human face’ to government policies thereby attracting frustration, reactions, counter reactions, militancy, insurgency, secession attempts, etc? In this direction some have claimed that Osinbajo carries a face that is acceptable across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. Can we accept all these assertions?

Paradoxically, some Nigerians claim that Buhari’s absence and silence are golden, hence beneficiary to Nigeria. They further claim that since he left the scene, it’s been good for the nation but not for the people yet. After all, Osinbajo’s visits to Niger Delta had muted vandalization of oil pipelines thereby resulting to increase in the barrels of oil being exploited daily in the country. Also, there have been dramatic decline in herdsmen attack in the country. In addition, Naira is picking up against the Dollar.
It is pertinent to say at this juncture that silence is sometimes golden especially if opening your mouth can cost you your reputation, job and good will; or if speaking could be injurious to the common good of the generality of the society. Can’t we begin to see the benign and hidden benefits in Buhari’s silence and absence? Can’t we see it as an opportunity for the president to launch a better and stronger comeback in order to serve the nation more effectively? Remember, failing to pay close attention to the silent fraction of a tête-à-tête can result in missing a crucial part of communication. So, I suggest that Nigerians should pay full attention to Buhari’s silence towards the masses.
What are the lessons the masses can pick from this? Let the public assume not to have the consciousness of the fact that he had chosen only to speak to the political elites who he assumed put him in power. Astute and active listeners watch for silence vis-à-vis gaps, pauses, and hesitations. Deliberately, they carry out diagnosis and prognosis of silence particularly within political milieu. They treat silence as a corollary and a paradox as well as analogous to a beeping yellow traffic light at a crossroads (orita). Surely they pay rapt and apt attention to what comes next after silence. Hence, I modestly submit here that Nigerians should think ahead about what come next after this impermanent silence of Buhari and they should also prepare for what come next. Because, this could be a case of ‘agbo to tadi moyin, agbara lo lo mu wa’ (a ram that take a reverse or withdrew from a battle line, will surely return with profound firepower). This silence could be a time of recess, reset, reassessment and restart for a better Nigeria. The return of the president to governance and talking mode could provoke an opportunity for the so-called enemies of progress in Nigeria to be silent by the ‘silencer’ himself.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


As published by POLITICS TODAY NEWSPAPER Saturday, January 07, 2016

Whereas with the incarceration of the likes of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and increase in the numbers of PDP’s stalwarts in DSS and EFCC’s custody while under investigations and trials over alleged looting of the nation’s treasury, it is not really surprising at all that the PDP and other opposition elements in Nigeria are blaring out the emerging dictatorial propensity of President Buhari. What have been the premises of their arguments? Is their argument tenable? In what ways has Buhari manifested dictatorship? Fundamentally, I am here to do a rethink of some of these argument lines. What are Buhari’s dictatorial antecedents? What are the socio-political and economic conditionalities in Nigeria that could facilitate emergence of a dictator? What do Nigerians tend to gain or lose with Buhari’s dictatorship? Judging by the antecedents of some historical benevolent dictators, can we allow Buhari to become a democratic dictator? If Buhari’s dictatorship will help Nigeria achieve progress and development, while can’t we allow him to become one? Can Buhari’s dictatorship help the country to recover looted funds? Too many questions begging for answers and we may not exhaust them all in this (single) piece

With almost two decades of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria, many had argued that it will be very difficult for a dictator to emerge in Nigeria. Some opined that this is impossible since the nation’s constitution is anchored on democratic principles. Many pointed to the complexity and complicatedness inherent in Nigeria’s heterogeneity. However, dictatorship has surfaced where it is least expected.  It had arisen among prosperous, educated and civilized people who seemed safe from a dictatorship – in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America. Historically, Nigeria has had her dose of dictatorship through military leaders such as Abacha, Babangida, Buhari, etc. The first thing I want to dissect is to reconsider some of the imperatives that can trigger the dictatorship of Buhari.
Consider Hitler’s Germany as one of the most paradoxical and striking cases. While there was some German anti-Semitic agitation during the late 19th century, Germany did not seem the most likely place for dictatorship to thrive.  Hitler manipulated the polity by arousing Germany’s nationalistic jingoism to promote his dictatorship. Likewise, Russia, after all, had pogroms in terms of anti-Jewish rioting and persecution for decades.  In the same manner, Russia’s Bolshevik regime dedicated itself to Karl Marx’s hatred for the ‘bourgeoisie’ blamed for society’s ills.  Afterwards, Lenin’s subtle dictatorship became exemplified through his ‘command economy’ he executed during the Russian Civil War between the White Army and the Red Army. Lenin’s successor, Stalin (a brutal dictator) pushed that philosophy farther, exterminating the so-called ‘corrupt rich’ who came to include rich peasants (kulaks) through his ‘purge’. It is germane to point out that economic recession/depression suffered by Germany and Russia also promoted the dictatorships of the leaders mentioned above. This was applicable to the emergence of Mussolini’s dictatorship in Italy.
Boko Haram’s insurgency/terrorism in the northeast, Niger-Delta Avengers’ attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, and discordant secession demands for the Republic of Biafra in the southeast can push a president to seek for ‘emergency power’ to deal with the problems. Evidently, these aforementioned national challenges had drastically increased the military involvement in governance particularly in the public and political domain. With a president who has military background, this portends a call for dictatorship. Incessant Fulani herdsmen attacks nationwide, communal clashes in the middle-belt, religious massacre in Southern Kaduna and other maligns are also currently invading and besieging Nigeria’s suzerainty. Thus, amidst these cacophonous seas of conflicts and challenges pervading Nigeria’s polity, the country remains vulnerable to emergence of a dictator. Many had pointed to the seemingly ambivalence of Buhari’s presidency to some of these ethnic-based clashes particularly to those orchestrated by his marauding kinsmen (the Fulanis) and Islamic chauvinists. If as alleged, Buhari is truly a stark promoter of Hausa/Fulani agenda or Islamic fundamentalism, the current situations can increase his propensity towards dictatorship.
Beyond the above discussion, with the incessant unveiling of the looting spree of previous government and the connivance of the judiciary, then it will not be out of place for the president to mature into embracing or unleashing his dictatorial propensity to fight corruption  - one of the major monsters invading the nation’s fabrics. . In the same vein, politicians commonly demand arbitrary power to deal with a national emergency and restore order, even though underlying problems are commonly caused by bad government policies. In the same vein, in hard times, many people are often willing to go along with and support totalitarianism that would be unthinkable in normal democratic times. Bad economic policies and foreign policies can cause crises that have dangerous political consequences which could promote dictatorship. Aspiring dictators sometimes give away their intentions by their evident desire to destroy opponents.

Those who dismiss the possibility of a dictatorial regime in Nigeria need to consider possible developments that could make our circumstances worse and politically more volatile than they are now – like endemic corruption, soaring taxes, pogroms, inter tribal wars, inflation and economic collapse. No doubt, the Nigerian political system with a separation of powers and checks & balances as entrenched in the Constitution does make it more difficult for emergence of a dictator. Like my readers, I am fully aware of the 1948 fundamental human rights and the rights entrenched in our constitution. As an advocate of social justice, I strongly believe in freedom of speech, association and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want, freedom from fear according to Roosevelt’s understanding of a ‘moral democracy’. This discussion shall continue here next Saturday.  I wish you all happy New Year once again.