Earlier this week, newspaper headlines read: “Nigeria and China sign $2.3 billion loan deal.” This sent folks in Buhari land into a frenzy as they celebrated the success of the President’s China trip, never mind the irony of celebrating indebtedness as success.
There were a few contrary reactions from those who cautioned that this was China’s way of entrapping Nigeria in a neocolonial financial bondage akin to the imprisoning indebtedness of Nigeria and other African states to the Bretton Woods institutions.
Both supporters and opponents of the loan deal based their reactions on media reports of the deal, reports which quoted multiple administration sources.
Then, a few days later, after both supporters and critics have had their say, new stories and headlines emerged, again quoting statements by key administration players, that there was, alas, no loan agreement with China. Those arguing the merits and demerits of the loan deal had been wasting their time, debating a non-existent loan deal.
Another early report about the China trip was headlined “NIGERIA-CHINA SIGN CURRENCY SWAP DEAL.” Other newspapers wrote about the Yuanification of our foreign reserves. All the reports quoted statements made by CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele. This news too caused much excitement among Buharists, who even went so far as to speculate that this signaled the recovery of the Naira against the dollar. Well, the celebration has turned out to be premature. Two days ago, the minister of foreign affairs spoke to journalists and stated categorically that there was no currency swap deal between Nigeria and China. New newspaper headlines screamed “NO CURRENCY SWAP DEAL WITH CHINA.”
All these contradictions (self-contradictions) happened within days and were stoked by officials of the same administration.
Which begs the question: why is it so hard to get this administration to speak with one voice, to react swiftly to correct wrong official information before it dominates the news cycle and define the national discourse? Why is it so hard to discipline overzealous officials who are too eager to announce accomplishments before they have materialized, too eager to deceptively spin routine policy business as achievement, and too quick to put out false information in the name of generating positive talking points?
Taken together with the blatant disavowal of many promises made during the elections and the increasingly hollow promises of Ibe Kachikwu about the end of the ongoing fuel scarcity, this administration’s credibility deficit is piling up.
The president’s men and women are doing him a disservice.
I will not even start on the president’s so-called media team, which allows falsehood and propaganda from uninformed members of he administration to fester and go uncorrected for days only to see such information contradicted by other officials, creating the impression of a confused administration lacking message discipline and incapable of coherent communication and truth-telling.
In the years to come, this media team may become the basis of cautionary tales and studies in mass communication departments of how not to do presidential information management.