Home » Articles, Columnists, Goodluck Jonathan (2010-present), NNP Columnists, Presidency, Reuben Abati » Dr. Reuben Abati: Much to do About Stones

Dr. Reuben Abati: Much to do About Stones

Some commentators have raised a hue and cry over President Goodluck
Jonathan’s reference to “the throwing of stones” during the presentation of the
PDP flag to the then PDP Gubernatorial candidate, Hon. Henry Seriake
Dickson and his then running mate Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd.) in Bayelsa.

These include, among others, Ayodele Akinkuotu, “He who lives in Aso Rock
does not throw gaffes”, TELL, February 20, 2012; The Nation, “Stoner” -in –
Chief?” (Editorial, February 8) and Sam Omatseye, “Circus show” (The Nation,
February 11).

The commentators have been unfair to President Jonathan, taking his words
out of context, interpreting him literally to convey an impression that
“unguarded words” are becoming his “trademark”. If the purported advice in the
pieces were offered in good faith, it would have been understandable, except
that they seem calculated to please former Bayelsa Governor, Timipre Sylva.
What’s more, they all read as if they originated from the same factory.

I find it difficult to accuse the writers of a certain lack of understanding, for
these are well-informed commentators, but there is a certain penchant abroad,
evident also in these comments, namely the theatrical attempt to play to the
gallery, by those who seem to believe that belittling the Jonathan Presidency
will make them popular no matter how unfair their conclusions may be. They
miss the point.

When the President said he would join others to throw stones if Hon. Dickson
failed to deliver on his promises as Bayelsa Governor, in the event of his being
so elected, he certainly was not saying he would go onto the streets, pick up
stones, and lead a riotous assault on the Chief Executive of a state. Nor does
that statement translate into an admission of involvement in the stoning of ex-
Governor Timipre Sylva at a previous occasion, or “an endorsement of political

The commentators should know that words have embodied meanings, and
that in cultural contexts, languages lend themselves to idiomatic and
metaphorical expressions which may carry heavier weight as signifying codes.
The word, “stones” in the present context need not be read literally. Rather,
President Jonathan was urging Messrs Dickson and Jonah to be prepared to
deliver good governance if elected into office. He was also reminding them of
the cost of failing to do so, namely the anger and rejection of the people,
which may not necessarily be in the form of actual “stone-throwing,” but may
manifest as civil apathy.

To transpose that expression out of context, and construe it literally to make
a simplistic point, points not to a lack of intelligence, but to wilful mischief. To
go further and claim that the people of Bayelsa are “fishermen and mechanics”
who cannot understand metaphors is simply ludicrous.

 And it is fast becoming a fashion to twist Mr. President’s statements out of
context. The same has been done with his statement on another occasion,
that Boko Haram members are everywhere. This has been twisted to mean an
expression of “self-indictment” or “helplessness” or “cluelessness”, depending
on the texture of the writer’s cynicism, whereas the President made that
statement to underscore the seriousness of the national security challenge,
and the need for collective vigilance, also to illustrate his view that Nigerians
are dealing with an unconventional enemy: seemingly ubiquitous, mercurial,
without a certain identity, stealthy in form and operation; he could even be
next door without the potential victim knowing.

President Jonathan has also argued that terrorism is an emergent global
security challenge, which requires a rethinking of the national security
architecture and such issues as capacity building, and the training and
retraining of security personnel. If he said “we should be ready to live with the
menace of terrorism” (not his exact words by the way); he was again
underlining the urgency of the need for active responses.  Subsequent
developments have since indicated the seriousness of that challenge, but the
literal-minded have continued to harp on their convenient interpretations!

In some of the commentaries under review, the tone is abusive, and at least
one columnist seems to be deriving too much sadistic pleasure from abusing
President Jonathan. Rather than provide illumination, he resorts to name-
calling, week after week as if he writes solely to entertain an imaginable
political audience.

 It is especially curious that the commentators did not deem it necessary to
comment on ex-Governor Timipre Sylva’s stewardship in Bayelsa, his abusive
press release signed by his media aide in which he heaped insults on the
President, purveyed discreditable lies, and sought to denigrate the office of the
President. His media allies have been parroting the same lies, hoping that by
piping Sylva’s dictated tune, they will force the public to accept their lies as

 I had responded at length to Sylva’s press release in ThisDay – the only
newspaper that tried to balance the story. I can only reiterate that whatever
the matter is, it is between the people of Bayelsa and Sylva. He certainly will
need more than a press release, or hired pens, to render an account of his
stewardship as Governor of that state.

I conclude by insisting that President Jonathan is not “a stoner-in-chief” as
The Nation claims. He is President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed
Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is committed to the rule of law,
and will not be found in any situation promoting lawless behaviour. His
administration’s growing legacy of credible and transparent elections is an
incontestable illustration of his commitment to law and order.

While the cynics are free to be disagreeable, President Jonathan deserves to
be assessed on the basis of facts, not partisan presuppositions. Perhaps if
these writers had enough sense of literary appreciation I might even go further
and play on words and like Mark Antony to the Roman crowd, ask them to
lend me their ears as I outline the tangible progress Nigeria has made under
President Jonathan, but I fear that they may interpret my words literally:
without the understanding that it is a figure of speech and therefore go to town
with the headline that I want to cannibalize their ears! So, I rest my case.    

Dr. Reuben Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Goodluck

Short URL: http://newnigerianpolitics.com/?p=17935

Posted by on Feb 18 2012. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Goodluck Jonathan (2010-present), NNP Columnists, Presidency, Reuben Abati. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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