By Godwin Osademe
WHEN William Shakespeare, in his play entitled Macbeth, made this profound quotation: “The voice kept crying, ‘Sleep no more!’ to everyone in the house. Macbeth has murdered sleep, and therefore Macbeth will sleep no more.” Act 11 Scene 11, he meant that some decisions and actions carry predictable or unpredictable consequences.
In his desperation to become king, Macbeth, the protagonist of the play, murders King Duncan in his sleep and as a sign of guilt, tells his wife, Lady Macbeth, that he (Macbeth) thinks he heard a voice say ‘sleep no more…Macbeth has murdered sleep.’ Expectedly, Macbeth became King but never enjoyed the throne.
Like Macbeth, the All Progressives Congress, APC, government led by President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have murdered sleep when one considers the recent increases in the pump price of fuel, electricity tariff, unemployment rate, inflation, Naira-US Dollar exchange rate and security challenges, and the consequences of some of the decisions.
These are worrisome developments because they are seen to be policy shifts that run counter to the President’s electoral promises, and I perceive this to be a major communication challenge for his image handlers.
It is inconceivable to come to terms with the fact that the same party that resisted former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration by leading a protest against the removal of fuel subsidy and increases in the pump price of petroleum products, now stabs the people in the back by implementing the same policy.
To Nigerians, the administration has bitten off more than it can chew. Resultantly, it may “sleep no more” because it has “murdered sleep”, unless it reverses the trend to avert the shutting down of the economy for which labour leaders and other civil society organisations are contemplating.
The pump price of fuel in the country has increased for three consecutive months from slightly over N121 per litre in June to over N143 in July; and N150 in August, to N162 in September. This has aggravated inflation rate which now hits 13.22 per cent in August 2020, the highest so far.
As for electricity tariff, authorities, from September 1, 2020, approved electricity tariff increment by over 100 percent as reports link the increment to part of requirements for the approval of the proposed World Bank loans for the reforms of the power sector. This is coming at a time when unemployment rate currently stands at 27.1 percent.
A government which promised to create employment and end poverty in Nigeria, as part of its electoral promises has paradoxically thrown unsuspecting employees into avoidable labour market and expectedly, under this same administration, a report by The World Poverty Clock since 2018 revealed that Nigeria has the most extreme poor people in the world, overtaking India in this position.
Furthermore, exchange rate volatility is another credibility challenge of the current administration. Despite President Buhari’s promise to reduce the naira exchange rate against the dollar, $1 sells for N380 at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to a report credited to the BBC News of September 4, 2020 on its website, CBN on May 28, 2015, a day before ex-President Jonathan handed over to President Buhari, $1 dollar sold for N197. Today, at the black market, $1 sells for over N460.
As a result of the recent increases in the price of fuel and electricity, and the challenges thrown up by them, protests broke out in Osogbo, Osun State, on September 11, 2020. Protests, if allowed, will aggravate the already intractable security challenges in the country.
Security issues in the country have become hydra-headed. From Boko Haram terrorists through herdsmen to bandits, government has received serious knocks recently. To the masses, government has failed to keep to its electoral promises to end security challenges in Nigeria.
As a result, analysts are calling for the sack of the nation’s security chiefs as the security challenges assume ethnic, religious and divisive interpretations. On September 16, Gani Adams, raised an alarm that armed terrorists now occupy Kishi in Oyo State, kidnapping and engaging in illegal activities in the area.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, have criticised this administration and agree that the country is so divided that it is fast becoming a failed state. Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, interpret the security challenges as a deliberate attempt to suppress Christianity in Nigeria as terrorists attack churches and Christian communities.
On its part, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has issued a two-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse the hikes in electricity tariff and fuel pump price or face civil unrest nationwide and warned that after September 28, 2020, it would mobilise its members nationwide for a protest. The TUC, 79 other civil society organisations and unions plan a protest and strike over these developments.
No doubt, these developments portend a great challenge for President Buhari’s media managers because they have a daunting task to accomplish. It is difficult to manage the communications of an administration that change electoral promises because of the credibility challenges and anger that go with them.
Government and presidential media managers are assertive individuals who nail their colour to the mast and get the work done at whatever cost. The price to pay as government and presidential spokespersons in a democracy dominated by poor and angry people is high. However, the job requires clever and diplomatic navigation of ugly situations most of the time.
The media managers must master a combination of communications theories and psychological configuration of skills to manage biased, ignorant, prejudiced and hostile individuals and filter their communications to align them to government policies and decisions.
They must be impeccable, charismatic, relatable, genuine, credible, quick thinking and assume the character of the figure head. They must sift communications strategies like an oracle and have a powerful network within and outside their circle of influence. Indeed, these are challenging tasks for them.
Nigerians are tired of the refrain of blaming past administrations for government woes after five years in the saddle. An adage in my place says you can spot a good dancer from the first step he or she takes.
Media managers have moved from media attacks of critics to communication for development, because harassment of critics who genuinely speak against unpopular policies earn government united foes and divided friends.
For instance, Femi Adesina, while reacting to the statements credited to Prof Wole Soyinka on Channels Television’s political and current affairs programme, Politics Today said if Nigeria was divided, as alleged by Prof Soyinka, this division transcends regimes.
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