Re: Before We Crucify Etteh

NOTE: Just wonder the timeliness of the publication of the piece on the above  by the spokesperson to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Patricia Etteh. What other strategies could have been more effective going by the disclosure of her SA-Madia and the stories in the media?

Moderator

There is no doubting the brilliance of Egbemode’s piece in defence of her boss. It’s such a revealing piece of writing. Apart from pointing out the antics of the persecutors of her boss who she made out as insatiable Oliver Twists, she has succeeded in presenting Etteh as another Joan d’arc who’s worthy of beign preserved. The veiled reference to the not so frugal repair of the Senate President’s official residence in 2005 is quite instructive .It appears that this is a prelude to the avalanche of mudslinging that will come later. And talking about divine timing, the dramatic  boxing match in the House yesterday has helped to tilt the tide of public opinion the other way from her principal albeit temporarily. However, I wish Egbemode the best of luck as she attempt to rescue her boss from the raging inferno that is threatening to consume her. I have spoken.

Yinka

I am an addict Funke’s weekly column in the back page of weekend Independent newspapers. She still sustains it even in this wahala! If this piece of her had come early and update the public too regularly the present overwhelming negative perception against the speakers couldn’t have risen. As the press secretary, she should have been more proactive through preventive publicity measures. She responds like an editor who acts in the heat of breaking news. The message is still timely but some of her words are very hard.

Sam

Because I have received this mail, I have decided to respond in the national interest ans also hoping that the foolishness of some small persons like me could actually be a fountain of knowledge and wisdom to learn from on the Etteh matter. I have not met Funke Egbemode physically in my life, but since in the 1980s, i have been reading her in some soft sell publications in Nigeria. I began to take her serious when she crossed over to the mainstream print media, and I continue to read her. I do not really agree with her most of the time, but I admired her vintage style of communication.

I have read Funke’s commentaries on the current travail of Madam Speaker and I will come to that shortly. As for Madam Speaker, the first time I probably met her was in 2000 when both of us were guest discussants/analysts on Mark Amarere’s AIT evening programme on democracy. At the end of the programme, she struck me as a Lady with future in the Nigerian politics even though we disagreed a lot in our individual analyses of political issues. I admired her candour, calmness, gentle but firm manner of her speech delivery. Since then, I saw her rarely from afar in some high places. I was not surprised when she succeeded in becoming the Speaker. The rest is still unfolding history.

Back to issues raised by Funke, here are what I consider my impartial, honest analysis, comments and suggestions which I am offering hoping that those reading may learn one thing or the other and use it to resolve the current acrimony in the lower chamber.

*Funke’s joining of the issue of post/power sharing style of Madam Speaker may be right to her and an attempt to burnish the character of her boss, she has not intelligently brought this aspect to the fore to show its cord to the main issue: The N529 million contract scandal.I was expecting her to tell her readers and objective minds that the traducers of Madam Speaker were tangentially aggrieved on power sharing style of Madam Speaker and were willing to do everything to satisfy their personal interests to the detriment of national image and the overall corporate interest, values and ethics of the national assembly. From the developments and intrigues on this scandal so far, any objective and intelligent watcher of the unfolding events will surely know that the issue of the contract scandal is a smokescreen. After all, some of us know and have well-informed details of the roles which Hon Farouk Lawal played in the Ghali Na’Abba era and various scandals that enmeshed the former Speaker. For instance, can someday out there ask Farouk Lawal to honestly account for all the monies and alllowances he took and collected since he became a member of the House of Rep? Can he also honestly come out publicly and beat his chest that the financial recklessness and malfeasance of the Na’Abba cohort of which Farouk was a prominent mastermind, should be brought out now to public fore and put on the scale of equity and justice alongside the allegations he has secretly and openly orchestrated against Madam Speaker? Until Farouk Lawal is lion-hearted enough to publicly speak on the issues I have raised above, I reserve my comments in the meantime.

*Funke also raised the issues of clandestine meetings and very negative and false informations which the traducers of Madam Speaker, championed by Farouk Lawal (which he has not denied and which Madam Speaker has openly confirmed), made to be published in the media to the effect that the innocent private party that was organised in USA in honour of the Birthday of Madam Speaker by her friends and associates there, gulped millions of naira of public fund. They went ahead to allege that she had also ordered jeeps worth millions of naira and got the usual ignorant and wicked Nigerian media to splash these apparent false informations without taking the pains to find out the truth. Up till now, none of the newspaper editors have deemed it fit to query and suspend their reporters for filing the above-mentioned reports which have now confirmed to be full of libel, falsehood and deliberate wickedness of the satanic order. Funke, agsin, rather than bring all these incontrovertible truth to the tablet of the hearts of her readers and traducers of her boss, preferred to go into luxury of unnecessary word expenditure that has no bearing the scandal that has engulfed her boss.

*But I must credit Funke for also mentioning the multi-million naira which the national assembly in years past spent to renovate some aspects of the Senate President official quarter. What she did not tell us is whether the previous expenditure observed due process and within budgeted expenditure, and its basis of similarity with the current renovation of the two foremost principal officers of the lower chamber. If it was right and appropriate to spend such multi million naira in the past for similar renovation of a part of the official residence of a principal officer of the national assembly, why must it now be “haram” in the case of Etteh and her deputy? We need to answer this question to be begin to understand and unmask the motives of those behind the current shame in the national assembly that is obviously a big shame on the image of Nigeria.

*I was not really happy when Funke began to use the issue of security nature of Madam Speaker’s residence to justify why contractors were not publicly invited. It is true that there are some sensitive government institutions, properties and jobs which accepted global practices, can not be thrown to the general public for bidding. However, there should always be provision for compliance with the due process for those shorlisted for such sensitive jobs. This is what I expected Funke to clarify but she unfortunately took a hundred meter dash from discussing this aspect. Was the due process followed and please what are your due process parameters? Funke can still answer these questions if she chooses to really help her boss.

*I do not want to go beyond some of the issues raised in Funke’s reaction which i have tried to dissect. However, permit to move further in bringing to the fore some of the attributions to Madam Speaker. Firstly, that offically, she is entitled to a hotel accommodation and allowances that could have gulped over N200 million but she rejected preferring to use that amount and others to renovate the official residence of the Speaker of the House, not her personal residence. In my mind, if this is true, she should be commended. Again, may be Farouk Lawal can help us to publish how much previous Speakers collected before they moved into their official residence. I think we should task ourselves beyond the realm of propaganda! Let us look at this matter as intelligent citizens who can not be hoodwinked.

*Another crucial issue raised by Madam Speaker is, was this project budgeted for? If it was budgeted for, so was a financial provision for it? So Madam Speaker need to educate us on the processes for the award of the contract. All the officers now talking, what was there official position when they discovered the irregularities they are now bringing to the fore of public knowledge?

*Why is that the normal procedure for investigating this type of allegation was sidetracked? Is it because of Farouk Lawal’s hatred for a female leadership he can not manipulate? Why are Madam Speaker’s traducers calling for her head when she has not been given opportunity of a fair hearing? Who were those organising those illiterate protesters who turned their protest cardboards upside down because they did not understand and could not read/explain the meaning of the cardboards they were holding?

*And why is that it was when Madam Speaker was to testify before the panel that her traducers still tormented her up to the venue of the panel sitting and succeeded in disrupting the sitting of the panel?

*I can not decide for the House of Rep but the members have qualms of conscience and truly value their integrity, then, they should wake up and do the right thing by adopting punitive actions against all those found to be masterminds behind the manhandling of the Speaker and by extension, the entire National Assembly and the country. If we agree that based on the conduct and primitive style this scandal has been orchestrated and prosecuted, the time has come for the leadership of The Presidency and National Assembly to honestly and stoutly rise and defend and protect the democratic institutions by openly and transparently resolve this contract logjam vis-a-vis the raison detre behind the crisis. Mr President distance himself is a terrible mistake because an intelligent reader of the unfolding events in the lower chamber will now that sooner than later  later, the President can not avoid falling victim of primitive and crude strategem by some people who want to be relevant at the expense of the interest of the country. The person I pit is the Senate President because, if this kangaroo approach to remove Madam Speaker is successful, this primitive strategy can be introduced to the Senate. Of course, if the President says it is none of his business but that of the members of the national assembly, then we shall begin to witness the larger image of the theatre of the absurd.

*The way out. First, establish truly if Madam Speaker was or is a beneficiary of the contract award. Then establish if money has actually been paid from public purse to fund the contract so far. If she is not directly involved, the President should champion an amicable resolution of this national embarrassement by  making the Speaker to apologise to Nigerians and her colleagues for any role she has played and then return to the house to secure a fresh vote of confidence.

*Whatever recommendation the panel shall avail the house is already smeared with controversy and deliberate propaganda to construct the public perception on the plank of hatred for Madam Speaker. THE TRUTH CAN NOT COME OUT OF THIS PANEL AND THIS IS THE BASIC TRUTH. The answer? Political solution. We must all honestly stop mouthing the issue of integrity and honesty in this matter as all the major actors have no integrity judging from their antecedents.

*Finally, these are my very personal opinions which I have offered and pledge to be responsible for, without any discussion and consultation with anybody but my conscience. This does not mean that I am not wrong. Nobody is perfect. Thank you all.

Tunde Martins

Tunde Martins’ response shows a man with a touch and insight into the practice of his profession (Public Affairs). His position on the timeliness of a (necessary) reaction by Madam Speaker’s spokesperson and the other side of the story as might be heard from the horses mouth would have done well if it came earlier. Was it timely, probably, the upsurge wouldn’t have occured. Please click on my piece in the Nigeria Village Square title Etteh’s Sin Not Women Failure to get my own position on the matter.

Marshall

Funke’s sophistry on this matter does not have the capacity to hoodwink anybody.

Madam Speakaer’s attempt to use that obscene amount of money – N628 million – to renovate, upgrade, reconfigure, transform or do whatever to the Speakers house potrays her as an insensitive person contemptous of the new resolve to return to probity and moderation. The issue is not whether the house should be renovated or upgraded, the question is how much can be reasonably used to do so. Some of us have bought houses for just N7 million and we shall be repaying the loan for life and Madam speaker is not more educated than us.Our leaders must not use their God given privileges to insult our intelligence by commandeering huge resources of the State to buy themselves comfort. It is clear to me that the only reason why the Speaker did not stay in the hotel is because she did not want them to have that big figure quoted by Funke. Instead, the Speaker would like to have that amount for herself and her cronies – and we saw these cronies on TV hitting other people. Definitely, the contract in question has been inflated. Nor do we believe that Madam Speaker went to US purposely for medical attention, we believe that she had a birthday party there. If she was my mum, I had told her: “Mum, this matter is messy, move out of this office now”. The likes of Funke are today marketing rotten grocery. Hasn’t ETTEH resigned yet?

Abubakar.

Ifeanyi Marshalls position on the comments by Tunde Martins as concerning the ETTEH-GATE CONTRACT SCANDAL is informed from a femminst opinion about an issue that is on a national pedestal and for which the Governemt of our dear President Musa Ya’radua has vowed never to condone.This shouldn’t be because the House of Representatives in appointing her the Speaker did not look at her as the weaker of the two spicies that make up MAN (sui-generics). They saw in her a woman that could carry on the office of the Speaker with the Dignity, Transparency,Accountability and free of the one can-can worm that treathens  to put at risk the very essence of our forefathers fight for the freedom this country CORRUPTION!

So Tunde Martins is absolutely correct in his ascertions and comments on the issue and i feel that as a Honourable person that the Speaker claims to be she should resign her position and await the outcome of the investigations and if exonoretaed then she will be recalled.The Rule of Law must be followed to the letter and there should no sacred cow.

I have spoken

Shalom!!!

Obi,

Etteh’s House Of Spin and The Gladiators

By Reuben Abati

The fracas in the House of Representatives in Abuja, on Thursday, September 20, at the sitting of the panel that was set up to investigate the N628 million House renovation scandal involving the Speaker, Mrs Patricia Etteh and the Deputy Speaker Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, provided much drama and excitement and has appropriately raised profound concerns about the national political process.

But it is a realistic illustration of the highly underdeveloped nature of our political system. Since independence in 1960, Nigeria’s experience of democratic rule has been largely improvisational. The Executive arm of government has had its fair share of showing up the limitations of the political elite; the Legislature at both national and local levels has been at best a theatre of uncivilized conduct. Over the years, having experienced the politics of the First Republic, the Second Republic and the Third Republic, Nigerians have come to accept the fact that the legislature is populated by mannerless persons and that occasional recourse to riotous behaviour, uncouth language, physical combat and raw violence is part of parliamentary ethos.

In the Fourth Republic, starting from May 1999, the latest crop of legislators has shown greater determination to behave like wrestlers, boxers and thugs. A disturbing development is the increased use of bombs, guns, machetes, assassination of opponents, and the kidnapping of persons as passwords of political communication. In the past eight years we have witnessed various sides of the problem: one Senate President removed the Mace and took it to his village, an aggrieved Senator once slapped a female Senator; in the state Houses of Assembly, members occasionally bring juju to parliament to threaten other members… Nigerians rationalize this lack of decorum by asking the rhetorical question: what level of civility should anyone expect from persons who rigged elections and stole the people’s mandate?

And so on Thursday, September 20, members of the House of Representatives re-enacted an old and familiar drama. The Speaker of the House of Representatives appeared before the panel investigating the alleged N628 house renovation scam, and just as she was asked to take the witness stand, her supporters began to clap for her in solidarity. But another member, obviously not impressed, started shouting loudly and assertively: “Ole, ole ole” (thief, thief, thief).

A pro-Etteh lawmaker immediately made a move for this nay-sayer and in a matter of minutes the House of Representatives had been turned into a House of Gladiators. Emmanuel Jime (PDP Benue) who had shouted “Ole” found himself exchanging blows with Dino Melaye (PDP Kogi). Saudatu Sanni, Melaye and Mercy Amonai-Isei (PDP Delta) exchanged hot words and charged at each other. Kayode Idowu (PDP Oyo) and Samuel Sijero (PDP Lagos) also got pummeled. The former was dragged on the floor with his flowing agbada. Other members tore at each other’s throats, some jumped on tables, others threw chairs. The Speaker had to be spirited away by security men. It was a show of shame and an assault on the idea of parliament as a forum for free and responsible discourse.

Parliamentary fracas is an old, international phenomenon. In the last six months alone, there has been serious fracas in the Afghanistan parliament where a female lawmaker, Malai Joya was pelted with bottles and threatened with rape and knife-attack for daring to refer to the Mujaheedin as criminals, and in the Indian parliament where disagreements over the siting of a maritime university resulted in an exchange of blows. In October 2005, there was also a free-for-all fight in Taiwan’s parliament. In the United Kingdom, and France, rabble-rousing is also more or less an established parliamentary practice.

In the United States, it is not uncommon for legislators to shout at each other and exchange expletives. The fight in Etteh’s House of Representatives last Thursday did not even go far enough. I am surprised that there were no casualties who had to be rushed to the National Hospital, nobody lost a tooth, there was no bloodshed, not even one person was beaten so badly and confined to the wheel-chair for life. In the Taiwan example cited earlier, Chang Shou-wen, one of the members, left the parliament with a bloodied face.

Parliamentary fracas is often a result of disagreements over matters that are in the public interest: the establishment of a Media Commission as in Taiwan, the location of a university or the sharing of water as in India where there have been two blow-outs in the Lok Sabha between March and now, public policy as in the United States and France, or budget debates as in Afghanistan. In these parliaments, the opposition often insists on its right to present an alternative viewpoint, and it is the partisanship of members that leads to the outflow of emotions.

But the sad news in contemporary Nigeria is that parliamentary fracas is not necessarily of an inter-party or inter-class character, but usually the expression of divisions within the ruling party. The emergent political culture in Nigeria does not encourage the existence or the flowering of the opposition. To question an authority figure may be an invitation to a slap or a punch in the face. This much has been the case in the Fourth Republic with members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finding it difficult to build consensus on issues. What has happened in the House of Representatives therefore is an indication of a political party crisis, and in particular, the failure of the PDP.

Another likely cause of fracas in parliaments is personality differences. There have been such instances in Nigeria: notably the blow-out in the Western Region House of Assembly in 1964 between Awolowo and Akintola supporters, and two years ago, when Senator Iyabo Anisulowo received a dirty slap from Senator Isa Mohammed. But a more dramatic example occurred in the United States House of Representatives in 1798 when Federalist Representative Roger Grisworld of Connecticut walked across to where Republican Matthew Lyon was sitting and after calling him a “scoundrel” proceeded to hit him with a thick, hickory walking stick on all parts of his body.

Two weeks earlier Lyon had spat in Grisworld’s face in the course of a disagreement. But in many societies, even when personal ego is involved, the ideological basis of the conflict is easily discernible. In Nigeria, our politicians are carrying on as if the Constitution endorses violence. Their fights are ordinarily without any ideological content, but ego and self-interest. It is this shallowness that has turned their misconduct into a shame upon the nation.

Nonetheless, parliamentary fracas anywhere in the world is condemnable. The resort to violence cannot become a substitute for civilized discourse. Our lawmakers are called “Honourable” and “Distinguished”. There is nothing honourable or distinguished in the kind of beer parlour fracas that was staged in the House of Representatives.

It merely served the purpose of preventing Madam Speaker, Patricia Etteh from presenting her case before the panel and one can only hope that the conflict was not contrived to portray her as a victim and thereby gain public sympathy for her cause. With the collapse of the panel’s sitting on Thursday, the Speaker cleverly rushed her defence to the court of public opinion. Her 21-page defence reads like a tissue of afterthoughts. It is coming thirty days late: a bad comment on her communication skills.

If she really wanted to say all of what she is now saying, she should have started speaking the moment the scandal broke. The only good news is that one, “only” N59 million has been spent on the renovation so far; two, no vehicles have been bought yet. And three, further renovation work has been stopped and the contractors have had to withdraw from the site. At least one thing has been achieved: the House of Representatives has been stopped from further wasting and diverting public funds!

Patricia Etteh says only N238 million was meant for the renovation/furnishing of her own residence and for the Deputy Speaker, N140 million. She insists that she had nothing to do with the award of contracts, this was handled by the Tenders Board and the Clerk of the House. She argues that she would have spent over N244 million of public funds if she had chosen to live in a hotel for 107 days as her predecessor did. And are Nigerians not supposed to be grateful? Oh, thank you, Patricia Etteh for enduring so much hardship on our behalf! She adds that the residence of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is not one building but a set of buildings. And so on…

On Friday, Madam Etteh returned to the investigating panel to present these positions properly. She was treated with something softer than kid gloves. Which is unfortunate because on no account should that panel be dragged into what looks like an orchestrated attempt to cover up the scandal. Already, Chief Lamidi Adedibu has said that it is not Patricia Etteh that is in the dock but the Yoruba nation “What they are saying about Etteh, he points out, “does not concern us. If you try Etteh, you are trying us. We will not submit. This is the only one we have in the West. The Yoruba people are now speaking with one voice by appealing to the members. The entire Yoruba race are (sic) speaking with one voice…Tell Yar’Adua that he should tell his men to stop probing Etteh.”

This blackmail cannot help Etteh in the long run. Adedibu does not speak for the Yoruba race. It is not the Yoruba that are on trial, it is Etteh’s integrity that is being questioned. If she is a disciple of Adedibu’s “amala politics”, good for her, but the House of Representatives should not become a place for “amala politics”.

In the light of the representations made before the investigating panel so far, including Etteh’s own defence, there are questions that should be asked:

(1) Etteh’s submission that the award of contracts is the responsibility of the Clerk of the House contradicts the Acting Clerk’s earlier submission that the memo for the renovation was prepared in the Speaker’s office, but his name was merely appended to it and he was asked to sign. “This is the practice, it is the norm,” he says. And although he attended the meeting of the “Board of Principal Officers” , he did so only as an observer. What does the Speaker have to say about this?

(2) The Acting Clerk, Niyi Ajiboye further alleged that he has serious problems getting the lawmakers to follow procedures and focus on legislative responsibilities. They are forever preparing proposals and asking that private trips abroad should be funded by the House. And when he refuses as he did in the case of the request for the purchase of a N98million body massager, the lawmakers attack him. Is the Speaker aware of this? And how do we place this against the Speaker’s insistence that she was misled by her staff?

(3) The Speaker has admitted that she is the Chairperson of the Tenders Board. Why us she claiming ignorance of the fact that all the companies that bidded for the contracts for the renovation of the houses belong to the same owners using the same addresses, same telephone numbers and the same Board of Directors and that the companies belong to one of her aides? She is passing the buck to the Tenders Board and the Clerk, but the Executive Secretary of the Tenders Board is insisting too that the Speaker is guilty.

(4) The Corporate Affairs Commission has given evidence to the effect that only one of the companies with which the House is doing business is registered as required by law. As Chairman of the Tenders Board, did the Speaker make any effort to establish the bona fide of the bidding companies? What kind of leader is she, trying so hard to pass responsibility to her subordinates. She says she was misled: didn’t she claim in her defence that he is a very experienced parliamentarian and manager?

(5) The Federal Capital Development Authority has disclosed that the Speaker’s residence was renovated in 1999 and in 2003 respectively for N5.28 and N2.5 million respectively, and in 2006 for N16 million and that there was no request for any further renovation of the Speaker’s house. What is the Speaker’s comment on this?

(6) There was a report that the Speaker’s House was stripped bare of furnishings and vandalized by the previous occupant. Etteh’s predecessor as Speaker is still alive. Will it not be advisable to invite Alhaji Masari to respond to this allegation?

(7) There is so much talk about due process in the Speaker’s statement. Is she aware that so-called due process is the best cover for corrupt practices in Nigeria? And that in this matter, due process has been exploited? What sort of due process made it possible for her assistant to get all the contracts?

(8) The Speaker insists that she is a victim of political vendetta orchestrated by those who did not get positions in the distribution of House Committees. Is this not enough evidence that she has lost the support and confidence of her colleagues?

The long and short of it is that Patricia Etteh’s leadership of the House of Representatives is already compromised and damaged. She and her spin-doctors may continue to force the argument, but the House of Representatives under her watch is no longer functioning effectively. She has lost control. And after her spirited attempts to sacrifice her staff and the civil servants, would anybody still want to work with her? It is now up to Patricia Etteh and the lawmakers to determine what is more important: her continued occupation of the office at everybody’s expense or the interest of the Nigerian people? She has already chosen the former, but she may not have the last laugh.

http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/editorial_opinion/article02 22/09/07

posted to PRnigeria by Jamilu from UK

Egbemode has done her bit on this unfortunate controversy. I however think it would do the nation a lot of good if we all cease fire for now and wait for the verdict of the House panel.

Lasisi

As far as i am concerned Madam Speaker has messed herself up. I have read both her submission and that of Funke our big sister who’s only doing her job. in civilized societies Etteh would have stepped aside to allow for this investigation. did you see her comportment during the hearing? She was sweating big time! we need graduates to man sensitive posts who would readily take responsibilty for their actions and not turn back and claim to be misled when they mess up. I doubt she would survive this.

Suleiman Haruna

Not trying to defend any one, I think we should look more into the matter than what we can see now. Is not more of political motivated? This is a lesson, our honourable men and women should learn how to deal with issues. I support Lasisi.

Alumona Ben

I’ve shied away from making comments until now, that the Speaker herself has spoken (or attempted to defend herself). My take on the matter is that she should resign the Speakership of the House. This doesn’t mean she’s no longer a member of the House of Reps.

Madam Speaker can’t claim innocence, while pushing the blame for all this mess to her aides. Do we need to remind her that the buck stops on her desk? She should accept that she has lost on this one, voluntarily quit the speakership, and then return to the drawing table to re-position her legislative career (if she so desires).

If OBJ was still in power, he would bulldoze his way through in the House of Reps to ensure that nothing happens to her. Ahmadu Alli will declared war on any legislator who refuses to toe OBJ’s line on the matter. PDP (the undisputed owner of the entire National Assembly) will use its intimidating machinery to rubbish the whole matter, stiffle all dissenting voices, and cliam that the issue is strictly a family (PDP) affair (and therefore the rest of us Nigerians should keep quiet).

But Yar Adua is daily showing the nation that he is clearly a different specie from Obasanjo, “Ali Must Go”, Tony Anenih, Adedibu and those dons who run the PDP mafia. Am not suprised that the President has distanced himself from Mrs. Etteh. This is her battle and she must fight it herself, square and square.

Irrespective of whether Etteh was schemed into the Speakership or not, being the first woman ever to hold this exalted position, has put her name in the history books. Nobody (not even this ugly development) can take this away from her. This attainment was a major victory in the cause of hundreds of Nigerian women who aspire to attain commanding heights in the nation’s politics, a very welcome development for any country that desires genuine greatness.

As a PR professional, I believe that this situation can be salvaged, but Mrs. Etteh must lead the way in coming our openy to admit the blame. Then remorsefully, and with plenty of tact and wisdom, she can begin to re-postion herself in the scheme of things.

The situation reminds me of Pearl Habour, 1941. At the Battle of Pearl Habour in 1941, the United States Navy suffered a crushing defeat in the hands of the Japanese Navy. Yet four years later, the Americans turned around that humiliating defeat into a resounding victory over their Japanese aggressors. Personally. I am grieved that this is happening to the very first woman ever to be elected as the Speaker of our House of Representatives (the nation’s No 4 citizen).

She should take a cue from Bill Clinton. As devastating as his human flaw was (the Lewinsky scandal), Ex-President Clinton has somehow managed to show the world his positive side. I wish Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh the wisdom and strength of character

needed at this crucial moment.

As for Funke Egbemode (my former colleague at Punch Newspapers, whom I hold in very high esteem), this is the time for work. The real stuff of a seasoned PR guy (or lady) comes out in times of a crisis like this.

Frederick

I guess part of the problem Etteh encountered is that she wasn’t sold to the public early enough. Her PR managers waited for an attack before they could swing to action. I guess the key to the game here is proactivity.

A number of us have had to wait until we are hit before we respond, forgetting that if you have a good brand it would be difficult to hit at. Of course, some of our clients/bosses are difficult to convince; they can’t understand why they have to concentrate so much energy, time, and money on PR “when nothing has happened”. They see PR in the antiquated mould of explaining what the boss meant, not what the boss is and would like to be.

Etteh was a good product to sell, if you ask me in a PR sense. First female speaker of the House, came from a humble hairdressing background… Didn’t they try to sell Yar’Adua to Nigerians before and after the April 2007 abracadabra? That helped Nigerians to start accepting him and now talking positively about him.

We PR people must learn a lot from this case whether or not Etteh survives–We know she is going to survive anyway, since the powers at the National Assembly told their boys to take the nation on a jamboree by setting up the so-called committee to investigate.

Have you visited www.acenigeria.org today?

Odoh Diego Okenyodo

I must confess that I’m a little impatient with the messages of solidarity which friends like Emeka Oparah are sending to Funke Egbemode thru this forum. No doubt they have every right to express their sympathy to her at this difficult time, but the more important issue is for us as communication managers to learn a lesson or two from the whole sad episode.

Beyond the moral and ethical dimensions which have been extensively commented upon by Nigerians at all levels, the primary issue as Odoh has noted is that Funke and the other pr managers working for Etteh have done a generally poor job of damage control. When they finally decided to act, their response was too little and too late. For over two weeks Etteh was on the ropes, pummelled right and right by sundry foes. While this was going on, little was heard from her corner. This might sound unfair and it is very possible that Funke and co were busy behind the scenes but the results as could be gleaned from media reports were less than impressive. The Speaker’s defence was lost in the shuffle. I hope her pr managers can throw some light on the challenges they faced and mistakes they made which led to this ham handed response so that we can learn something.

I would appreciate more comments on the core pr issues at stake. Thank you.

Paul

Without saying too much or repeating what others have already said about the Ettehgate, I concur with Paul and Odoh. The Speaker and her handlers never had a reputation management plan at the outset and did not understand the import of managing reputation as a matter of course rather than waiting until there is a crisis in the backyard. A big lesson on how not to manage reputation must come out of this saga.

Kdangogo

First, my apologies for joining the train a bit late.

The Ettehgate is an unfolding episode in our march to institutionalizing good governance, transparency, probity, accountability and sensitivity in our body polity. Without falling into the temptation of repeating the various issues already canvassed, it is my submission [that] most of us in this country become insensitive and disconnected from the realities, and the pandemic cum abyss of poverty ravaging our fellow country men and women. We invest so much in politics and once we are fortunate to get in there, the first move is to ravingly and rapaciously seek to re-coop our investment[s]. ln the process, we jettison the essence of governance which is and ought to bring development, justice, egalitarianism and strategic direction, termed ”common good”  to all. Alas, common good has been eluding us.

We should question and address the system that foists insensitive and irresponsible leaders on us. Is the fault not in us ? How, as Public Relations experts, can we assist the nation to be one of the best twenty economies by 2020, or is it 2025 ?

To my mind, the FoIB [Freedom of Information Bill] will be of tremendous assistance in moving to this goal. We must keep up the momentum.

Let us continue with our intellectual/professional voyage.

CHIEF FASSY A. O. YUSUF

No spokeswoman or spokes person will fold her arms watching the boss struggling with serious image crises and would not rise to defend and perform her duty. That’s just what Funke is doing. She should not be crucified. But, Madam Speaker has serious moral question hanging on her neck. A first important political office slot given to women folk is in the process of being rubbished. Too bad for her image. Even if she comes out of the mess, the bruises would refuse to heal

Isa

Permit me to associate myself with the well-informed comments and views expressed on this matter by Kabir Dangogo, Paul Nwabuikwu and Odoh. Their conclusions align with my earlier comments on the belated approach adopted by Funke Egbemode and image managers of the Speaker. Because of my current involvement in similar assignment at the Federal level, let me appeal to us to temporarily sheath our criticism of Funke by giving her the benefit to respond through this forum on why she took such belated actions. if she or her friends are reading these messages, she should be encouraged to take time to explain her own side. I am saying this based on my experience of the fact that you may be a good and fantastic image maker but with the boss and system/officials surrounding your boss not allowing you to drive your beat the way you deem fit. In that circumstance which I am aware happens in most government establishments including where I am now, the professional image makers recruited by the big bosses can not be blamed for lapses in the image of their bosses who will not consult with, and listen to your superior counsels.

I believe that what we need to do now is to help Funke (and by extension- Etteh) out of the mess in the wake of the panel’s indictment. Sometimes, as professionals with human and nationalistic passion, you have to put aside the issue of reward for your superior counsel and help out to resolve the kind of quagmire Etteh and Funke have found themselves. May be someone can forward to Funke and Etteh the following unsolicited suggestions I want to offer her as a way out, at no cost but to show that they need to put on their thinking caps when confronted with this kind of damaging crisis.

SUGGESTION: As I said in my earlier mail which am now repeating again, the most honourable way out is for Speaker Etteh to face the reality by IMMEDIATELY addressing a well publicised “world press conference” and offer her sincere apology to all Nigerians, especially women, for her wrong sense of judgement and decision. It pays her now to tell Nigerians that she has realised that she made some fundamental mistakes and she is now ready to make amends by firstly asking Nigerians to sincerely pardon her. She can go further to appeal to the sentiments of the womenfolk to consider the opportunity she has been given as the top most woman in public office in Nigeria. I know and understand NIgerians, especially the womenfolk, that majority will forgive Etteh if she sincerely apologises.

After tendering her apology to all Nigerians, I suggest that she swiftly meet with the various caucuses in the House of Reps, swallow her pride and tender unreserved apologies to them separately. If she succeeds in persuading the various caucuses to pardon her, she should then go before the plenary session of the House and officially offer her apology to the entire body of the lower chamber.

At this point, she would be seen to have done what a good and godly conscience should have done and allow the members to decide a fresh vote of confidence in her, despite this scandal.

However, there is another STRATEGY B which I am keeping close to my chest because as a didactic strategist, you don’t unfold all your aces at once.

Finally, I have offered the above counsel free of charge as my own contribution to genuine resolution of this matter.

Tunde Martins

In making my first contribution to this very professional email group discussion, I wish to advise that we must strongly resist the temptation to call anybody names or cast aspersions on the integrity of any individual. As PR (or communications) practitioners, we must be in the fore-front of those who preach (and practice) decency in diction, especially when commenting on sensitive issues like the House of Reps Contract Probe. While we are free to express our views, we must bear in mind that our rights end where those of others begin, and so we must exercise reasonable circumspection in analyzing issues that might be somewhat subjudice.

I think it is too early to appraise Funke’s performance in the management of the crisis that has threatened the reputation and career of her boss (her employer). It is not over yet. She will sure do a post mortem, a post-campaign analysis of how she and her team (if she has got one) managed the crisis.

Having said that let me say that PR people are oft confronted with the dilemma of working according to their conscience and professional standards or according to the dictates of their employers. I suppose that is the dilemma Funke is currently facing, because if she was the Speaker, who knows, she could have acted differently. In fact, if she was privy to the contracts or contract process, she would have offered some PR advice a priori or prepared a PR plan to manage the crisis. But like most PR practitioners I know in Nigeria, she may be nowhere near the decision-making process and is not even lucky enough to be informed of the decisions, until the bubble burst.

What am I saying? Ideally, PR people (and it doesn’t matter whether it is in business or politics) should sit within or close to the decision-making organ of any institution (including top politicians) so they can ‘proactively’ manage its reputation and other “matters arising”. But when, like we see in the case of “errand boy PR practitioners”, they are only ‘briefed’ when trouble starts, they are definitely not going to be proactive but reactive. Period! And it wouldn’t be their fault.

Funke (I can bet my October pay-check) is not a member of the inner circle (unlike Segun Adeniyi, who is said to be a member of FEC and, therefore, supposedly privy to top government decisions and can probably make contributions). She probably heard of the crisis the first time from the media. She probably queued for a week or more before her boss granted her audience to brief her on the situation. May be some member of the Speaker’s kitchen cabinet suddenly realized that “we have a top media woman working for oga Madam”. We need to hear from Funke.

And talking about the PR management of the crisis, I dare say that good PR CANNOT sell a bad product. It can only sell a good product. It can change negative attitude towards a good person, project, idea, product, etc. The example cited by someone in the group of President Yar’adua does not really qualify as a case where PR was used to sell a bad product or bad situation. There was nothing Nigerians could do to stop him from becoming President. That’s the truth, painful as it is. You know what I mean. So, dubious credit should not be given to the PDP and Aso Rock spin doctors. And propaganda must not be misconstrued for PR.

Many of us would have done exactly what Funke has done, if faced with the same situation. The only other option would have been to resign! I recall that Saddam Hussein’s spokesman, even in the face of impending collapse of the regime (and bomb lasts all around him), continued to defend him and the government. That’s conviction. He believed in his boss’ vision and stood by him till the very end. Whether Funke believes in her boss is one of the things she will tell us sometime soon. Until then, she has two options: Hang in there and defend her boss based on her convictions (and earn her pay) or bail out. As Americans say, if you don’t like the heat, you get out of the kitchen. I suspect that’s what some members are pushing her to do. Don’t push her; let her jump, if she wants to. The choice is sure hers.

Indeed, the problem with PR practice in Nigeria is that people, who are not trained and properly prepared for it, have infiltrated the field and taken over. Which takes me directly to Kola Ogunshote’s (GUNSHOT!!!) article in Thisday yesterday (September 27th). The PR profession has been bastardized by the activities of charlatans due to the inability and or unwillingness of trained practitioners to get out the comfort of their plum jobs to run the affairs of NIPR, like Accountants, Engineers, Medical Doctors, Marketers, etc.

It is only when PR practitioners start pulling their weight that organisations and politicians will stop confusing a journalist with a PR practitioner, when they want to hire image or reputation managers. I haven’t said there are no journalists who have turned out to be world class PR practitioners. In fact, it is better to be both. But hey, PR is a profession. Journalism is also a profession. They are not exactly the same. May be that is where the problem lies. Let the discourse blossom!

Thank God it’s Friday! Enjoy your weekend. Get some rest. And read a book. Check out “The Fall of Advertising and Rise of PR” by Al Ries & Laura Ries. Brilliant! It should be the subject for another earthy discourse soon.

God bless.

Emeka Oparah

We need to thoroughly examine some issues raised by Emeka Oparah. With the benefit of my experience as a smaller servant along the corridors of power in The Presidency in the past five years, I think there is a large dose of ignorance on the values of the title of the offices of some of our colleagues in Government. Emeka feels for instance that Segun Adeniyi as a member of the FEC has knowledge and mandates to the expectation of any ordinary mind. Emeka, you could be wrong, don’t assume on the face value. Well, if you don’t, Remi Oyo and other past Snr Special Assistant on Media & Publicity to former President Obasanjo were equally and regularly attending FEC meetings in the same manner as segun Adeniyi. Attending or being designated as a member of FEC is one big hoopla of The Presidency but the portfolio and mandates of each member shows his relevance. If only you can read between the lines, you will understand what i mean by saying attending or being named as a FEC member does not necessarily confer on you powers and mandates imagined by ignorant outsiders in the power calculus.

As for Funke again, please remember that this is her second coming as an aide of political guru at the Federal level. She was special aide of Omotayo Omotoso when she reigned as the DG of the National Tourism Development Corporation. So how did Funke fair with her first job? Answers to this question should show if Funke really performed creditably as an image maker.

Tunde Martins

Bad PR or NOT from the outset is not really the bone of contention here and so may i ask that we follow closely with keen interest the unfolding events in the House of Representatives where our Selected members ops! Elected members have been trying to show us that they can manage themselves first before they manage the affairs of the country.

Funke may i say was only doing her job in trying to protect the interest of her boss the Speaker and should be seen as that. Please can anyone of you if appointed a spokesperson for your boss in an organisation or to a senior citizen of thie country will leave their work of making sure that the public interest on the individual is protected at all times irrespective of whether some utterances of your boss were right or wrong. You have been employed of that job and only until you have another job elsewhere will you have the moral latitude to then speak in a different direction that is not expected from your boss. So we must appreciate that she even spoke out in her defence in the first place and not waited until after all the episodes have been played out and a winner emerges to speak.

Now to the ‘MAIN DISH ON THE FIRE’ this two weeks recess by the House of Representatives even after indicting the Disgraceable Ops! again Honourable Speaker and her deputy is but a calculated attempt by the pro Etteh group to buy enough time ensure enough pockets are lined-up with ‘BROWN ENVELOPS’ and ‘GHANA-MUST-GO’ exchanging hands to truncate the oppositions mobilisation for her removal. I am not saying Etteh is guilty but the panel is and though she deliberately didn’t give them in their terms of reference to make recommendations there is already a guilt aura surrounding her and her deputy and they should do the right thing and tow the path of dignity and resign or step aside from their positions until the issue surrounding that scandal is cleared.

Mind you our dear President Yar’adua has sworn to uphold all the tenets of the RULE OF LAW and so all those working with him such as the Speaker of the House of Representative and the Senate President should as a matter of principle follow this same line with him. Anyone who goes contrary to those tenets should be shown the way out. Nigeria and indeed Nigerians are tired of corrupt, selfish interest driven, and godfather politians who neither care about the development and progress of this country of the sufferings of the ominious ‘COMMON MAN’

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