Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Rhetoric of De/mystifying 'Presidential Mistakes' in Nigeria's Democratic Culture

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Rhetoric of De/mystifying 'Presidential Mistakes' in Nigeria's Democratic Culture

Article excerpt


Seats of power across the world from the United States of America's White House to Britain's 10 Downing Street, from Brazil's Palacio da Alvorada to Singapore's The Istana, and from New Zealand's Government House to South Africa's Union Buildings are acclaimed enclaves from where policies and decisions shaping national interests both domestically and internationally originate. Such policies and decisions are sometimes subject to further ratifications by the countries' respective parliaments, though. Expectedly, any reference to Nigeria's Aso Villa located in Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja should predominantly invoke an aura of state paraphernalia where the country's number one citizen wields power on issues relating to security, social development, economy and politics. Contrary to this basic assumption, Reuben Abati, former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to former President Goodluck Jonathan, in a treatise 'The Spiritual Side of Aso Villa' of 14 October 2016 provides a rather weird metaphysical ambience of Nigeria's Aso Villa, claiming that some supernatural powers tend to incapacitate some Nigerian presidents in discharging their constitutional duties. Apparently, Abati's piece smacks of an attempt to explain away his former boss's (President Goodluck Jonathan's) alleged underperformance in office, which made him earn the negative label 'Mr Clueless' by some Nigerian citizens who vehemently opposed his re-election bid in 2015.

Not only did Abati's piece generate a lot of furore in the social media, eliciting wild reactions from members of the Nigerian online community, it equally provoked rejoinders in the print media from political and public analysts who joined issue with him on his stance that certain spiritual forces which supposedly hover above Aso Villa stifle Nigerian presidents' capacity for performance. Interestingly, Femi Adesina Special, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, rejoins Abati's piece in his treatise entitled 'The Unspiritual Side of Aso Villa', dispelling the aura of mysticism about Aso Villa and the superhuman figure cut for the residents. Also, Sonala Olumhense, a newspaper columnist, in his rejoinder entitled 'The Demons of President Goodluck Jonathan' pointedly dispels Abati's blaming supernatural forces for former President Jonathan's underperformance in office. To Olumhense, Jonathan's slip-ups in office stemmed largely from his inability to have matched a sense of responsibility with the desire for power acquisition.

Given the construction of knowledge by the text producers to configure the Aso Villa world in relation to the workings of the Presidency as well as the (in)actions of the Presidents living in and discharging their official duties from the Villa, we cannot but share Foucault's (2003, pp. 33-34) view cited in Stoddart (2007, p. 205) that '[t]he delicate mechanisms of power cannot function unless knowledge, or rather knowledge apparatuses, are formed, organised, and put into circulation [...]'. Van Dijk (2006) also posits that discourses about specific events and actions, such as news reports, editorials, opinion articles and everyday stories about personal experience are ideological.

Ideologies, according to van Dijk (2006), are systems of beliefs shared by members of a social group, who also share other beliefs such as knowledge and attitudes. Thus, texts are inescapably ideologically structured and the ideological structuring of both language and texts can be related readily enough to the structures and processes of the origins of particular texts (Kress, 1985). Wodak (2001, pp. 2-3) shares a similar view submitting thus:

A fully 'critical' account of discourse would thus require a theorisation and description of both the social processes and structures which give rise to the production of a text, and of the social structures and processes within which individuals or groups as social historical subjects, create meanings in their interaction with texts [. …

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