EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan spends $60,000 to arrange CNN interview

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan

As the dust over President Goodluck Jonathan’s embarrassing outing in a recent CNN interview is yet to settle, PREMIUM TIMES can report that the presidency actually spends thousands of dollars in public funds to arrange interviews with foreign media outlets.

Mr. Jonathan’s penchant for foreign media has fetched him criticism, with citizens often bashing him for what they consider his unpresidential poise and bad grammar on camera.

Commentators on social media ranked his performance in the interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour two weeks ago amongst the president’s worst yet.

While this newspaper is unable to determine how much was spent in procuring the late January  CNN and Aljazeera interviews with Mr. Jonathan, we are in possession of documents suggesting that the presidency has retained the services of an American lobbying firm, Fleshman-Hillard Inc. to help arrange these interviews.

The firm, which reports to the presidency through Enyi Odigbo, Chairman of Lagos-based advertising and public relations company, Caser’s Group, was hired in 2010, without any formal agreement and budget.

The lobbying firm submits bills to the presidency as it pleases.

In at least one of its bills seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the company requested $59, 200 from the Nigerian government for arranging an interview for President Jonathan with the CNN Nigerian affiliate in late 2010.

The interview, anchored by Isha Sesay, held in Aso Rock in Abuja on September 30, 2010, in preparation for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Nigeria Independence.

Fleshman-Hillard was also to contact other foreign media outlets such as Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Reuters as Mr. Jonathan planned at the time to announce his intention to run for president in the 2011 presidential election.

But the firm was only able to deliver on the CNN interview. It was unable to get interviews for the president on the other platforms.

It is not known why the President needed to hire a lobbyist to procure interviews for him even when he has a Reuben Abati, a Doyin Okupe, and a Reno Omokri among his numerous media aides.

Since taking office in early 2010, some of the president’s key decisions and pronouncements have been made public via foreign outlets, mainly the CNN.

Mr. Jonathan delivered his first public comments on late President Umaru Yar’ Adua’s health, in an interview with Ms. Amanpour in 2010, where he spoke of how the ailing president’s family blocked him from seeing Mr. Yar’adua.

He would not force himself to see Mr. Yar’adua, he said at the time.

Regardless of the channel through which he opened up, the interview was well-received as the president also spoke on governance, promising improved electricity supply (which he enjoys calling POWER) and security.

Mr. Jonathan has yet to grant exclusive interviews to Nigerian channels. The closest to that is the occasional presidential media chat on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority.

But the president’s preference for the foreign networks has not gone without knocks, with critics often rebuking him for his unassertive demeanor before the camera, and poor quality responses to questions.

Critics say the last interview was even worse.

Fleshman-Hillard was also mandated to hire a trainer to work on the president, to help improve his delivery. The firm was yet to deliver on that as at the time the document seen by this newspaper was filed.

A presidency source said the presidency has continued to retain the company for the foreign interview arrangement.

But Fleshman-Hillard could not be reached for comments Friday. Sarah Vellozi, who was the company’s contact for the project was not available on her desk the two times PREMIUM TIMES called her New York office. She is yet to return the calls.

Presidential spokesperson could not also be reached for comments.

  • kimsical

    Paying $60,000 to foreign media to showcase, ignorance, emptiness, stupidity and mediocrity. Should anyone pay to do this? Hahahaha! (lol). Only a “shoeless” president will do that. lol.

  • mindreaders

    Headline:

    EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan spends $60,000 to arrange CNN interview

    Body:

    While this newspaper is unable to determine how much was spent in procuring the late January CNN and Aljazeera interviews with Mr. Jonathan, we are in possession of documents suggesting that the presidency has retained the services of an American lobbying firm, Fleshman-Hillard Inc. to help arrange these interviews.

    PREMIUM TIMES – the new saharareporters!

  • Kpaje

    It is normal, There is nothing wrong with hiring PR firms to do this…..ABATI & CO are home boys. Please report news….

    • Dan maikoko

      “They must find it difficult, those who take authority as the truth, rather than the truth as authority” Gerald Massey

  • yomiz

    Sorry, if I may ask. Why is this news? Please report important things..

  • Taiwo

    Hugwashes!Does PT want to force through our head all in the name of news?infact the motives of this medium is coming to question.Lobbying and Spinning Doctor services are component of democracy.Why criminalizing this?please eschew irresponsible and junk journalism.

    • Dan maikoko

      I agree, only that this might be news worthy given that contrary to the presidents of other countries who pay to be protected from the press, this one pays to get the press to him. Its one thing to hire a spinning company to make or repair an image; its completely another to hire a PR company to get the presss to you. A president of a country like nigeria should be news worthy since the huge problems at home alone should make him sit at home and scarce abroad. Think of the jokeying around of journalists, if gej has sent 100 prominent thieves of our commonwealth to jail (maybe executed a few like IBB, OBJ, Atiku, ALAMS, Tinubu etc…) or if he has succeeded in solving the electricity problem of nigeria, or if he laid a wide gauge railway that links all state capitals….etc, when he goes abroad.

  • akpos11

    What is wrong if Great Jona arranges interview with $60,000 dollars? Is it Nigeria’s money or the money of the Oily United Republic of the SS&SE? His Bayelsa contributes over 27% of the oil revenue of continent Nigeria. So if Thieves OBJ & IBB can spend the oil of the SS&SE then why can’t Jonathan spend what belongs to him?

    In any case, Thief IBB alone has $12.7billion dollars in his pocket which he shared with Thief Adenuga & Thief David Mark which Adenuga invested in business & Mark in private properties in UK & Belize. Idiots. Na Jona matter go kill all of una!

    Verily verily I say unto you, Nigeria is not a country but a continent. Break up NOW!!!

    Long live the United Republic of the SS&SE

    • Dan maikoko

      Akpos11 the real problem here is that serious presidents around the world shun the press because they are too busy to spare 15 minutes for an interview. Journalists worldwide spend serious money planning to ambush serious presidents for an interview. As a SS&SE citizen, Akpos11, I thought you should share with other people of “continent Nigeria” the shame and humiliation that a son of the republic of the SS&SE is so useless and so unimportant that he has to spend cool cash as a president of the worlds most populous and richest African nation to get the press to talk to him.

      • Preye

        My friend. shut up your dirty mouth. Why not address the succinct issues raised by akpos1? Rather you opted for the parochial route which is typical of the Oduduwa descendants who have long lost Illorin to the Fulani. Nonsense!!!

        • Lagbaja

          Yet another jester, never want to be serious

    • Lagbaja

      You’re jesting, right?

  • Outraged

    You fools defending Jonathan, the point is; Jonathan wasted money on an interview that ended up in fiasco…this Jonathan is as useless as his fake PH.D

  • Dan maikoko

    He preferred foreign news channels, why?-inferiority complex! When ever he speaks he kind of refer to the US as some kind of a utopia. “The only country fighting corruption more than us is the USA…” he once said. Why do you think he wants petrol to sell for 140/liter? Its because that is about the cost of petrol in the US. The president is simply a gigantic mistake and Nigerians are, and have been paying for that mistake in blood, sweat, hunger, fear, terror and depravity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.ukeje Martin Ukeje

    What a country !!!. I am truly ashamed if this is true..

  • Tutumuch

    Premium Times is owned by Sahara Reporters, so am not moved by your fake, useless and baseless news. When have you reported anything negative about Atiku, Buhari, IBB and other Boko Haram sponsors? Definitely they are the ones sponsoring your newspaper. Rubbish! Second base jare!

  • Naijaa

    What is all this about are guys calling our president olodo or what ?

  • lozzyfather

    Saharareporters lost it… you people are about losing it

  • Daddy

    This is typical of your yellow journalism that we have been seeing. It seems that your Organization is full of raw journalists that are feeding Nigerians wrongly. We do not need to know how much was spent in the interview. We only need to know the positive contributions your Organization is making to the growth of Nigeria and not bias and apolitical reporting about our beloved country and the President that is trying to put things in shape that your sponsors put us into after the fall of the first republic.

  • http://twitter.com/bsd2002 Odeyemi B.S.D

    Our President is confused and has lost his fronts before Nigerians and that’s why he thought an international media will help him to cover up his pitfalls. The guy is a disgrace to the academic bodies and the nation as a whole. His singular act is just a show of shame, lack of sincerity and integrity. For God sake why does he need to pay or organise an interview when his administration and the bundles of fools in his cabinet has actually done nothing since assumption to the office of the President. If he has a remarkable impact on Nigerians, the world would beg to hear him.It’s a big shame to a nation!

  • JI

    It is a known fact that all media houses arrange interviews or placements for financial considerations. It is therefore unethical for PT to talk about that here.

    We appreciate your reportage on his shoddy handling of the session, but then you guys must play by the rule of the game.

  • Es3

    On Jonathan’s english and grammer during the interview that Premium Times took delight in and referred to as “unpresidential” I would ask Premium Times to tell us how “presidential” the Chinese, Iranian, Brazilian, Japanese and other presidents and premiers ‘englishes’ (at least, I reserve the right to coin one too) are?! Bearing in mind the language is foreign?!
    Or, was that Obasanjo and others the best presidential ‘englishes’ yet???!
    Lastly, is the grammer why previous leadership at various levels and over the decades failed Nigerians???

  • musa

    This man Jonathan don’t even know what he is doing, sorry for my country.