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Mr. President, What To Do When Dying On The Stage

March 22, 2011

 “According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death.  Death is number two.  Does that seem right?  This means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Jerry Seinfeld

 “According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death.  Death is number two.  Does that seem right?  This means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Jerry Seinfeld

First of all, let me give you a reading list.  Now that you’ve agreed to participate in the presidential debates, the first book to read is ‘What To Say… When You’re Dying on the Platform’ by Lilly Walters.  I’m not going to dwell on the title of the book lest someone accuses me of trying to poison Mr. P.  Thus, SSS take note. It’s a book. I swear.

Another resource that you may want to consult before the debate is ‘Abraham Lincoln on Communication’ by Gene Griessman.  This one na DVD.  It will teach you how to tell stories.  For example, it will guide you to polish your favourite story of how you went to school without shoes.  The last time you told that story, Nigerians laughed at you because, they said – not me – that the story was unoriginal; because – they again, said – that at the time you went to school, almost every pupil went to school without shoes.  Some even claim that there are some children in the 21st century Nigeria who still go to school without shoes.

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But I guarantee that by the time you’re done watching the DVD; you can turn any banal, old-hat event into an arresting narration.  You’ll become a raconteur extraordinaire. You’ll become like Lincoln and strings unforgettable words like “we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground.”  In case you’re wondering, the quote is from The Gettysburg Address that birthed the most popular definition of democracy.

And since you once confessed that you don’t read (at least you said you didn’t read your party’s constitution even when mountains were falling around you on the matter of zoning) you should have no problem with watching a DVD.

One of the most important resources on public speaking is ‘Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Speaks Should Know about Speaking’ by Patricia T. O’ Conner.  This, na book.  I know.  They are becoming too many, however on this one, I’ll point you to the page you need: 180.  There, you’ll learn how to organize your thoughts.  Organizing your thoughts is so important that Michel de Montaigne said, “Any man may speak truly, but to speak with order, wisely and competently, of that, few men are capable.”

I promise this is the last one:  ‘Secrets of Successful Speakers: How You Can Motivate, Captivate and Persuade.’  This one too na book.  It’s also written by busy-body Lilly Walters.  Here I only have two pages for you to read: 170-171.

Lastly, you should read ‘Present Your Way to the Top’ by David Dempsey.   I said the one before this was the last one; but I lied.  This, however, is the last one.  And it’s the only mandatory text on the list.  You will enjoy reading it because the guy dey funny.

It is possible that you may not consult the resources I recommended.  Even if you want to, Mike Omeri, the enemy sniffer, may whisper something in your ears behind by back, which will turn you against me and throw away the baby, the bath water and the bath or the bucket or whatever carries the baby and the bath water.

Should that unfortunate situation occur, I’ve made a contingency plan that will benefit all.  You see, I’ve read the books and others like them and I’ve shrunk them into four important points.  This way, the resources are pre-digested for you.

Number one, don’t drown yourself in details.  Whenever Kadaria, Kokomaster or whoever is given the responsibility of tormenting you, asks a challenging question, tell them you don’t know.  If you blather on and on, you’re certainly going to give our enemies quotable quotes that will last them the election season. ‘Umblerra’ is already losing its freshness.

Number two, when humour fails or when the unappreciatetive members of the audience refuse to applaud, do what professional comedians do.  Say something like, “Well, my mum liked it!”  You can replace mum with Dame if you think that’s more appropriate.  Or just tell yourself that you’re OK; it’s the audience that are crazy.  Dempsey said, “Delusional behaviour is allowed in these moments of distress.”

Number three, when you get thrown off your saddle by a heckler sitting in the hall, don’t get defensive (“Why are you asking me? Why don’t you ask Nuhu? He always has an opinion on corruption…”), don’t handicap yourself with apologies (“Na wao!  I’m sorry, I don’t really know much about constituents and constituencies…”) or excuses (“I haven’t had my Dame brewed cocoa drink, so I am not thinking clearly…”).

Finally, structure your responses like a speech.  For example if General Buhari says he’s going to publish the progress of every capital project on the Internet so that Nigerians can monitor the contractors and their airhead public conspirators, you could structure your response to his slabber thus:  One, state your position (“General Buhari is crazy, and his idea is a treasonable felony…”), two, explain your position (“Although allowing Nigerians to supervise the projects will ensure transparency, it will also gnaw at civil service morale and contractors’ confidence…”), lastly, summarize (“Although publishing the progress of every project may increase productivity, we need to consider less drastic measures first; such as preventing the General from saying anything for the remainder of the debates.”)

That’s all!

You should take consolation in the fact that Nigerians don’t know how to torment their leaders with probing questions – even the journalists don’t know how.    In fact you shouldn’t be surprised if someone wastes his allotted time congratulating you on the death of Yar’adua.

Another reason why you should do well is because you’ll be the only candidate on that platform with a Ph.D.  Buhari also has a doctorate but he didn’t write a thesis to earn it – so it’s not the real thing.

You should count yourself lucky that Professor Pat Utomi wasn’t invited.  That guy is the most lucid Nigerian I know.

If you’re going to take any of my advice, it’s this one: don’t go for the debate.  Find another excuse not to participate.  As Americans say, “that shit will kill you.”

Ibraheem Dooba ([email protected]) is one-man anti-Jonathan campaign group.  He documents the Mr. President’s follies at


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