One hears a lot of things these days. But one has learnt never to believe most of them as we are now in a time of easy retractions and of claims of either being misunderstood, being misquoted or being quoted out of context. Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina, both presidential spokespersons, have now become experts in such methods of denial. But wilI their skills stop speakers from speaking and hearers from hearing what was said at those increasingly frequent moments when the mouth appears to run ahead of and faster the brain? “Mouth run” is a hazard and the best cure for it is a padlock but such a solution is painful and also violates a fundamental human right.
I hear the General has now decreed, yes, decreed that the probes into corruption in Nigeria will now be limited to the period when President Jonathan was in power. Femi Adesina has come forward to defend and justify this cut-off line that his principal has now drawn in the sands of Nigerian time. Note that this new cut-off line represents a departure from earlier indications that the period of “PDP misrule” (1999-2015) was going to come under serious probe.
The first question then is – what really prompted this departure? Logistics, fear of OBJ, fear of offending northern sensitivities by any focus on the short period of the Yar’Adua presidency? Nigerians are no fools and can read beyond the lines. And lines that are purposefully drawn to include some and to exclude others represent the worst forms of arbitrariness and dishonesty, both of which have no place in good governance.
The second question is why the narrow focus? There are myriads of corruption allegations all over Nigeria starting from accusations of a $2.8 billion scam, to outright screaming headlines of an alleged heist by Halliburton that are yet to be closed out. Allegations such as these merit the attention of anybody genuinely interested in fighting corruption.
The third question is this – why this exclusive focus on the federal level? Are we suggesting that crooked deals at the state and LGA levels are unworthy of attention and prosecution?
The fight against corruption is not one of “pick and choose”. A selective approach calls into question the ultimate intentions of persons posing as anti-corruption crusaders. It exposes them to legitimate accusations of witch hunting and of attempting to use state powers in the pursuit of personal vendettas. It is worth reminding ourselves that whenever the instruments of state power are hijacked for personal pursuits, we are dealing with a case of abuse of power, and abuse of power is also a form of corruption. Let those who are drawing lines in the sands of time note that line drawings driven by vendetta and spite will eventually turn around and catch the same drawers. Finally, credibility is a requisite attribute of all who must fight corruption. Acts by corruption fighters that undermine this credibility will eventually sink the anti-corruption crusader.
Who would ever have believed that the Okoye Brothers (Paul and Peter – PSquare) had this amount of influence, and that the influence extended even to the highest citizen of the land? That is the power of artists – their influence can be so insidious that we often internalize their messages without our being conscious that such internalization is going on. General Buhari’s recent 97% and 5% talk is a classic example.
PSquare sang: “if you do me, I do you, God no go vex” and the General must have taken the message in this modern day rendition of a mosaic injunction to heart as a guiding philosophy of life. This guiding philosophy then found a convenient outlet in the 97% and 5% comment. Never mind that the mathematics is wrong. Never mind that the forum chosen to express this personal philosophy of governance and political payback (with commonly owned assets) was the worst. The comment is no slip of the tongue. It is a comment that swells from deep within. It defines the man and it tells us what to expect in the coming months and years. Such a comment is most unworthy of any statesman or national leader. It betrays pettiness. It betrays vengefulness. It also betrays a regrettable and fundamental sectionalism. It is thus a public relation and governance disaster. It is a tasteless howler. The timing for this latest howler is also most appropriate. It happened in the public glare of spectators who had come to watch a sales and image laundering exercise. The gaffe turned it indirectly into a media disaster, an apt exercise in self-revelation/disclosure and a true commentary on one’s competence, social vision, and intellectual depth. In a single blow, the 97% and 5% gaffe thus gave a lie to all the hype and posturing of image launderers, scattering them all as “wash” in full public glare.
The French novelist, Victor Hugo said–“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”. Let me end this short piece by inflicting on the reader a very mischievous adaptation of that same saying. Here goes – “Nothing is as inevitable as a disaster whose time has come”. I am sure that Mr. Hugo would agree that this adaptation rhymes well with our present charade and that it fits the current parade of governance clumsiness like a glove.
It is amazing how much we can “ACHIEVE” when we define our targets with such looseness and when we bring down the bar of metrics to very low points. When we do that, waking up becomes an achievement and brushing one’s teeth becomes a super achievement. In a climate of loose definitions and lowered expectations, leaders in search of achievements to celebrate do not need look too far. Visiting a school becomes an achievement. Receiving a group of citizens is celebrated with the same panache reserved for the discovery of a new economic theory. It should therefore not surprise that our new kid on the block has ACHIEVED so much because of the slack targets & loose indicators that his media team and supporters have been and are still pushing for him. But those who must claim or sell achievements should first read up impact, causal theory, logic models and attribution theory. Claiming trivia and the mundane as achievements simply trivializes serious business and the claimants. Worse still, claiming responsibility for the success of events conceptualized, planned, nursed and “ante-natal cared’ for by another before your arrival is plagiarism. Hoha!