The Manner of Manna – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

By

Noel Ihebuzor

The 18th Sunday readings speak to our times.

These are hard times.

Food insecurity stalks the globe. Humanity grapples with the challenges of moral choices, consumerism holds the hearts and minds of men and women hostage, and rising savagery and wars with heavy undertones of bestiality bedevil our world. Merchants of misinformation and disinformation, of division and gain seeking distortion deceive people and lead them blinkered on to slippery slopes of false boundaries and exclusions.
The “Moseses” we see around us are false ones, all big talk and no action. They are sellers of false promises and dope, experts in denials, double talk, retractions and somersaults. The few “Amoses” we had have become compromised and most have abandonned themselves to selective amnesia and expedient associations.
We are in the desert. The desert seeks to invade us with its aridity and sterility.
Yes, these are hard times, but we must hang on there in faith, refusing to surrender to despair. We must stand firm against the invasion of any sense of futility.
God is there for us. Just like He heard the pleas of the Israelites, He will hear ours. In the same manner that He fed them with Manna will He also feed us. But ours will be a manna that feeds the body, nourishes the spirit, removes despair and restores the buoyancy of the soul. Positivity will return and in time, true leaders will emerge who will lead us to inclusive development, a development that welcomes us all, includes us all and where dividends and benefits of democracy are shared not by how one voted but by a spirit led sense of equity, justice, fair play and love.
Happy Sunday

Drawing Lines in the Sands of Time

By

Noel Ihebuzor

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.

General Buhari and P-Square

By 

Noel Ihebuzor

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.

D is for Drown and more – an instantaneous duet

By

Toyosi Arigbabuwo and Noel Ihebuzor

NI

Crown, drown, clown…..”

TA

for which town?

Abeg, chill naa, no vex

NI

I no vex, I no frown!

Dem jus fall my hand down!

TA

Me dey here wan wear LASTMA gown

I no know say you dey only play with noun

My fine white skin, don nearly turn to brown!

NI

na so so frown frown

when town vex come meet crown

sake of say ogogoro wey him down

wey make dem talk of drown

TA

E come be like this town

When dem goon

Say no be madness make the crown

Wan drown pipu for inside Lagoon

NI

Chei, Baba God him dey frown

Him no go gree sey make clean pipu drown

na float wey eagle feather dey float for water,

leg wey waka come go waka go,

nothing do am, nothing fit do am.

TA/NI 

Iseeeee! Aseeee!

**** Toyosi and I wrote this instantaneous duet as an expression of our strong disapproval of royal meddling in inter-ethnic amity! Readers in Nigeria will be familiar with the context.TA is Toyosi’s voice, NI is mine.

Flights of fancy and flights from reality – A million other things that damaged President Jonathan

By

Noel Ihebuzor

GEJ, a great president. a humble man, a silent achiever

This link line takes you to an article in TheCable that claims to examine “a million other things that damaged President Jonathan” in his re-election bid. It is wriiten by one Chidi Chima and was uploaded on Twitter via @thecableng #2015Elections .  Chidi invites his readers to also come up with and contribute their views on what they think “damaged President Jonathan”.

Chidi Chima skipped Region & Religion! The reader is invited to visit INEC’s results compilation for the 2015 presidential elections and to look closely at the votings in NE, NW & SS zones. Skewed Demography, Religion & Region were at play and were the real “damagers”. This is the harsh truth and we need to tell ourselves some of these hard truths, but Chima prefers to flee from them. If, for example, the SE zone had come out and voted and given Jonathan 750,000 votes each and kept Buhari below 10% of votes cast, as was the case in most of the NE/NW zones, the results would have been otherwise. So, the game changer and decider in these elections were once again Ethnicity and Religion, not any of these fancy reasons that Chidi Chima throws up! Finally, Chidi Chima will do well to study the results for the presidential elections for the FCT and Lagos where populations and religions are more heterogeneous – the results here could be taken to reflect a more balanced representation as to how a cross section of Nigerians inhabiting a common geographical space evaluated the Jonathan presidency.

Change and credible criticism

by

Noel Ihebuzor

  1. The possibility of alternation is one of the biggest benefits of democracy, but meaningful alternation is reason and cost benefit analysis driven.
  2. Change is often mistaken for a “replace with anything” sell & mindset. That is not change. Change is value adding & positive.
  3. If it is not value adding, then it is not and cannot be change.
  4. Some folks believe that the surest way to market themselves as change agents is to engage in endless criticisms of those in power.
  5. They criticize, trivialize and oppose whatever it is that the person in power does.
  6. Such an attitude and mindset soon give rise to a malignancy which I call serial opposition disorder, SOD.
  7. SOD as a malignancy leads to the spawning of mindless and non-credible criticisms.
  8. To be credible criticisms must be context sensitive and more importantly provide valid and feasible alternative lines of action.
  9. Non-credible and invalid criticisms are usually driven by spite, ignorance, ambition, bias, arrogance and selfishness.

Discouraging Deserters and Defectors

By Noel A. Ihebuzor

 

Twitter abounds in twitfights – fights between foes as well fights between former friends who have now parted ways for one reason or the other. When fights are between former friends who now find themselves on different sides of the political divide, the clashes tend to be very mean and vicious. The acrimony betrays the persisting bitterness and hurt that one party or both feel over the parting of ways. It is as if the fighters ignore one basic fact of life which is that some good friends must part someday, and that associations do not all always last forever. In life, friends do often fall out and part ways. This basic truth appears to be lost on quite a number of persons. Such persons hold on to a position which I call the permanence of associations and immutability of views position. Parting of ways or rethinking of positions by the other party are often very strongly resisted to the point where the person who decamps or changes his/her view is often treated as a deserter, a defector and a sell-out.

Positions of the type described above abound in the thriving twitter political party activist community. (I use this term to describe a community of persons who use Twitter mostly to actively promote the cause of a particular party. Members of this group, the political party activist group, must be distinguished from political activists. The former tweet and blog more like political party agents. The latter maintain more objective positions and tweet on governance, political, and accountability issues without favouring any political party. This distinction is important as a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding is caused by a conflation of the two terms).

In this political party activist community, change of positions and perceptions is viewed as a clear indicator of defection and desertion, offenses that are seriously viewed. Such changes are viewed as some form of social “apostasy”. And apostasy is perceived as a grievous sin, a perception that is most accentuated in communities with tendencies to self-ascribed moral righteousness. “Apostates” must be condemned to “social” disgrace and demise. Apostates must be treated as social lepers. They are to be ridiculed and subjected to all forms of social pressures. And all of this because apostates are a danger to the group they left. They possess a Snowden-type risk potential and precisely because of this, their credibility must be seriously eroded and progressively destroyed.

Matters are also not helped by the attitudes of the deserters/defectors, these modern day social apostates, themselves. Like most fresh converts to new faiths and belief systems, these social apostates consistently betray excessive zeal typical of neophytes as they try to settle in to their new camp. Most exhibit a tendency to dwell on and detail the evils of the groups they have left, a tendency that irks that group and one which then further exacerbates the already seething acrimony between the deserter and his/her former associates. Soon, the leaders, gate keepers, enforcers, whips and foot soldiers of that group are up in arms, defending the honour of their group and attacking the deserter. They have recourse to a variety of strategies in doing this.

These strategies include naming, recalling of previous tweets which the attacking group believes are diametrically opposed to the deserter’s current position and shaming the deserter. The deserter’s reasons for leaving are trivialised, ridiculed and made to look pecuniary and materialistic. The tweets and comments of the “apostate” are unearthed and hurled in his/her face just to show how inconsistent and unreliable he/she is. The strategic goal here is to call attention to glaring inconsistencies between present position and previous tweets – the end game is to undermine the credibility of the defector. Taunts abound. Wicked jibes and hurting jabs fly around. A campaign of name calling is unleashed on the deserter, a campaign where no punches are pulled and which may even go as far as in one case to saying that a deserter was so poor that he “used to drink garri” in his undergraduate days. People watch from the sides, either amused or too frightened to wade in as the gladiators engage in bloody, vicious but mutually demeaning bouts and jousts.

The attack on the defector is an eye opener and dampener to those within the circle who may have been contemplating either changing camps or moving to more neutral positions. The message to such persons is clear. This is what you are likely going to get should you ever desert us. The attacks are thus not fortuitous but have a functional intent – to discourage and deter other potential deserters. Successful defection deterring strategies keep members in – once you are in, you cannot leave – a bit akin to what I call the Hotel California syndrome – you can check out anytime you want but you cannot leave!

Most deserters/defectors act as if they cannot understand the flurry and fury of the attacks on them. A little reflection should make any deserter/defector understand why those attacks are necessary and likely to come.

  • First, a defector must realise that his/her defection is a threat to his/her former associates. You know too much. Your former associates are not sure how much you will give away. They will want to put you away socially for good before you can do their group any harm. Basic survival principle, not ideology or any higher order principle, I believe, is what drives the chief whips of your former group as they come after you.
  • Secondly, a defector must also realise that he/she is also a threat to the his/her former associates in the sense that he/she is a reminder to those inside that they too could defect one day.  Now, that must be an uncomfortable feeling because it introduces some gnawing doubts in the minds of persons who cannot afford to have their present beliefs or rightness of their present positions tested/questioned. Remember what George Santanaya said about some group of persons re-doubling their efforts in situations of doubt – well a defection creates one of such a situation.
  • Thirdly, a defector should realise that his/her defection hurts the pride of his/her former associates. And when people are hurt, they hit out, and hitting out on impulse does not subject itself to the controls and norms of rational conduct.

The foregoing should enable the deserter to understand the onslaughts against his person. Desertion is not cost-free. You should expect them to come after you. But you must not fight them each time they come after you. Choose your battles! Don’t go galloping into every battle! One key aspect of successful military strategy is knowing which battles to fight and which ones to walk away from. Walk away, avoid the fight – even if they call you “Coward of the County”. Walk away, “walk on by”. If you do not respond, they are likely to get tired and find other things to spend their energies on.

This write-up would not be complete without a brief mention of what happens in the camp that receives the “decampee”. It is simple. The strategy of attack and damage is reversed:

The new “decampee” is presented as someone who has seen the truth, who has suddenly become aware of the folly and evil in his/her previous ways, one who has seen the sinfulness and greed of former associates and as one who now regrets ever associating with such evil people in such an evil party. The devil, who is a convenient scapegoat, takes a good bashing in this new dance of the converted and the redeemed.

  • The decampee’s conversion narrative is cleverly spun and elevated to achieve about the same dramatic intensity as Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. A blind eye is suddenly developed to everything that the new convert and prized acquisition ever said whilst a member of the opposite side.
  • New spins are put on any comments such a convert may have made on persons, character flaws, fat bank accounts, crimes and indiscretions of members of the group he/she is now joining. Damaging comments on how non-electable some members of the receiving group are get blacked out! An unwritten rule which places an embargo among the “faithful” on ever remembering or writing on these telling social comments, except to excuse them as either slippages or works of the devil immediately comes into effect.
  • A package of rewards and incentives, including mentions and praise, is made available to the new convert to encourage continued membership…and all is rosy and honky-dory until there is a falling out. And then the dogs of war are unleashed and we are back full cycle.

There are some lessons in all of this. And I will summarise these as bullet points

  • Be careful who you associate with on Twitter.
  • Be careful who you dine with
  • If you must dine with the devil, go with a long spoon.
  • You do not have to belong to the “in-crowd” to be relevant.
  • Do not let others be the ones to determine your relevance
  • All that glitters is not gold.
  • Shine your eyes
  • Free your mind
  • Use your mind.

It is good to belong on social media but please do not sell yourself or your soul to belong. You can use social media to grow, to learn, to engage and to share but that same social media can kill your mind and stunt your thinking if you allow yourself to be sucked into unhealthy associations. Engage wisely!