Anti-corruption rhetoric and dramatics are now very popular in Nigeria. I totally support campaigns to rid this country of corruption but I also insist that such campaigns must carried with the right level of professionalism, detachment, neutrality, integrity and honesty. Anything short of these is plain dishonest. Anything short of these really amounts to the continued enthronement and celebration of corruption in efforts to combat it. where anti-corruption are not neutral, detached and honest, then they are likely to abuse their powers and influences, applying inconsistent rules and procedures in their treatment of persons and agencies. Double standards also represent critical threats to anti-corruption campaigns as they throw up different evaluations and reactions for the same behaviour. Such practices, where they occur, amount to corruption!
Here are a few reflections on this subject matter.
- Double standards are outcomes of corrupt thinking. A nation of double standards will thus remain corrupt.
- You cannot have one set of scales for persons in one party & another for persons in the other. Such a habit results from a corrupt mind set.
- If you practice selective hysteria for allegations of corruption against persons in one party, then your mind is gradually being corrupted.
- If you practice selective targeting in your campaigns against corruption, then your campaign is already steeped in corruption.
- Anti-corruption practices must be fair. They must be conducted without any trace of favoritism or fear. Fail to do these and the campaign fails
- To be credible, anti-corruptions must be consistent, even handed and transparent. They must be devoid of all forms of double standards.
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.
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.
Noel A. Ihebuzor
By now you must have watched and analyzed that TV interview performance. I sent you the link line to it. Did you experience any jaw drop on watching it? I did! Have you tried to explain that performance to yourself? I have tried myself and I keep coming back to this explanation – the general conned us. What we saw was a deliberate charade designed to throw Nigerians off guard and to encourage any tendency in the other party to under-rate him. The ensuing complacency in that party would then play to the general’s advantage.
How else can one explain the alarming incidence of very absurd answers to very clear questions that one witnessed? Some of the responses were “Bakin Zuwoesque”, whilst others were brilliantly and blatantly Kafkaesque. I am convinced that the display was deliberate. It could not be the reflection of incompetence and ineptitude. Generals are generally not that blank. And remember that to get to the rank of general, one necessarily has to go through some very rigorous training exercises and courses both at home and abroad. A subaltern would not even have responded the way he did.
And it cannot be an indication of a series of “senior moments” that kept reoccurring throughout that interview – such an explanation would immediately show him to be unsuitable for the post he so much craves for. And it cannot be the result of PDP juju as some others have claimed either.
Which then brings me back to the feigned incompetence explanation. This feigned incompetence theory assumes further credibility when one recalls that none of his usually boisterous social media supporters has come forward to respond or defend his performance. All have kept mum.
You will be surprised by my conclusion – a man who can convincingly feign such ignorance and project such blankness must have advanced skills in the art of concealment and politics, and should thus be able to outfox all the foxes and lions in his party. He has risen very highly in my estimation since pulling off this brilliant tour de force.
Noel A. Ihebuzor
The incidence of celebrities, authority figures and eminent persons making commentaries on social affairs, the state of the economy and governance etc. is on the rise. We are now assailed from every corner by judgments of, and commentaries on people, places, periods and events by such celebrities and eminent persons. Not all of these judgments and commentaries are however backed by evidence. What should be our reactions before such claims, commentaries and judgements? Is there not a difference between an opinion and a fact? Are the opinions of a celebrity always right? Should we always believe them? Must we suspend criticality when processing the views of such persons?
The reflections below on credibility and credulity were prompted precisely by these questions. My hope is that by the time you have gone through these reflections, you would have come up with your own personal strategy and processes for sieving statements, claims and commentaries for facticity and accuracy, and are thus more able to separate facts from opinions, no matter their sources. Enjoy the reading. Let me also have the benefit of your comments on these reflections.
- The chances of a claim being believed as true are largely a function of two things – How the credible the source is & how credulous the receiver is!
- It is so easy for a credible source to deceive a credulous audience.
- That deception will continue to happen until the “ahaa” moment.
- Wisdom is discovering that even your long trusted, infallible and credible source can sometimes be economical with the truth!
- Credulousness/credulity exposes us to massive manipulation and exploitation.
- Credulity comes with huge social, emotional & economic costs.
- Not all that that your credible source puts forward is true!
- Do not mistake capacity for linguistic elegance with capacity for telling the truth. Lies are often packaged in beautiful prose.
- Raise your credulity threshold. Be more critical! “Shine your eyes”!
- The more critical you are, the more you are likely to discover flaws in the “perfect” logic of that credible source.
- Once you begin to discover flaws, inaccuracies, distortions and lies in your credible source, his/her credibility starts to wane.
- Healthy skepticism is one useful remedy to problems of credulity.
- In our attitudes/receptivity to statements from others, we are constantly exposed to two types of errors called Type I and Type II errors.
- Remember your research methods course from tertiary education? Type I versus Type II errors? A bit similar but not the same!
- Type I error in belief is known as erroneous incredulity- refusing to believe something that is true because of quarrels with the source!
- Type II – erroneous credulity – believing something that is false to be true because of your infatuation with the source!
- The challenge in life is how to avoid type 1 belief errors – erroneous incredulity whilst still being critical & “sieving” all statements.
- For type II belief errors, we simply have to shine our eyes. There are powerful people who would not brook any challenge to their views. All they desire is to hold people captive to their views and go to every length to ensure that such mental captivity perdures.
- One of the most difficult things to do is to maintain the right level of critical distance enough to evaluate and to challenge, where necessary, the views of someone who has distinguished herself/himself.
- Healthy skepticism towards the views and opinions of such a person is usually considered as indicative of either jealousy or outright incivility or impetuosity.
- And yet such persons have been known to exploit their credibility and to stretch it beyond limits.
- They have been known to exploit their credibility to call people names, to smear people, to ridicule others and to march boldly on spaces where even angels tremble to tiptoe over.
- All this they can do because they have been successful in one field of human endeavour or the other.
- Someone who has distinguished herself/himself in any given field invariably builds up some credibility as a result of success in that specific field of pursuit.
- It is not unusual for such a person to make commentaries in other fields of pursuit.
- Danger starts to loom when such a person begins to feel that credibility built up in one area immediately confers omniscience on her/him and elevates her/him to a pansophist.
- Unless checked, such a person may begin to use credibility gained in one field to become the supreme arbiter on every social issue under the universe.
- I call this tendency to use credibility in one field to seek credibility in another the transfer of credibility. Humans engage frequently in such transfer of credibility.
- Let me try to illustrate. We may have a case where we find a geophysicist making comments in the area of rock music.
- Where such comments are made on the basis of solid evidence, our respect for the person making the comments should grow.
- Where, however, the person making the comments is simply appealing, either explicitly or implicitly, to his/her established credibility in one field and building his/her right to be believed on that alone, then we should be on our guards.
- For example, that V.S. Naipaul said something on “Azonto” dance steps does make it true or false. Check his sources. Check his logic. Distinguish opinions from facts. Become more critical. If Naipul is simply transferring his credibility as winner of a Nobel prize for literature and using this to get you to an uncritical acceptance of his opinion, then sack that opinion. The opinions of a Nobel prize are not beyond falsification.
- Also that Niels Bohr said something, say on race and intercultural dialogue, does not make it true or false. Check his sources. Check his facts. Check his logic. Recognize his contributions to atomic physics but also recognize that expertise in atomic physics does not immediately confer competence in race and culture. Raise your credulity threshold.
- Equally, that Einstein said something on politics does not make it true or false. Check the facts. Question his sources. Raise your own criticality
- These three examples are chosen to invite us all to be more critical.
- They are also intended to show that human beings can and do try to transfer their credibility from areas where they are authorities to others where they are not or may not be!
- In these areas where they are not authorities, such persons would still want to impose their views on others and present their opinions as if they were revealed truths.
- We are often victims of such people and suffer mind control by them for a number of reasons.
- One reason for our credulity before such people emerges from the interaction of herd feeling, laziness and inertia. Everybody believes them, so why should I not? And If I have believed them up till now, why should I start doubting them now?
- Another reason is that most of us have been socialized into uncritical acceptance of views by any authority figure. Such persons thus exercise a strong stranglehold on public opinion.
- The stranglehold these persons exercise on public opinion and thinking are aided by our culture of idolization of the successful.
- Such idolization soon morphs into “person idolatory” such that any attempt to examine this person’s views critically soon amounts to heresy!
- Anything this type/class of people says soon amounts to “cast in diamonds truths”.
- But such idolized persons soon over-reach themselves. Their formerly enraptured audiences soon begin to discover that they have feet of clay. People soon discover that not only are such people fallible, but they do tell lies and can be very petty and partisan.
- So, let me sum up –
- Credibility is a plus for the source; credulity is a negative for any audience.
- Credibility is a bit like virginity. Lose it and you have lost it!
- Credibility is an asset. Draw down recklessly on it without any replenishing and soon it runs out.
- Credibility is optimized in environments of high credulity.
- A celebrity uses her/his credibility to exploit the credulity of an uncritical public.
- Erroneous credulity is bad for any society.
- Losing one’s credulity is one key milestone in cognitive and emotional development.
- Celebrities are entitled to their personal opinions, but not all opinions are true!
- Name calling has a certain appeal but it still does not amount to a proof. Ask any lawyer!
- Concluding comment – let your speaker earn your confidence. Do not let him/her take advantage of or abuse your credulity.
Noel A. Ihebuzor
Aeschylus said that truth is the first casualty in any war. I disagree. Truths do not tell themselves. Truths are told by human beings. Lies, the antonym of truth, are also told by human beings. To tell a lie, a human being makes a first choice. That choice involves stilling the voice of conscience. It involves a deliberate choice to conceal the truth. It involves a deliberate choice to be dishonest. A deliberate choice to be dishonest implies the death of the human conscience. In any war, and at any of its phases, when men decide to tell lies and to raise the stature of lying, they are signaling that something – the human conscience – has already fallen casualty within them. The death of conscience then accelerates other deaths.
The first casualty in any war, indeed in any conflict, is therefore not the truth but the human conscience. The death of conscience then accelerates other deaths. Once the conscience dies, other deaths follow in quick succession and with depressing geometric progression. Conscience, ndo!
I look at Nigeria and marvel at the death of conscience in a number of persons who seek political offices. For such, democracy and elections are nothing else but conflict and war. I marvel at the same death in their agents and their supporters. I marvel at the volume of lies that are churned out and hurled in the direction of the public, all meant to deceive and to confuse…and I am filled with a strong sense of dread. God save us
By Noel Ihebuzor
Flowers you test by
sight, smell and feel; concerts by
sounds, sights and ambiance;
Perfume spelt by
by her smell, pull and
her voice, suggestive.
The test for a group
where creed sags, hazy, buried
blurred by greed is tough
Passions, power grab
freeze reason, open the path
to nought and rot
the vast plains remain
gridlocked by greed, choked in the
fumes of raucous groups
all greed, grab and no creed
The morning tells the day
the weak wobbly legs of the malu
speak louder than the soothsayer’s beads
telling an amused world whether this malu
will make the trek from Ogwumabiri to Ariara.
**Malu means cow.
***Ogwumabiri and Ariara are market in Owerri and Aba respectively