Posted in Uncategorized

Bias and its hazards

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

Most people will swear on their mother’s left breast, the breast closest to her heart, that they are objective, even when the evidence that they are not stares them starkly in the face. Some journalists are bolder and are even willing to swear on their mother’s two breasts that they are objective. And it is not that such journalists hate or disrespect their mums by swearing falsely and invoking the name of such a significant person in their lives who deserves undying respect and veneration – it is just they have become so blind to their biases that they have ended up losing every sense of balance and self awareness – the usual endpoint for persons who allow themselves to journey and mingle with bias and who then becomes its prisoners – their minds shackled, their visions dimmed and judgments vitiated. Persons who were supposed to be the voices and the eyes of the people are now locked up in dungeons with very opaque windows and where deformed self-made panes, the only windows to the world out there, deflect and refract light and create the worst forms of illusions of vision. How did these fellows get into these dungeons? They got pulled into them by the lure of money and incentives, by unreflecting loyalty to faction, section or class and by the seduction of hatred and envy which end up dulling the senses – visual acuity, discriminatory powers and judgment – of persons  whose hearts and hearths they have entered and found quick and easy welcome. Henceforth cocooned in islands of subjectivity and irrationality, so sadly and blissfully unaware of their present afflictions, these persons who should be the fourth estate of the realm become purveyors of inaccuracies and writers of commentaries and editorials which have neither breadth nor depth but are characterized by flatness, incompleteness and cant. And the belief of these persons in their objectivity persists, fuelled by comments and adulations from a captive readership.  These delusions of objectivity are so powerful that these prisoners of bias would willing take on any mortal bold enough to point out to them what are clear inadequacies, profound shallowness and shameful aberrations in their writings and in their campaigns of misinformation and disinformation of the masses they are supposed to inform, educate and defend. To get a sense of what I am talking about, just read the new Sam Nda Isaiah, the Punch Newspaper and Leadership Newspaper and then weep for the sorry state of journalism in our dear country.

Noel Ihebuzor

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Posted in Prose

Dis Na Naija!

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

 

Every age deserves a show. For some the show could come packaged as comedy, full of boom, bloom and blossom. For others, it could come served as tragedy overflowing with gloom and doom. Since we are special in Naija, we often get treated to shows in quick successions – and each one, a blend of comedy and tragedy, leaving the watcher bemused but confused.  We have had some very good shows lately, all blending the comic and the tragic, and all portending the coming of more shows.

 

SLS’s letter and its confutation by the NNPC is a tragi-comedy. How can the governor of the CBN be ignorant of these details if the NNPC’s explanation is indeed true? If the explanation is true, we have a tragedy that arises because arms of government are not talking to one another and a comedy because they choose to come to the public gallery to display such a dysfunction. I simply hope that the NNPC explanation is wrong, since I hold SLS in very high esteem. When technocrats opt to play politics, they should be kind enough to serve the public notice in bold strokes that says “Buyer, beware”.

 

Tambuwal’s recent corruption song is as comic as it is tragic.. It is comic because he was playing to the gallery and knew he was doing precisely that. It is tragic because he too is a product of that same corruption he talks about and that the House he serves as speaker is not corruption free. What has he done to address that corruption in the House? What has he done to sweep his own stables? The sad truth of life is that the beam in the other fellow’s eye is always larger than the one protrudes from our own eyes. The bathos of Dambuwal’s situation is that he comes away from the speech feeling he has barbed the presidency and forgets to notice how much he has bloodied himself in the effort. The tragedy in pyrrhic victories replays ever so often with presumed victors often overlooking how much they may have sullied themselves in their vain efforts to score cheap victories.

 

OBJ’s letter is the tragi-comedy of squandered good will and eroded credibility. I have always argued that credibility becomes a depleting asset once its use has been abused three times – the magic number 3! OBJ could be saying correct things about GEJ but nobody takes him seriously any more. I am even distancing myself from “the kettle call pot black” type of reaction that dominated the media since his missive-missile became public. I prefer to focus on the content of some of his accusations and his seeming inability to understand that assertion is not the same thing as proof. Old folks do not waste soup – agadi adighi agwo ofe – the Igbos say.  Thus when respected old men succumb to the temptation of treating with flippancy and levity that which is serious, when respected elder statesmen start making wild accusations without bothering to substantiate them, then you start to wonder what these same old men expect of our 20 million youths. Snipers under training and 1000 persons under surveillance and this said in the most cavalier of manners. In some other climes, Baba would have been invited to explain but this is Naija, a country where it is sometimes difficult to separate the venerable from the venal! How could Baba, in every seriousness, write thus? Has Baba’s mind been influenced by the propensities of one of his famous “oti mpkus” whose reckless excesses are such as even to make the extremes of lunacy look somber and sober?   Even Baba’s attack on GEJ’s second term ambitions are built essentially on claims he is unable to prove convincingly and conclusively, some even bordering on hearsay and thus bringing his entire intentions and emotional state when he wrote the piece into question.  Some of the content were in particular bad taste, his take on the interanl PDP palaver being a good example! Nigerians needed to be spared the long narration on the internal squabbles in the PDP, and it needs a sense of statesmanship and fine sense of judgment to guide OBJ not to tread that path. Not everything that one sees and knows should be inflicted on the public. Not everything an elder sees and knows is discussed in the market place, the Igbos say! Nzu rules supreme!  Statesmen do not come to the public to wash dirty linen and underwear! Knowing what and when to share is an art. It demands an awareness of the nature and needs of the target audience; It demands good judgment of what is relevant.  It demands sensitivity, tact and Nzu, qualities that statesmen are also assumed to possess in abundance. In failing to apply the right level of selectivity in the choice of what he divulged, OBJ may have betrayed a drop in his level of tact and statesmanship. It is this sad drop that explains why he could have inflicted such a narration on us and why he could also do so with the clumsiness one normally associates with a young elephant. In the democracies we aspire to, it is considered to be in extreme bad faith and taste for an ex-president or ex-prime minister to make such disparaging and destructive remarks on the rule of a sitting president or prime minister. It is considered as bad manners and hardly ever happens. But not in our Naija –  Everything goes.

 

Abati’s response is tragic and comic at the same time. “I am not to reply but yet you reply” – haba, which kine one be dat?  And his reaction was as predictable as his line of attack. Trying to dismiss grave accusations of the type that Baba Iyabo made with emotive language is not always very convincing. When confronted with accusations against my person or against my principal, my attitude has always been to kill my emotions and do a blow by blow clinical response, accepting where I am wrong and using evidence to challenge and refute assertions that derive from either spite, ignorance, greed, ambition, misplaced ideology, immaturity, vacuous knowledge base or an over-inflated ego. I should commend this modus operandi to Reuben Abati, but Dr Abati is a guru and veteran of the media and I, alas, I am nothing but a lay reader.

 

The dress rehearsal for 2015 has commenced in earnest. Generals, who wrongly believe that this country is theirs to manipulate at will, are watching which way the political wind is blowing and are doing their best to adjust their tattered sails to benefit maximally from it. Self-interest is being packaged and sold as commitment to the nation.  The over-riding intention is power grab! Any and every method is allowed. Decency, truth and common sense will be early victims. Hot air will triumph and lunatics will have their field days – unrestrained, and their unrestraint will be our constraint. Loud mouthed Achilles will visit us with their empty and rumbustious swagger and little men will act out their smallness to its fullest. God save us!

Posted in Prose

Identifying corrupting arguments on corruption

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

I shared these thoughts on corruption about a year ago. Recent events in Nigeria and reactions to them on social media prompt me to share them again.

Bad is Bad.  But to selectively focus on the “bad” committed by persons you do not like, hyping it and creating a mass hysteria around it whilst turning a convenient blind eye to the “bad” of other people you like is bad.  Blanketing out news on the “bad” glaringly perpetrated by persons whose causes you champion is bad. Bad is Bad.

Impunity is bad. But to selectively focus on impunity at one level and to remain silent when impunity is generously dished out by other levels of government is bad. It is to allow economics, religion and politics to either condition our perception or to dampen our capacity for impartial judgments and consistent demonstrations of moral outrage. It is to practice a morality based on expediency. Such expediency-driven morality eventually imposes a huge burden of dysfunction in our judgements, a dysfunction with unimaginable opportunity costs and which dysfunction indeed could then have untold deletrious effects on a polity that looks up to us as impartial watchdogs.

Posted in Prose

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!

Posted in Prose

Signs of confused activism

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

Activism is now one of the fastest growing buzz and fancy words. It has style and appeal. It has class. Quite a number of persons on social media would immediately lay claims to be engaging in this highly rated practice either as a hobby or as a full time professional pursuit. But like all buzz words, the word activism “contains” a lot of fuzz. The fuzz arises because “activism” is gradually becoming a label that has been hijacked and is now being used to describe the activities of a variety of persons from genuine crusaders for social justice through to paid political party agents to social media demagogues. Confusion clearly abounds and an important step in wading through this confusion is to try to come up with a simple scheme that would enable a citizen to distinguish between genuine activism and fake activism. I call fake activism confused activism just to recognise that not all manifestations of it are intentional since some clearly result from situations where unbridled zeal and exuberance have outrun sense, self-restraint, competence and capacity.    Here are some signs of confused activism I have gleaned from social media.

  1. The display of selective moral outrage
  2. The abandonment of reason
  3. The embrace of illogicality and the descent to inconsistency
  4. The rejoicing over any government misfortune
  5. Refusing to see the very obvious
  6. Denying or rejecting clear evidences of government successes
  7. Trivialising landmark events and changes brought about by government policies
  8. Magnifying government mistakes out of proportion
  9. Maintaining total silence on opposition gaffes
  10. Defending glaring flaws in persons in the opposition
  11. Enforcing total silence on the crimes of members of the opposition
  12. Demonizing the government but beatifying anyone opposed to it.
  13. Blanking out the unsavoury pasts of newly turned “progressives”
  14. Revising and photo-shopping the past to fit the present
  15. Purveying inaccuracies and merchandising distortions
  16. Becoming salespersons and champions of exaggerations
  17. Looking before leaping; tweeting before thinking
  18. Commenting on things without any full understanding of them
  19. Consistently condemning government and commending the opposition
  20. Charging into battle like a Don Quixote & engaging in non-evidence/non-fact based utterances

The incidence of confused activism can be reduced if we all begin today to turn our backs to behaviours such as I have listed above and start to embrace a culture of more balanced, evidence based and socially constructive engagements which are the hallmarks of genuine activism.

Noel

Posted in Prose

The 26th September March

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

Our legislators are among the best paid in the world. If you look at their salaries and emoluments relative to either the mean, median and modal wages in Nigeria, then you are forced to take back that statement and to correctly say that they are among the “worst” paid in the world since their salaries are totally out of sync with the socio-economic realities of their environment. The Economist report has it that the basic salary of a legislator is about 116 times Nigeria’s GDP per person. Now if this claim is accurate, such a salary is not just bad, it is sinful. Our legislators ought to, in every responsibility, advocate for an immediate downward review of their salaries and allowances. I will be among the first to support a petition by the electorate for the immediate downward review of the salaries and allowances of these people.

Our history on demonstrations is not the best in the world. We appear to be totally unable to come up with demonstrations with peaceful endings. The fault is at two levels. The first is with the demonstrators.   Some of the demonstrators act with immaturity and are prone to demonstrating the worst forms of self- restraint during demonstrations. The second is with the agents of law and order who are not always “lawful nor orderly” in their conduct and who are not very skilled in handling demonstrations/marches and in crowd control. The combination of an immature group of persons and law enforcement agents who are not too skilled in the management of crowds during demonstrations usually spells disaster. Disaster arrives even faster when mischievous element, anxious to make either political capital or quick financial gains from demonstrations,  join this mix. The descent from a peaceful assembly and parade to confusion, mayhem, anarchy, tire burning, road blocks, extortion and other forms of disorderly conduct is rapid and the consequences can be very  painful, wasteful and socially divisive.

I hear a march to protest NASS salaries is planned for 26th September, 2013. Details are still sketchy as to the locations, route, how and the form of this march. But it is important for the march organisers to recognise upfront the realities of demonstrations in Nigeria and to take steps to ensure that the planned march is peaceful and that their ranks are not infiltrated by elements with other intentions. They must also ensure that the march is not hijacked by persons or groups with party political motives and ambitions. It is important that clearance(s) for the march or marches (if they are planned for several locations) are obtained from the relevant authorities and that designated venues and routes are kept to. The organisers must therefore organise a responsible march and ensure that marchers march with responsibility and keep within the limits of the law. The law enforcement agencies, on their part, also must keep away from provoking the demonstrators. Their roles must focus on ensuring public order and peace and on protecting the lives and safety of Nigerians, including the marchers who they must see as simply exercising their democratic rights. The crowds must be handled with great sensitivity and tough tactics should only be deployed when breaches of the peace are clear and obvious. When this happens, response should swift, targeted and commensurate with the perceived risk and nothing more. We saw such swift and targeted responses in the police handling of the last riots in the UK.

I do not want to be alarmist but I am just calling attention to a planned event that could provoke clashes which then have the potential of snowballing out of control.  Clashes can be avoided if clear commitments are made before the march and adhered to by the marchers and law enforcement agents also agree to abide and actually abide by agreed principles of crowd control during the march. Incidentally, the planned march can still be headed off now (and valuable man hours and agro saved and possible disasters/hard feeling averted) if significant persons representing all the political parties from both houses of the National Assembly were to step forward now and assure the electorate that the NASS would be engaging in discussions with the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in the very near future with a view to a downward and realistic review of the salaries and allowances of their members.

Noel

Posted in Uncategorized

New Chefs

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

 

The big pot on the fire

slowly cooks a rot of a plot,

rotters, revellers and rioters,

sing and rejoice, copiously salivating

the glimmering prize in sight, tantalizing

We must not talk or sulk or balk

 

 

The dropping romps of the cooks and crooks

too obvious to even non-looking eyes,

the fevered stirring of this sticky broth

a mish-mash pot-pourri cobbled by a medley

of assorted chefs of drooping and dangling mores,

tired and tiring broth

to be served for our famished jaws

We must not talk or sulk or balk

 

 

Doom beckons coyly in this season of declining bloom

nimble fingers play with our minds chords,

clever tongues sing swans to dull us

the ever hungry lion

spins his wealth on our common loom

glows and swims in an ocean of wealth

whilst all around us

lame lambs drown in pool of poverty

in a season of plenty

We must not talk or sulk or balk

 

 

And all this dance of drunken lizards and

dead beat rats racing almost dazed,

looking for who to bait and bite.

We must not talk or sulk or balk

We must like Isaiah go the slaughter

with laughter, “shuffering & Shmiling”

but with no salvation in sight