As Tinubu deploys propaganda and lies in governance: Truth be told, lies and propaganda as governance tools will neither do his administration any good nor take Nigeria to the golden era we all crave for.
In the last four months since Bola Tinubu became Nigeria’s president, many have watched in utter horror as the administration continues to fumble. The missteps are simply unacceptable, more so for a government that claims to be on a self-assigned mission of renewing the hope of longsuffering citizens.
But I doubt if any discerning Nigerian is surprised at the embarrassing slipups and gaffes. In fact, what would have been surprising is a situation where Tinubu, in Aso Rock, levels with Nigerians.
It is in the character of those who are presently allocating the country’s collective values, authoritatively, to deploy propaganda and lies in governance. To them subterfuge and outright sleight of the hand are legitimate governance tools.
But are they?
I daresay they are not because government propaganda threatens democracy itself. In other words, whoopla is an enemy of democracy. As U.S. Senator William Fulbright noted in his 1970 book, The Pentagon Propaganda Machine, “There have been too many instances of lack of candour and of outright misleading statements in treating with the (American) public. Too often we have been misled by the very apparatus that is supposed to keep us factually informed or, in the very strictest sense, honestly guided.”
As it is with the Pentagon, the Tinubu administration has chosen, deliberately, neither to keep Nigerians factually informed nor honestly guided, so much so that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, speaking through his media aide, Phrank Shaibu, recently quipped that “if the Tinubu government says it is morning, go outside to verify if the sun is shining.”
That may sound like an exaggeration. But the actions of the government make it extremely difficult not to believe that this is an administration that lies compulsively.
And in so doing, the government is hurting itself and squandering the already depleted stock of goodwill of the few Nigerians still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because as Levi Obijiofor noted in an October 12, 2016 article in The SUN newspaper, “The easiest way a government and a ruling political party can dilute the faith, the confidence, and the authority placed in them by the people is to undervalue the citizens and to assume that civil society is naïve, easy to fool, uncritical and always willing to accept half-truths.”
What is even most disconcerting is that these lies are needless. Truth would have been apposite particularly given the fact that like pregnancy, most of the events or issues the administration is lying about, sooner than later would become public knowledge.
Take for instance the controversy over what was agreed during Tinubu’s meeting with the United Arab Emirates President, Mohamed bin Zayad Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi recently.
Tinubu on his way back from India after attending the G20 meeting on observer status stopped over in UAE.
The mere fact that he had the presence of mind to raise the issue of visa ban and suspension of flights to Nigeria by both Etihad and Emirates Airlines was commendable. His predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, the man who threw Nigeria into this pitiable ditch couldn’t care less.
If the Tinubu government had levelled with Nigerians on the outcome of the meeting, he would still have earned some plaudits. By meeting with the UAE President, he had thawed the diplomatic ice and discussions on how to proceed from there would have been the next logical step. Most times, diplomacy is not a 100-metre dash. It is a marathon that requires patience and skills.
But this government can’t help itself when it comes to lying. So, Tinubu’s spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, went to town with Abuja’s version of what transpired at the meeting and he was emphatic.
“President Bola Tinubu and President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayad Al Nahyan, on Monday in Abu Dhabi, have finalized a historic agreement, which has resulted in the immediate cessation of the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers,” Ngelale ululated in a statement.
“Furthermore, by this historic agreement, both Etihad Airlines and Emirates Airlines are to immediately resume flight schedules into and out of Nigeria.”
More than three weeks after these emphatic claims were made, nothing has happened – the airlines have neither resumed flights nor have Nigerians started getting UAE visa. And nothing will happen simply because no such agreements were reached.
Apparently embarrassed, the UAE countered the Abuja narrative, but with some finesse. Short of saying Nigeria lied, a statement by the UAE government said both leaders had during the meeting, “explored opportunities for further bilateral collaboration” with the hope of “reinforcing ties between the UAE and Nigeria.”
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Some days later, an official from the Gulf state told the CNN: “There are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.”
One needs to be a compulsive liar to make the claims the Tinubu presidency made, knowing full well that the UAE will give its own account of what happened and that subsequent events will bear out whoever was telling the truth.
Nigerians were still dealing with that when the NASDAQ bell brouhaha broke.
Last week, Ngelale came out with another fib: “The world’s second largest stock exchange, the National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation System (NASDAQ), on Wednesday in the world’s financial capital, invited President Tinubu to ring the closing bell, making him the first African President to ever receive the honour.”
Of course, Tinubu wasn’t the first to be accorded that honour, if, indeed, ringing NASDAQ bell is an honour. It has since been established that Malawian President, Jakaya Kikwete, rang the same bell as far back as September 21, 2011. In any case, ringing the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) bell, which is also an American stock exchange in the financial district of Lower Manhattan in New York City is a bigger deal than NASDAQ because it is the largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization. And President Goodluck Jonathan and others had done so in the past.
But assuming, without conceding that Tinubu is, indeed, the first African leader to ring the NASDAQ bell, so what? What does it matter to Nigerians? How would that affect the current Nigerian condition? Will it burnish Nigeria’s sullied image in the comity of nations, solve the debilitating problem of insecurity, and tackle hunger and the humiliating poverty in the country?
On August 27, the self-same Ngelale whose reputation as Abuja’s new fib master after Alhaji Lai Mohammed has been firmly established issued a statement where U.S. Presidential Envoy and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Molly Phee, was quoted as saying, “President Joe Biden is asking to meet with you (President Tinubu) on the sidelines of UNGA and you are the only African leader he has requested to meet. It is a mark of his high regard for your leadership.”
Again, that did not happen. The UNGA ended and Biden went back to Washington DC without casting as much as a glance in Tinubu’s direction.
On Monday, the APC pushed back on Atiku’s claim that Tinubu lied on the matter saying Tinubu and Biden did not meet on the sideline of the UN General Assembly because they had earlier met at the G-20 Nations summit in India.
“The matter of the proposed meeting with United States of America President Joe Biden does not even require elaboration. Having met with President Tinubu on the sidelines of the G-20 Nations summit in India, another meeting with President Biden during the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA) had become unnecessary and was not even on President Tinubu’s schedule, contrary to preliminary indications on the matter,” Felix Morka, APC spokesman, said in a statement.
But the “preliminary indications on the matter” didn’t come from Atiku. It came from the presidency. If a sideline meeting at the UNGA “was not even on President Tinubu’s schedule,” where then did Ngelale get Ambassador Molly Phee’s alleged statement from?
Besides, why is President Tinubu so obsessed, like former U.S. President Donald Trump, with his imagined exceptionalism? All the hype is a well-choreographed attempt to paint the picture of an extraordinary and incomparable leader. He already sees himself as the greatest Yoruba leader ever, surpassing the achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Well, he may well be. Some of his minions argue that Awolowo was only a regional leader unlike Tinubu whose politics transcends Yoruba nation and today he is Nigeria’s president by hook or by crook.
Having conquered the Yoruba nation and, indeed, Nigeria, he is now seeking a place in the pantheon of African leadership. But he cannot lie his way to that glorious height in the same manner he became the Nigerian president the “Ben Johnson way” – apologies to one of the South East governors.
The policies of the Tinubu administration in the last four months have been a cocktail of lies and propaganda. Whether it is the fuel subsidy removal gambit, or the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) claiming it had obtained an Afreximbank loan of $3 billion with which it would help stabilise the naira or even the so-called Student Loan Act, which he ceremoniously signed on June 12, it is sheer sophistry.
That is the tragedy of the Tinubu era. Truth be told, lies and propaganda as governance tools will neither do his administration any good nor take Nigeria to the golden era we all crave for.