I was on my way to Ibadan from Lagos in early December 2012; but had to abandon the trip due to the intolerable jam caused by road closures as a result of President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to RCCG’s Holy Ghost Congress. Roads were closed from the Island to Ibadan expressway for over two hours. So I turned back to Ikeja to hold another impromptu meeting with an old acquaintance who is now a “big boy” in the PDP National structure. Our conversation veered into the subject of political manipulation of the citizenry and media manoeuvring in Nigeria. His response not only confirmed my greatest fear for my country, but also explained how Nigerians own strength is being used against them by the political elite. This analysis is the basis of my article.
I asked my PDP “big boy” acquaintance why falsehood and lies seems to be a commodity in abundance within the operations of the political elite; especially when it comes to challengers or opposition figures. His response was glib and sharp. He said; “ We know that Nigerians are wired to expect the worst from others; so when we release a false story about an opponent, we are certain more Nigerians are inclined to believe the worst of others than good news”. I was in total shock at the depth of socio-political encapsulation of the national psyche of Nigerians by these politicians and their henchmen.
Over the decades; with bad and corrupt leaders come and go, Nigerians have come to expect the worst from their leaders. The initial shock factor has long been replaced by weary resignation that all politicians are the same and a believe that nothing good can come out of the ruling elite. Knowing this reality; any occasional ray of hope that emerges in the corridors of power is quickly killed off by the corrupt majority through misinformation and mud slinging (though false), but most Nigerians will tend to believe the tale. We have become a nation of negative expectations. If we read that a politician turned down a bribe; we will not believe the story and instead question whether the politician is batting for the opposition and want to bring down the government. But if we hear that the same politician collected bribe (though False); most will quickly believe it as it fits perfectly into our depraved expectation of our leaders. It now seem that the ruling elite are using this national mind-set against us as a people.
To buttress his point; my acquaintance used an example. There is a member of the house of Representative who came into office at the last election determined to do the right thing. He refused all attempts to bribe him or be corrupted. This made all the others (especially those in his House committee) to be uncomfortable. So after a few months; the chair of the House committee (name withheld) of which this “good guy” was a member used his influence to get the personal bank account details of this clean member through his staff. Suddenly this ‘good guy’ started getting alerts from his bank for huge deposits into his account. First it was N20Million; then next day N50Million and then N90Million. He asked his bank where the money came from as he did not deposit any money. They told him it was all cash lodgement by some people into his account.
By the end of the week; the committee chair confronted the ‘good guy’ and said his share of the bribe money has been deposited into his account and that whether he likes it or not; he is now one of them. He was warned that if he makes any noise; he would have to explain to Nigerians where all the money in his account came from. This young legislator broke down in tears I was told. He is now silent and determined to get out of the political system at the end of this term. There are many similar stories in our nation. The truth is; not every single political player is corrupt. Yes they are few; but then exist and need encouragement to stay the narrow path. Reality is; how many Nigerians will believe his story if it came out? How many will believe he is innocent? This is the problem of the Nigerian mind.
So next time you read a story about a “corrupt” politician; especially someone who does not have a history of it; you need to begin to question it. Could this be true? Most of Nigerian media are politically controlled; so there is easy access to tools of misinformation. We should stop expecting the worst of each other. We should stop making ourselves easy pickings for political manipulations by the ruling elite, who want to perpetuate venality. We believe bad news with ease but find it difficult to believe good news. WHY? If we do not change our outlook as a People; we will drive away all ‘good people’ from our polity.
If the corrupt politicians know that all they need to do is to plant false stories in the media to discredit “Credible people”; then good people will stop coming out to serve and thenceforward we are indeed doomed as a nation. So think twice before you believe every bad news you read about others. We may indeed be discouraging the few good men that exist by our embrace of all bad news. There is hope in our future and future in our hope; let us begin to give hope to the few good men that still exist and hopefully rekindle the fire of national transformation.
Don’t be quick to believe every bad story you read anymore; that will be a good first step. If you believe you are not corrupt personally; then you must believe there are people like you (albeit few) in the political arena as well. Let us not give up on them…as that will be given up on ourselves and Nigeria.