Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Nigeria: At A Pro-Propaganda Rally

By Dan Amor
I'm not your run-of-the-mills television freak or enthusiast. Due largely to the nature of my job, which is basically guided by the need to beat deadlines, I hardly have time for over-indulgence in leisure and other niceties. Whereas my wife and kids occasionally feast on the television screen for either of their usual sops- Zee World, or Nickelodeon, yours sincerely would always lock himself up in the study writing an editorial or a column. 
Yet, since January this year (2018), I have occasionally squeezed a few minutes of my limited time in my little room to watch CHANNELS Television's flagship programme, SUNRISE DAILY. On occasions, viewers are treated to a crossfire which usually features a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and another of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are made to argue on a topical issue of public concern in a moderated atmosphere.
In almost all the epistles I have watched, the APC chieftains always end up leaving the studio with their noses bruised and their faces buried in shame. Their propaganda has always hit a dry well. You recall the encounter between the loquacious Joe Igbokwe of the APC and the calm, brilliant and urbane Akin Osuntokun of the PDP? It adds up to the fact that APC members go to the public arena without facts to defend their positions. It is all propaganda without proof. It's so disgusting and nauseating watching even presidential aides also making themselves objects of laughter and ridicule in the court of the public. There is something about official lying coming from the highest office in the country, the Presidency, which we must all fight, if we must extricate Nigeria from this maze of social conflicts. Politics is not all about propaganda or telling lies. Yet, unfortunately, this administration under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, a man of assumed integrity, has elevated propaganda to the height of the major principle of government.
It is outrageous, to say the least, that Nigerians are confronted with a Presidency that lies on oath to the people and lies intermittently to the world at large. If you have told a mourning Benue people to accommodate the killer Fulani herdsmen because they (herdsmen) were their neighbours and the next day you told your visitor in London that the herdsmen were from Libya and were trained by the late Libyan strongman, Col. Ghadafi, what have you just done? You have lied on oath. If you had ordered your police chief to relocate to Benue state to curtail the menace of herdsmen killings and the next day you told your host in far away Washington D. C that herdsmen in your country don't carry arms, what have you just done? You've told a big lie!
What is even more benumbing is the mendacious propaganda by presidential aides who lack the courage to resign their appointment for gross inefficiency and wayward hypocrisy. The magnitude of sophistry and intellectual dishonesty being displayed by these otherwise brilliant professionals shows that the President might obviously been reading speeches not vetted. This is absolutely ridiculous. It is part of the obscenities and subterfuge that Nigerians are made to contend with in this era of weird change. But these aides who insult Nigerians for airing their views over the dismal performance of the regime must note that Nigerians are intelligent and discerning people who cannot swallow hook, line and sinker the jejunity and indecorum at play from the nation's highest office in the past three years.
They must be educated enough to know that presidential information management including speechwriting is an exercise in critical thinking and persuasion, not an act of telling lies and abusive showmanship. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win the conviction of the governed in a given society without wanting to study theories of rhetoric, communication, argumentation and decision making. But the evolution of the study of speech communication has infused the forensics arena with fresh new ideas with the apparent interest of world leaders in decent instruction in speaking and professional speech education. Consequently, just as the president of a country as big and highly endowed as Nigeria need to be educated on speech making and presentation, the presidency needs a speechwriting mechanism.
Indeed, Nigerians are not at all surprised at this anti-climax in the narrative regarding mounting evidence of mis-governance, corruption and insecurity in the country. If anything, the development vindicates their consistent, courageous conviction and principled stance that the nation has, indeed, sunk deeper in the quagmire of official sleaze, impunity and misrule since May 29, 2015. The double standards and hypocrisy of the presidency in the many established cases of corrupt self-enrichment by key government functionaries including the Maina-gate could not have earned Nigeria's anti-corruption crusade any recognition from credible assessors within or outside the country.
Yet, our presidency and its propaganda spin doctors think that anything that happens in Nigeria does not get to the knowledge of the outside world. Not now when information technology has turned the world to a global village. During the last visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America, the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed was said to have used the opportunity to embark on an elaborate image laundering jamboree for the regime. According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mohammed visited offices of the CNN, the New York Times, the Voice of America, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Al Jazeera, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic Council and the Foreign Relations Council. His mission was to tell these established American media organizations what the Buhari regime wanted them to believe is happening in Nigeria and not what is actually happening. You can imagine the millions of United States Dollars the Buhari government must have spent to polish its image during that single trip to the United States.
At almost 58 years of nationhood, Nigeria has successfully placed among nations with high capacity to attract international attention. In the positive sense, the country has helped to contribute some of the world best in varied spheres of human endeavours. In law, literature, journalism, sports, music and the sciences, Nigeria ranks high. But, regrettably, due to a mundane and docile leadership, the well-cultivated international profile has been dampened by some negative and devious activities of certain Nigerians as well as an incredible scale of national blunders. Unbridled activities of fraudsters, narcotics couriers, swindlers, eating billionaire generals, lazy and corrupt billionaire politicians, and the emergence of a cabal of entrepreneurial sharks, have diminished our international stature to an embarrassing level.
The net effect of this is the sorry spectacle we have cut for Nigeria and Nigerians in the international arena. The reality is that the corporate image of the country is almost irretrievably steeped in crisis. It would be repetitious to recount countless instances of humiliation otherwise decent Nigerians still go through in foreign lands. Even 19 years into a supposedly democratic civil rule, the trend is far from improving. Yet actions of government officials and security agents have shown demonstrable proof of intransigence and arrogance; needless to go into details of stupendous mockery killings of innocent Nigerians in recent times and a monumental scale of impunity and corruption in the corridor of power while the intimidation of the legislature and the judiciary continues unabated.
Amidst these blunders, this clueless administration that cannot halt the senseless killings of defenseless Nigerians at home, is poised to redeem its soiled image through public relations blitzkrieg abroad. Much as it is criminal to waste the country's scarce resources on propaganda campaign in the international media, the government must note that the real war to be fought and won on image refurbishing is here on our shores. Everybody appreciates government's discomfiture over the spate of external criticism of its jaundiced policies and actions especially its failure to protect the lives and property of Nigerians and its half-hearted and almost lethargic disposition towards a speedy alleviation of pain and hunger among hapless Nigerians. But it is preposterous and callous to commit our scarce resources to prosecute a public relations campaign abroad.
That our external image is in tatters in spite of our much-vaunted 'achievements', is enough cause to worry. But, in point of fact, the bad press Nigeria gets overseas is a function of the kind of governance the country operates at home and its uninspiring leadership. The logic, therefore, is that, the best image cleansing exercise the government can, and should undertake, is to govern well. It should meet the yearnings of Nigerians by providing them with basic infrastructure like roads, electricity, water and healthcare. Majority of Nigerians need education, jobs and adequate security. Is it not alarming that just between January and now, more than a thousand Nigerians have been slaughtered by heartless Devils called Fulani herdsmen and yet the federal government does not care any hoot about bringing the killers to justice? Why is Nigeria so cursed? Why does this government think that foreign media operators are fools? Can this government also counter the recent remark by the World Bank that the country's poverty rate increased in 2017 despite its emergence from the worst economic recession ever? A performing government does not need to embark on a futile enterprise like state paid internal and external propaganda. Enough of this international embarrassment!
*Amor, a commentator on public issues, writes from Abuja

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