Breaking News

Where’s the truth of official claims?

By Rotimi Fasan

I HAD intended to write on something different from what  I eventually settled on. My intention was to comment on what I think is the deliberate attempt to put a summary end to the career of Tiger Woods, the golf great whose sexual infidelities have been made front page news by apparently hypocritical  moral gatekeepers whose real intentions seem to have been more motivated by business than their advertised concern for the moral state of the game of golf.

I’d begun and nearly finished the article before unforeseen circumstances led to my changing course and choosing to take stock of certain developments in our polity in the course of the year. I’d tried to avoid this because doing it would mean commenting on the bleak picture our country presents at this time of the year in the last few years. Past editions of TALKINGPOINT written about this time of the year would bear out my claim.

Things seem to get worse in Nigeria just about the time the year  is coming to an end. Then would things come to a head and everything that could possibly go wrong, surely, go wrong. At this time of the year, Nigerians brace up for the worse in the New Year.

The relaxed joy that should naturally be part of the festivities of Christmas  and the New Year would be absent and people would only wake up one morning to realise it’s another Christmas and the New Year is just days away. The situation has not been different this year. It’s only a  couple of days  from Christmas and  Nigerians are as harassed as they could possibly be.

The fuel situation is getting worse and nobody seems to know what really is responsible for it. While some blame it all on hoarding by petrol stations, others say it is the fault of the marketers that are hoping to cash in on the proposed deregulation of the oil sector by refusing to lift oil or, when they do, diverting it to the black market for additional profits.

Yet, others say the NNPC is behind the scarcity, accusing it of insincerity and a failure to tell  Nigerians that what it has is not enough to meet the needs of the people. And this precisely is what is annoying about how matters are  managed in the country today- the lack of coherence that attends every discussion or policy issue in which Nigerians are interested. The truth of such matters is anything but certain.

Or rather, it’s anything you make it or who you choose to listen to of the many blabbers who periodically come out to announce government positions on State issues. Dependence on rumours as sources of information is not limited to so-called ordinary Nigerians alone. Indeed, those in government are themselves mostly at sea as to what government policies are.

They are unreliable sources whose words are worth no more than the stale news from a roadside watering hole.
We all know now  that the Yar’Adua administration is bent on deregulating the  energy sector. Whether downstream or upstream, deregulation means the same thing in actual operation for Nigerians: increase in fuel prices. But pray what is this government’s position on when this would come into play? Nobody knows.

Is it not, therefore, reasonable to conclude that government’s hide-and-seek  on the issue is the reason some operators in the oil sector have chosen to fish in the troubled waters created, by either hoarding fuel or diverting  it to the black market for cutthroat profit? How about the question of increasing power generation from whatever it is now to 6000megawatts?

Is government still able to meet its December 31st deadline for this? The answer you get depends on who you choose to listen to. Only many days ago, Samshudeen Usman said government would meet the deadline. But last  week the tune  changed with the same government saying it can no longer meet the deadline. Of course, the man who made the original promise is lying somewhere in a condition nobody knows of in Saudi Arabia.

Who knows, President Yar’Adua might return on New Year’s Eve to tell us his promise on  the matter is still achievable. And talking about knowing the true state of things in Nigeria today- who knows what’s happening to the President now, four weeks since he left the shores of  the country to attend to his health? His wife, Turai, came home the other day to tell Nigerians the President could now talk. Nobody told us before then  that  the man couldn’t talk.

The picture Nigerians had been given by government officials  who themselves peddle third party information on the President’s health was that the President was well and was down only with a minor ailment. And when would he return home? Again the answer you get depends on which government official you are listening to. If it’s Michael Aondoakaa, the Attorney-General and Justice Minister, the President might as well govern from his bed in Saudi Arabia.

Meaning the President need not bother about a return date. Others who hide behind the anonymity of press sources have mentioned different dates that have since elapsed without anybody having fresh information on the President’s health, to say nothing of when he would be home.

One thing Nigerians are sure of, though, is that the President is seriously ill for no minor ailment could have kept him from his own daughter’s wedding or  the country for one whole month. Just days ago, the Italian Prime Minister was away to the hospital after an accident in which he broke his teeth and the manner the Italian public reacted, the interest they showed in the matter told one they couldn’t have abided the silence that Nigerians have been met with on Yar’Adua’s health matters. But this is Nigeria where official information is hoarded the way marketers hoard fuel.

The only thing certain is the uncertain state of things. So as we celebrate Christmas and the New Year, Nigerians must beware of information coming from ‘government sources’. Merry Christmas!


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.