By Dele Sobowale
“There are no desperate situations; only desperate men.” Joseph Goebbels, 1897-1945.
VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 38.
Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s chief of propaganda should know a lot about desperate men. As the Second World war ground to an end, the men who made Warsaw to see war and for war to see Warsaw were suddenly at the receiving end of violence they had unleashed on others.
It was time to rev-up the propaganda machine – generally packages of falsehood – dished out to the German people by officials who had lost all sense of honour. Since truth was not their friend, they embraced dissembling with gusto.
Horrible defeats in distant places were broadcast to their fellow countrymen and women as smashing victories – until it was too late.
Nigeria’s Aso Rock, under military and civilian regimes, has developed a history of turning people once regarded as decent into purveyors of terrible rumours. There must be a devil living there which we must exorcise to stop the recurrent transformation of honest men into grotesque story tellers. Every government has had its share of sycophants.
Flatterers besiege every President or Military head of State whose main function is to tell him what he wants to hear instead of what he must know. But, don’t blame the con-men of each administration totally. As Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, has observed, “The arch-flatterer with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man’s self.” (VBQ p 61). Leaders throughout history get the staffs they deserve.
“Like all God’s creatures, enemies have a purpose in this world. They offer a criticism of one’s conduct that is not always provided by friends.” (Rosenblat, VBQ p 48).
I learnt the positive value of “enemies” from a boss who was one of the greatest inventors America had ever produced – late Dr Edwin Land – founder of Polaroid Corporation and the first inventor of instant cameras. Up till 1974 two Nigerians – one Ike Akinduro and me – worked for Polaroid. Ike was in Chemical Engineering, I was first in Financial Analysis and later moved to International Sales. Ayo Olagundoye, former Managing Director of National Bank is my witness. Dr Land, Chairman/President, had one policy which was unique in all of American business at the time.
He engaged a fellow at the top management level who was authorised to sit at any meeting – departmental, sectional or top management – and to object if he considered any proposal outrageous. He was deeply feared and hated by all departmental heads; but he saved Polaroid from a lot of mistakes which could have proved costly.
He was the first to be sacked when Dr Land retired and a new Executive Chairman was appointed. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy a few years after. Just in case you don’t get the point, let me state it. Argue with your critics; fight them (as I often do) but sit back later and reflect on what they say. You might learn something.
For top office holders, the competition for their attention is intense. Virtually every one of their subordinates has a hidden personal agenda which they frequently mask by being apparently loyal – that means applauding everything the boss does or says.
But, the boss is not God. He can make mistakes. That is why he needs to create an outlet for reaching out to critics. Today, we will examine three examples of what the officials of the Buhari administration and his political associates tell Oga and compare them with evidence available elsewhere. In other words, what they say versus what exists.
“Nigeria is the best performing economy in Africa.” Festus Keyamo—VANGUARD, October 16, 2018 p 9.
Barrister Festus Keyamo, SAN, is famous or notorious depending on which side of the social/political divide you belong. Permit me not to brand him. Instead I will allow the facts to speak for themselves. Keyamo referred to a report by Forbes as his witness without telling the readers which day Forbes published the report.
So, it is difficult to verify the claim. But, Keyamo is a lawyer and not an economist. He is also in Buhari’s campaign team. Lawyers at any point in time are not known for full disclosure of facts. They just want to win the case.
However, on October 10, 2018 in a press release carried by all the leading newspapers in Nigeria, the Deputy Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund announced that “the aggregate growth rate of Africa is being held down by its three largest economies. The IMF identified the economies as Nigeria, South Africa and Angola.” Furthermore, the IMF while projecting economic growth of 3.1 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa predicted 1.9 per cent growth for Nigeria.
I know that arithmetic is not taught in the Nigerian Law School (a pity that), but it is difficult to imagine how an economy can be best performing when it is contributing 1.9 to an average estimated at 3.1 per cent. The APC federal government might be pleased by Keyamo’s utterances but, the effect of this sort of “apple-polishing” is to lure the leader into a false sense of complacence – the feeling that all is well. It might be “good politics”; but is it patriotic? Is that what the President should know?
“Yes we will do anything for the poor man; anything but get off his back.”
Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, VBQ, 195.
Tolstoy achieved global renown when he published his epic WAR AND PEACE, which many praise but few read because it runs into over 500 pages. I read it. It was his concern for poor people which struck me most forcefully especially how most governments’ efforts aimed at alleviating poverty end up increasing income inequality. Nigeria is no exception.
And, at the moment the Social Intervention Programme, SIP, introduced by this government as its legacy project is going the way of all the previous attempts. But, you cannot know that from the way the FG is talking about it. Here is the proof.
“Nigeria leads countries fuelling inequality.” The NATION, October 10, 2018, p 11.
It was not only the NATION which carried the report by Development Finance International, DFI and Oxfam. Again it was in virtually all the leading dailies. According to the release “Nigeria ranks last for the second year in a row due to low social spending, worsening labour rights violations, and poor tax collection.” We will return to those reasons for our ranking shortly. But, first let us examine what officialdom is saying.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, is a regular customer on this page and he needs no introduction. When the World Poverty Watch, Brookings Institute and Mrs May, British Prime Minister, announced that Nigeria is now the world leader in the number of poor people on earth, Nigeria’s Vice President went before the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and proclaimed that the FG budgeted N500bn in 2016 and 2017 for the Social Intervention Programme.
The impression was given that N1tr was spent on the poor in two years. That was until I revealed that only N200bn was spent in the two years and very little this year. I also warned the FG to be careful about the claims it makes about SIP. People might believe and all sorts of hell would be let loose.
The FG even said that this government has lifted 10 million people out of poverty. Don’t ask me how the FG got the figure or ask the FG to substantiate the claim. You will hit a brick wall.
Well, some people finally believed the VP. The National Assembly has asked the FG to go and take N183bn from SIP and give it to INEC to conduct elections. Then the story changed. The same VP two weeks ago finally confessed that only N200bn has been spent on SIP.
Furthermore, we were told that most of that money was spent paying FG officials working in SIP office not on the poor people. In fact, the poor received less than twenty per cent of the N200bn. Thus, a programme said to be lifting people out of poverty is instead enriching the wealthy securing the contracts for supplies and the poor are getting poorer.
Will anybody tell the Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces that all his efforts at eradicating poverty are being defeated by his officials? Not a chance. Will he listen? Again, not a chance. Will he believe the truth? Most unlikely.
The number of people said to have been receiving monthly stipends compared with the five million promised is so small as to be laughable. Nigeria produces more new destitute in one month than they gave money in two years – if they gave anybody, that is.
We cannot leave this segment without returning to the reasons for Nigerian inequality. DFI and Oxfam mentioned low tax collections and they are absolutely correct. The Federal Internal Revenue Service, FIRS, has threatened to publish the names of high net worth tax defaulters for long. Those are BIG criminals. But, it has failed to do so. But, let a poor man pinch ten naira from government and he will soon be cooling his heels in Kuje or Kirikiri prison. The truth is; the FIRS does not want to collect tax from the wealthy people.
The major violators of workers’ rights are the FG and State Governments. For instance, the Federal Ministry of Health is sitting on doctors entitlement for over four years and a letter in that regard to Professor Adewole remains unacknowledged.
He studied abroad so he should know that no Minister in the UK will treat doctors’ entitlements with such levity. But, he is a Nigerian Minister, is he not? When we violate the rights of our brightest and best, what chance have the wretched of the earth got?