By Muyiwa Adetiba
It is easy to spot reptiles when a house is clean and uncluttered. In fact any reptile straying into such a house would try to make good its exit almost immediately because there would be no hiding place.
But a house that is dirty and cluttered offers itself as a dwelling place to all sorts of creeping, slimy creatures. Some of them can be very dangerous to the inhabitants of the house. It is even worse when there are cracks on the walls or holes in the roof as these would make dislodgement difficult.
These slimy creatures would usually wait for the time all is quiet in the house before coming out to commit havoc knowing they have a place to hide. The more daring ones would even embarrass the lawful residents in the presence of their visitors by dashing about in playful exhibitions of their presence.
A house with reptiles is a house invaded. The invasion can be deadly depending on the nature of the reptiles. The best remedy is to keep a house clean. It is to seal the cracks on the walls and holes on the roof. As it is with a house, so it is with a nation.
All nations have their cracks on the wall. All nations have their not so clean corners – we all saw what happened at the tail end of the Trump Presidency. But progressive nations work to seal the cracks and clean the corners as soon as they are exposed. This is to make it difficult for dangerous reptiles to find a home and settle down to cause havoc.
The brooms used to sweep the corners are rule of law, social justice, equality, transparency and education. They are also the cement used to seal the cracks because properly applied, they will lead to technological advancement, social and political awareness and equal opportunities.
These in turn should lead to national pride which is a basic glue for unity. Without national pride, there will no nation to defend sacrificially and saboteurs will spring up in low and high places. Without a sense of pride in a country, that country becomes a cow to be milked and a cake to be shared. That seems to be our story as a country.
Early in the year, our presidential spokesmen came out with the damning allegation that there were saboteurs at work against this administration. The aim of the saboteurs according to the allegation, was to destabilise the country and discredit the government. The tools to be used would be disinformation largely through the social media and some compromised columnists.
The allegation might not be too far- fetched given the nature of the social media and the kind of stuff which circulates there. The social media has indeed become a loose cannon. It will also not be too difficult to find dissenting journalists – I do not want to use the word ‘compromised’ like the spokesmen – given the level of division in the country.
However, all students of propaganda and disinformation know that their tools work best when they are based on some truths no matter how miniscule; that they are most effective when they manipulate perceptions into alternate realities.
Should the saboteurs exist as alleged, the issues they are likely to manipulate would be the same issues which had dogged this administration since the beginning. They are the issues of nepotism, preponderance of northern Muslims in key government posts, insecurity, unemployment and lately, the murdering tendency of herdsmen of the Fulani stock.
These are the ‘truths’ as some people see them. Now, the best defence against propaganda, misinformation and disinformation is the real truth projected through consistent presentation of facts and figures. Transparency is an antidote to conspiracy theories which thrive on fear and hatred. This is the path the President’s men should tread.
Are there facts to dispel the widely held notion that there are uncles, nephews, nieces as well as other kinsmen of the President along the corridors of power for example? Can those who believe there is a preponderance of Northern Muslims in government be put to shame by being shown ‘the true picture’ of things?
Can those who believe that there is a sinister agenda brewing against the interests of the South be exposed as conspiracy theorists through the practice of a more transparent, more even handed governance? Can we begin to see some action against killer herdsmen beyond asking their beleaguered victims to be more accommodating?
Or are these herders and their cows really sacred? – forgive the pun. It will not be enough to make allegations and then proceed to clam down on the social media and perceived enemies of government. That would not be the change we want or voted for. Government can disabuse our minds by addressing these salient issues.
For example, the President came out the other day to say he does not take decisions based on religion or tribe. Those were words. Just as he said at the beginning of his Presidency that he belonged to everybody and he belonged to no one. His actions and body language belie those words. And as they say, actions speak louder than words.
A good opportunity seemed to have presented itself soon after his last declaration when the Service Chiefs vacated office. He could have turned his words into actions by replacing them with more Southern Christians. This probably would have silenced even his harshest critics. Instead, he went for more of the same.
The EFCC position has also been filled – from the blues at it were – by another northern Muslim. Nobody was aware of any vacancy not to talk about the search for the best material the nation could offer or even a transparent replacement. Replacing the retiring Inspector General of Police with an Igbo IG would probably also achieve more than a thousand rhetorical statements in silencing those who accuse him of constantly playing the ethno/religious card.
More importantly, it would bring about a sense of unity, of togetherness. It would also change the winner takes all narrative he seemed to have championed because as it is, future Nigerian leaders who wish to be nepotistic can always use him as a reference point.
Many of the President’s ethno/religious actions or inactions including the ones threatening to tear the country apart, are cluttering our spaces and cracking our walls. They are therefore opening our homes for dangerous reptiles to dwell in. A Yoruba proverb says if the wall does not open its mouth, the lizard will not have the chance to enter.
It is time to address the issues of nationhood holistically and realistically. It is time to clean the corners and seal up the cracks. It is time to step back from the brink.