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 the strength of Nigerians 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 seem to be commodities in abundance within the operations of the political elite, especially when it comes to challengers or opposition figures. His response was glib and sharp: “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 coming and going, 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 The initial shock factor has long been replaced by weary resignation that all politicians are the same and a belief that nothing good can come out of the ruling elite.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 mudslinging. We have become a nation of negative expectations.
If we read that a politician turned down a bribe, we will not believe the story but will instead question whether the politician is batting for the opposition and wants to bring down the government. But if we hear that the same politician collected bribe, even if the information is false, many will quickly believe it as it fits perfectly into our depraved expectation of our leaders. It now seems that the rulers are using this national mindset against us as a people.
To buttress his point, my acquaintance told the story of a member of the House of Representatives who came into office at the last election determined to do the right thing. He refused all attempts to bribe or corrupt him. This made all the others, especially those in the same House committee with him, uncomfortable. After some months, the chair of the House committee 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 member started getting credit alerts from his bank for huge deposits being made into his account. First it was N20 million, then N50 million the next day, and then N90 million. He asked his bank where the money came from as he did not deposit any money and 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” to inform him that his share of the bribe money had been deposited into his personal account and whether he liked it or not, he had become one of them. He was also warned that if he raised alarm, 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 political player is corrupt. Yes, the good ones are few, but they exist and need encouragement to stay on the narrow path. Reality is: how many Nigerians would believe his story if it came out? How many would 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? Many Nigerian media platforms 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 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 will indeed be 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 giving up on ourselves and Nigeria.