By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan
Governments everywhere have always been in the business of propaganda. A British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) once averred that in times of war, the Ministry of Information should be called the Ministry of propaganda. Here in Nigeria where government has, quite often, been war by another name, people – not necessarily those charged with the core business of managing the information and propaganda around the administration – have always taken on the responsibility for defending and rationalising the actions of a failing government, much to the chagrin of the citizenry.
The timing of the executive recklessness, so-called, is also very instructive. If an otherwise very friendly senior member of an administration must wait till the second of the two tenures of that administration before beginning to release all the venom on the citizenry, then, such must be intent on evil. And the citizens are quick to recognize this. In the eye of history, three eminent Nigerians shall be represented at the witness stand: the Late Alhaji Umaru Dikko, Senator David Mark and Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN.
At the inception of the President Shehu Shagari administration of the Second Republic, an ebullient young man, Alhaji Umaru Dikko stood out as perhaps the most visible and popular personage in that administration.
Dikko cultivated a good press and he was one man who had President Shagari’s ears any time.
Looking for the scavenger: With time, things became tough for the Shagari administration and the people. The country soon went into a deep recession and there was suffering in the land. The blind could see, and the deaf could hear, the signs of hard times. The ill-fated second tenure of that administration was when Dikko chose to say that things were not so bad in Nigeria. After all, he had not seen Nigerians that were eating from garbage cans. The point of that careless talk was when Dikko died. In a manner of speaking, he died before he died! Within a very short time, his popularity plummeted. He was still; looking for Nigerians who fed from the garbage can when the administration was overthrown by the militry in December 1983. After the ouster, he became a fugitive in England. Later, there was an attempt to return him to Nigeria in a wooden crate.
Our children who came to this world after 1999 will not understand the ordeal we went through, trying to get a telephone. The telephone was a luxury that was not affordable to the average Nigerian. It was not unusual for people who wanted to talk to their children abroad to sleep at the offices of the Nigerian External Telecommunications Limited, NITEL, for several days and nights. NITEL soon became the greatest point of corruption in Nigeria where people paid for telephones that were not supplied. Touting became the order of the day.
At a point during the military junta of that era, Col. David Mark, as he then was, became the Minister of Communications. In the dying days of the administration, Mark, in trying to rationalize the failure of the government said that the telephone was not for the poor man. Nigerians received this pronouncement with a storm of indignation. Little did Mark know that he was speaking on the eve of the telecommunications revolution, which brought the telephone within the affordability of the poor. Lucky man. Nigerians have not had the opportunity to give him a taste of his own poison. The rise to the presidency of the Senate was not quite the opportunity they needed.
How bad are Fashola’s Roads? The penultimate weekend, these parents from Warri sobbed bitterly when they missed the marriage of their only son in Benin City. They left Warri as early as 5:00 a.m. They missed the church proceedings and strayed into the Reception Hall around 3:00 p.m, as we were just writing the footnotes at the reception, sweating profusely like Christmas goats, and totally disorganized, no thanks to the smooth federal road. In the best of times, this was a journey that took a maximum of one hour!
Recently, my cousin, Mayor, had a raw deal with our security man, trying to get him to grant him entry into our house in Benin City just before midnight. Mayor’s journey from Lagos started as early as 5:00am but it took that long because of the “smoothness” of the Federal Road.
Ordinarily, the journey from Ehor to Benin City used to take about 40 minutes. But lately, some who ignorantly entered the road have enjoyed the extra luxury of spending the whole day!
These stories of woe are easily replicated all over the country; and it forms the basis on which Nigerians have concluded that our Federal highways are bad. There have been numerous calls on the Federal government to declare a state of emergency on the roads. That’s how bad the roads are!
During the first tenure, our Works Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola was caught severally appealing to the people that although the roads were in deplorable condition but the Government was working and the people should bear with them. Of course, that was before the elections.
Just last week, the same Fashola came calling singing a totally different tone. He fell slightly short of calling Nigerians liars, claiming that after all, the Roads were not so bad! This has been considered an insult on our collective sensibilities!
Fashola’s frame of mind suggests that for a Road to be declared bad, every inch of that Road must be bad this is naïve. In just the same way that a man is declared ill because of the pain from one part of the body, a bad road does not require more than the failure of a portion of that road. If a man is sound all over but has a cancer of the leg, he is not well. Granting that the Shagamu – Benin Road is smooth all through except that it collapses somewhere between Ore and Omotosho, that road is bad. To that extent, therefore, all federal roads in Nigeria are bad (QED). Fashola must save his mathematics for other areas of his ministry that need it.
Those who hold a contrary opinion from Fashola’s have been able to show why they do so. Fortunately, Lawyer Fashola belongs to a profession that is not given to incomplete sentences. Fashola has the rest of his life to complete the sentence he has started.
Executive recklessness is the moral equipment of hate speech. It is the highest form of ingratitude to the electorate and must be treated as such. Perpetrators who survive it in the immediate should never be the same again!