Last night I read the interview the eminent Professor of Virology, Tamunoemi Sokari David-West granted Gbenro Adesina. In case you missed the interview, the professor tacitly called President Goodluck Jonathan not just a liar, but a serial liar. At first instance, I felt this was rather too harsh, but on a second thought, I realized that the old professor was on target with his submissions in the interview. I don’t blame President Goodluck Jonathan for his misstatements and whoopers. He won’t be the first person or even President to be caught or enmeshed in a web of lies. The story of governance and governments in Nigeria is replete with rulers who continuously and unrepentantly lie to the people.
President Goodluck Jonathan won’t be the first or last person to lie. The truth is that sometimes we all inadvertently lie to save certain situations. I always say “show me the man who says he has never lied and I will show you a liar.” The trouble is not lying, the trouble is becoming a habitual or serial liar. This sadly is the case of our president. The unfortunate thing about this macabre dance of lies is that the president is also surrounded by chronic liars. People who lie to the president, people who lie to the populace, people who lie to themselves and people who have become so used to lying they now believe their own lies.
Few people in Nigeria expect a saint as president, but no one expects a serial liar as president. Since the inception of his presidency, the president and his team have repeatedly told Nigerians barefaced lies. They have lied several times to Nigerians about so many issues. Media outfits like Sahara Reporters and Premium Times have caught and exposed the president and his team several times in their web of lies. There are several instances where the president has been less than truthful to Nigerians. One can only mention the ones that readily come to mind. The president once lied to the nation about its ranking with Transparency International; when he told the nation that “Nigeria is the second most improved country in the effort to curb corruption” This was later proven to be a lie by Premium Times who sought confirmation from Transparency International. Others lies told by the presidency includes lies about the Manitoba power contract, lies about the health of the first lady and her travel abroad, lies about the SURE P Project, lies about negotiations with Boko Haram and countless other issues.
Recently, the president has perfected the act of fomenting troubles while simultaneously washing his hands of such troubles with guile and dexterity. The president is fast becoming used to playing the role of Pontius Pilate and it seems he is getting better at it each passing day. The conduct of the president and his team in recent times reminds me of the rats in my village. These rats are very devious, they feast on your flesh while blowing wafts of cool air on your feet, before you know it they have consumed significant portion of your flesh. The president and his team belong to the special class of people who can point a loaded gun at your forehead while instantaneously denying they have any intention of harming you.
Examples abound of cases where the integrity and sincerity of the President has been questionable to say the least. A case in point is the removal of the former governor of Bayelsa state, Timipre Sylva. Although the president stridently denied accusations of having a hand in the whole affair back then, it is now clear who the orchestrated the removal of the Tim Sylvia. Lately, the president tried to distance himself from the controversial election of Nigeria Governors forum by giving the false impression of having no interest in the matter, when evidence suggests otherwise. Some people have even accused the President of not keeping to agreements and not been a man of his words. Some Northern leaders have berated him for what they term betrayal of trust. They point to the gentleman agreement between them and the President that he was going to do only one term. Today, it is clear that Mr President is reneging on the alleged agreement because his actions and body language indicates that he is very interested in getting a second term. This may be the reason he is waging a war of attrition against Governor Amaechi who he now sees as a threat to his second term ambition.
Although the president has tried to wash his hands off the crisis in Rivers State, the case still hangs around his neck like an albatross. Even though the President and his men have tried to portray an objective stance in the whole matter, it’s easy to guess the side that has the president’s support. It was even reported that the presidential adviser on political matters, Ahmed Gulak asked for Governor Amaechi to be prosecuted after his term in office. So much for not taking sides! Where is the neutrality? What else would give a commissioner of police the temerity to challenge the chief security officer of the state if not powers from above? My people say if you see a bird dancing by the road side, know that there must be a drummer somewhere in the bush. For a lawmaker to allegedly order police to shoot a governor is the height of absurdity. What could have emboldened him that much if not powers from above?
Lest one be accused of taking side with Governor Amaechi and his cohorts, it must be stated that the conduct of some pro-Amaechi lawmakers is highly condemnable and inexorable. However, it is clear that if the president and his team want to restore his honor and truly resolve the conflict he must first come clean with facts. Like they say “He who comes into equity must come with clean hands” So far there is no indication of this.
The “office of the first lady” has also followed in the self-exculpation game. Just yesterday the first lady tried to act as a peacemaker when she advised the combatants to sheathe their swords. Is it that she has so soon forgotten all the inflammatory statements she made during her visit to the state? Or has she started believing her own lies?
It is one thing to lie; it is another thing to believe your lies. Sadly it seems that the president and his men have got to this stage. Little wonder the “devil may care” attitude of those lying to us today. They expect us to swallow their lies hook, line and sinker. The manner in which some of the officials of this government lies unabashedly and frequently ram their load of lies down our throat suggest they are well tutored in the art of lying and subscribe to the Hitler dictum “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” But I will remind them of Abraham Lincoln’s quote "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Finally, only a government that has nothing to offers lies, only a government that does not give a damn about its people lie, only a government without conscience lies to its people, only a government that does not respect its people lie to them, only a government full of dishonorable men lies repeatedly without shame. Goodluck Jonathan’s government fit this bill.
Brandenburg Technical University, Cottbus, Germany