Today in Nigeria, the situation is different. People hide behind the façade of criticism to unleash hatred, enemy action, and fatalistic outbursts on the government and its officials.
Suddenly, everybody is a social critic in Nigeria. Flipping through the pages of our national dailies, magazines and sundry publications, on radio and on tv, one is confronted with invidious, hateful and disparaging remarks against the government, a person in a position of authority or an institution. It was the famous former American President John F. Kennedy who declared that “a little constructive criticism here and there is good for any government”. By that declaration, the venerable ex-president was wittingly acknowledging the importance of constructive criticism in any social space. However, criticism in Nigeria has assumed a pitiable dimension. These days, instead of analysing the society and its numerous structures critically but objectively, practitioners of the art spawn mindless hatred which does more harm to the country and diminishes the sacred art of criticism.
Criticisms by their nature are meant to point out to the government areas where adjustment is needed in the daily interpenetration of policies and their implementations. Criticisms are also meant to provoke healthy debates, to revive and educate a docile populace, to bestir power relations and to keep the leaders on their toes, alive to their responsibilities. In addition, they are meant to identify the deteriorating aspects of the society and prescribe a panacea as well. Any committed leader will pray to have selfless and constructive critics around him since no individual can lay claim to absolute knowledge. To this extent, critics play very important roles in nation building because through their timeless and informed commentaries, government policies and social consciousness are positively affected.
Today in Nigeria, the situation is different. People hide behind the façade of criticism to unleash hatred, enemy action, and fatalistic outbursts on the government and its officials. Certainly, the language of criticism is not friendly, especially when one is alive to various economic and social whirlwind enunciated by politicians and those in authority which daily plunge our country into the pit of purgatory. However, criticism must strictly be separated from hate, emotional blackmail and outburst of destructive tirade. No doubt, the APC-led federal government and many state governments in Nigeria, in fact many politicians and government officials have supplied critics enough panoply to draw the sword and pull the trigger on a daily basis, but the line must be drawn between objective criticism on one hand, hatred, loathsomeness and abhorrence on the other hand.
Recently, a former minister of education, while expressing her displeasure towards the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, prayed that the venture should embrace composite failure and go the way of its moribund predecessor, Nigeria Airways. While it is within the rights of the cerebral erstwhile former minister to air her views, it bothers on insensitivity and bad fate to succumb to this level of devious execration to make a point. Her comments can be interpreted in many ways which can create an ominous atmosphere forcing security apparatus to see and treat it as enemy action. Although it is obvious that the new Nigeria Air is fraught with glaring fault lines, supplicating to the spiritual highway for its failure is not only offensive but totally unacceptable. Whereas some people have argued that the setting up of the new national carrier is a political move towards the 2019 elections, others have expressed angst and berated the whole idea arguing that it is a mirage, founded on deception. The federal government has explained that the new national carrier will be private-sector driven, but it has not explained the equity of the airline or informed Nigerians who the core investors and technical partners will be. Many people have also queried why the new national carrier was launched abroad instead of at home. Was it because there are no adequate venues here in Nigeria or it was launched abroad to create an avenue to siphon money out of the country? Also, unions in the aviation industry have threatened to truncate the new national carrier because the government is yet to pay the severance package of former Nigeria Airways workers. For sure, it begs the question why Nigeria should pay up to $300 million dollars to own only 5% of a start-up national carrier. One is bound to ask, if Nigeria owns only 5% of the new national carrier, what then makes it a national carrier when investors control 95% of a supposed national property. If we consider that, Air France/KLM paid $286 million dollars for 31% of Virgin Atlantic recently, why should Nigeria’s case be so abysmally different?
While the idea behind the new national carrier is excellent with many advantages, concerned citizens have expressed incisive and informed reservations. I am sure the respected former minister should have found a more, urbane, corresponding language to state her case.
Again, not too long ago, the media was awash with reports that Nigeria’s finance minister is alleged to have forged her NYSC exemption certificate. Immediately the news broke out, concerned citizens rightly called for an immediate response both from the federal government that flies the integrity kite with a commanding boldness and the minister involved. In fact, some people have called for the immediate resignation of the minister even before the matter is determined. However, it is offensive for a senior advocate of Nigeria to use uncouth language that desecrates womanhood to describe the amiable finance minister. Forgery is a crime against humanity because it thrives on falsehood, criminality and collective deception, however, it requires a commentator to subscribe to a better language to analyse the issues and those involved.
The news regarding the forgery of NYSC exemption certificate is still an allegation and has not been determined; therefore no one has the right to speak in absolute terms in the matter. However, it bothers on utmost disrespect towards Nigerians for the finance minister to keep silent on a matter as grave as this. If we agree with the maxim that “silence is acquiescence”, then there is no hiding place for the embattled minister. It is annoying and utterly objectionable for someone who occupies such a sensitive post to keep mute with such a grave allegation hanging on her neck. More worrisome is also the failure of the federal government and NYSC to officially address Nigerians on the issue. Such attitude enthrones sinister consciousness among the populace and makes a caricature of the federal government’s stance on the fight against corruption. Certainly, corruption does not start and end with financial misappropriation. Until this matter is resolved, it has totally embarrassed the government and Nigerians will continue to view the moral code and anti-corruption stance of the government as a charade.