Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, once made a joke of his encounter with his grandchild who asked him: ‘Why do people call you a liar?’ The question was both comical and factual. Comical because it was the minister that raised the poser as directed to him by his grandchild and factual because in reality, some Nigerians believe the minister sees black and call it white.
I don’t envy him because he is handling one of the simplest but often most difficult assignments which is to inform the public and make them live in denial.But where there is no truth to tell, you are left with Paul Joseph Goebbels strategy which is to dis-inform and misinform the public. Goebbels was the Nazi chief propagandist. He was the German Minister of Propaganda between 1933 and 1945. Goebbels was one of Hitler’s closest and most devoted acolytes, known for his skill in public speaking and deeply virulent anti-Semitism , which was evident in his public voiced views.
That the current government was going to be a government of propaganda surfaced early in the regime when it allocated a humongous N49 billion to the Ministry of Information in the 2016 budget as against N29 billion to Ministry of Health and N42 billion to Ministry of Education respectively. From 2015, the Information budget has continued to grow. In the 2022 Budget, the ministry was allocated approximately N56 billion for the purposes of propaganda in the name of information.
Within the past two weeks, the minister made two astonishing claims that clearly showed that the situation we are in was on purpose and that we were wilfully avoiding reality. From 2015 we were given a preview of the direction the country was headed to, yet we refused to see. The easiest way to describe our situation is that we saw the Lion King and thought it was a documentary.
We literally wander around thinking that lions and zebras in real life sing and dance together. In the Disney classic, the carnivorous felines rule over an African landscape in harmony with creatures who would otherwise be their prey. Same way we have deeply held feelings that our leaders care about us. If they cared, we would not be in a situation where the Ministry of Information is allocated more budget than education. For those who still cannot believe that our leaders are lying to us on almost all issues, I will analyse just two recent statements by the minister and you be the judge.
During a media briefing, the Minister claimed that Nigeria is becoming safer everyday due to the string of successes being recorded in the fight against ISWAP, Boko Haram and Bbandits. He said that the security forces had taken the battle to the bandits and put them on the run and that their ranks are being decimated with thousands of bandits and terrorists with their families surrendering in droves. This is notwithstanding that on the very Monday he was briefing the media, the entire five states of the South Eastern Nigeria were completely locked down. A police station in Imo State was bombed and two police officers were killed.
Just two days before then, the Kaduna Airport was reportedly invaded by bandits and some lives were lost. Few days after the media outing by the minister, the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) train conveying over 970 passengers from Abuja to Kaduna was bombed by bandits who he just told us were on the run and surrendering in droves. Between eight and 16 people were confirmed killed while about 28 were injured with gunshot wounds. A survivor narrated how the head of a nursing mother was shattered. Among the victims were a young Nigeria Medical Doctor, Chinelo Megafu, a former Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Malam Ibrahim Wakkala, the current TUC Secretary General, and the Managing Director of a bank. The bandits who bombed the loaded train didn’t care about the tribe or religion of their victims. They cared less about the social standing and political affiliation of their victims. Hundreds of the stranded passengers were abducted and their whereabouts remain unknown. Yet we have a government that live in the belief that zebras and lions sing and dance together in harmony.
Recall when the Governor of Benue State ran to the president to report about the criminal activities of bandits in his state and how the security forces look the other way while his people are being slaughtered. The governor wanted nothing from the President other than that he used his office as Commander in Chief to command the security forces to flush out the killer bandits and send them back to their creator. But the President would have none of that. Instead he commanded the governor to go back and learn how to live in peace and harmony with the carnivorous felines. To the president ‘Lion King’ is a real-life documentary. As at the time of writing this article, NRC has suspended all train services from Abuja to Kaduna. The bandits in turn have reportedly blocked the only major highway going from Abuja to Kaduna.
According to the Minister of Information, Nigeria is getting safer every day. Yet we cannot travel by road, we cannot travel by train and we cannot fly in and out of Kaduna due to the activities of bandits. The Kaduna we are talking about is not one obscure or remote state. It is the unofficial capital of Northern Nigeria. It hosts such police and military formation as 1 Division Nigeria Army Barracks, Nigeria Army Depot Zaria, Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Nigeria Defence Industry Kaduna, Nigerian Air Force Training School Zaria, Nigeria Police College, Kaduna, Nigeria Navy School of Armament, Kachia, Nigeria Army School of Legal Services Bassawa Zaria, Nigeria Defence Academy, Nigeria Army School of Artillery, Kashia Kaduna, Nigeria Army School of military Police, Bassawa Kaduna and the Army Operation Base, Southern Kaduna.
If Kaduna, which is a military fortress hosting all the enumerated military and paramilitary formations and bases could become the playground of bandits and the most unsafe state in Nigeria, then no place in Nigeria is safe. We need to stop listening to Joseph Goebbels and tell ourselves the truth, that enough is enough. What we need do is to mobilise and fight in defence of country. If we do not fight now, soon we will not have a country anymore. God forbid that we all perish like fools.
Another claim by the Minister of Information is that no government has touched the lives of Nigerians more than the government of President Buhari. I don’t know whether to humour myself or take this as an assault on our sensibility, because he probably may be right depending on where you stand. Indeed, President Buhari has touched our lives more than any other government in many negative ways. Nigerians are not smiling because the situation of things is very bad. No one sleeps in the gas station for days and comes home smiling. The Naira has hit a record N700 in exchange to the dollar in the parallel market. Most businesses are closed because no business will survive where there is no electricity and diesel is officially selling at N800 per litre. With the high cost of energy, so is the high cost of living.
Nigeria is in shambles because we were sold a lie in 2015. We ignorantly exchanged a dog for a monkey. Corruption has peaked otherwise how do one explain how we used N228 billion to feed primary school children whereas the entire education budget is 109 billion. I need a damn good economist to explain to me how petroleum subsidies rose from billions to trillions of naira. I need to understand why we are subsidizing darkness and owing trillions to GENCOs for gas that was neither supplied nor consumed. We need to understand how 80 per cent of our crude oil supply are stolen and we cannot even account fully for the balance of 20 per cent. My hope and prayers are that things must not continue to go this bad for Nigeria. This is the worst we have had. Nigeria I believe will be great again.