First, may we please take a lengthy aside. Reactions to my last article, “Question for Former President Goodluck Jonathan” revealed the real trouble with social media.
Despite my having expressly invited robust debates on certain things such as how the immediate past President fitted the bill of a “Philosophy King,” or how the man showed “restraint,” no debate, no matter how lean or hungry, came.
Air Marshal Alex Badeh Instead, numerous one liners came from very many people on the social media as respondents mostly engaged themselves. Was I unfair to Jonathan? They did not bother to argue in support of any thesis. That alarmed me; Nigeria is in dire straits. So, there is supposed to be a great conversation on our national condition—bad governance, unprecedented nationwide insecurity, a poor and impoverishing economy, the achievements of past presidents, etc, in an election year, but no such conversation is on.
The result is that with every passing day, insults and abusive words fly to and fro in every thread of discussion, as people of one ethnic group pour it thick and strong against the others. And the hatred that has engulfed the nation continues to grow. The concept of “Nigerianism” is fraying in peoples’ minds while the concept of “we” versus them is on a quick march. No, I do not accuse the social media of causing the terrible divisions in the Nigerian polity; but they intensify them and so polarise Nigeria like never before. It was pointed out in “Do social media threaten democracy?” article in the Economist magazine of 4th November 2018 that “Without decent information, civility and conciliation, societies resolve their differences by resorting to coercion,”—and it is coercion further poisoned by falsehood and partisanship.
To drive home my point, I have to quote again from the same article in the Economist: “Not long ago, social media held out the promise of a more enlightened politics as accurate information and effortless communication helped good people drive out corruption, bigotry and lies. Far from bringing enlightenment, social media has been spreading poison. From South Africa to Spain, politics is getting uglier. Part of the reason is that by spreading untruth and outrage, corroding voter’s judgement and aggravating partisanship, social media erode the conditions for horse-trading that …fosters liberty. Everyone who has scrolled through Facebook knows how, instead of imparting wisdom, the system dishes out compulsive stuff that tends to reinforce peoples biases.”
Unfortunately, the biases that have kept Nigerians ensconced in their primordial little cocoons of identity and separateness (especially of religion and ethnicity instead of social classes or professions) still intensify the politics of open and dreadful disdain and hatred—a hatred that has been growing though the civil war it helped cause ended in 1970. Daily people are “sucked into the maelstrom of pettiness, scandal and outrage (and) they lose sight of what matters for the society they share,” as the Economist put it. Such things swirled through my mind as I read through the online reactions my article on former President Jonathan elicited. Please, don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t angry for personal reasons because no one even as much as addressed the issues I raised. I will only say a word to just one group; those who held that I should be addressing President Buhari, as Jonathan has left office for years.
Apart from the fact that my immediate past article before I addressed Jonathan was on Buhari’s insensitivity and divisive tendencies: “Castigating Buhari; How Fair,” I say to this group that Chinua Achebe addressed them in 1975. In the preface to his first collection of essays, Morning Yet On Creation Day, he wrote: “I prefer to be accused of nastiness than to join in the national pastime of consigning events of a few years ago into pre-history.” That was his reply to those who charged that he was reopening old wounds by including Biafran issues in his book—five years after the war. Yes, the former Governor of Bayelsa state, the late DSP Alamieyeseigha, did not escape from London in 2005 disguised as a woman.
The British security agents took him to Luton Airport and flew him to Abidjan. A lie-besotted EFCC Chairman said Alamieyeseigha got into France by bus and then travelled under disguise to Nigeria… and journalists believed him though he tendered no evidence. The Chelsea Hotel I mentioned in my last article is still lying fallow in Abuja. How we’re using Ososo carnival to engage youths — Agbaje In the book, The Enigma of Reason, two cognitive scientists, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber prove that reasoning did not evolve “to help individuals achieve greater knowledge and make better decisions” but to improve the ability of ancestor-gatherers to corporate in small groups.
They said: “What reason does…is to help us justify our beliefs and actions to others and evaluate our justifications and arguments that others address to us.” Profs Jeremy Frimer of the University of Winnipeg, Dan Kahan of Yale University and Jonas Kaplan of the University of Southern California, etc, conducted several experiments and all proved that people believe what they choose to believe. Profs Brendan Nyhan of Michigan University and Ethan Porter of George Washington University’s online study of US Presidential debates of 2016 showed that sometimes people refuse point-blank to admit awkward facts or they may concede but dismiss them as unimportant. So, are we stuck with lies?
Please think of the drama since the death of Air Vice-Marshal Badeh, on December 18th. An initial police report said that Badeh and his driver were shot while Badeh’s friend was abducted. Then the police said two members of the killer gang had been arrested and would be paraded on Thursday. That Thursday arrived but the police said parading them would jeopardised further investigation as other members of their gang had not been arrested.
A report appeared that Badeh was ambushed because he was supposed to have the money he wanted to use in buying a farmland with him. If so, he would have been ambushed on his way to the farm, not on his way back. No protest by any personnel undergoing Special Forces training – Police But the family even said the man was so broke that everyone around him knew it. The Daily Trust newspaper did a remarkable story; it interviewed residents close to where Badeh was killed—they said it was random armed robbery! Somewhere among those versions of events lies the truth. But it may never come. Or if it comes, it may never be believed. Do we still remember the assassination of A. K Dikibbo, PDP national Vice-Chairman (South-South) in 2004? He was Asaba-bound to attend a summit the then Governor James Ibori had organised to put a South-Southerner in Aso Rock in 2007. The then President Olusegun Obasanjo said in that armed robbers felled the man! Obasanjo’s own Minister of Justice, Bola Ige was assassinated on December 23rd 2002. The same Obasanjo also blamed hard drug pushers for the murder.