Speaking Truth to Power: Nigeria and the Casual Truth

by Olu Ojedokun

With the recent transition of my twin sister into the ‘glorious room’, I have found myself in a debilitating state of writer’s paralysis. The ready inspiration that flowed through my veins, enabling me to write at a moment’s notice appears to have departed from me. Sometimes I feel the vacuum created has been filled with sorrow, tears and frustrations.

The departure, in the midst crises that has engulfed Nigeria leaves me mute with the inability to write or speak truth to power. It would appear that the involuntarily assumption of bystander status with voyeuristic instincts is now the order of my day. It could be argued that I have been reduced to one who now treats the truth casually even though I have never believed it is a good idea. However, at this stage, this moment I struggle to discover the courage of conception that drives and allows me to keep speaking truth to power.

I am aware of the sayings of Thomas Jefferson that we must not be afraid to follow the truth where ever it leads. Yes I know the theory of it, but in the midst of grief, all has become blurred, emotions have assumed a higher significance and even the truth has unfortunately paled into insignificance and taken the back row. Yet the truth ennobles us, sets us free, it tells us who we are where we have been and where we are going.

It is within this context that I now struggle to write in an attempt to speak truth to power around the facts surrounding President Yar ‘Adua. My personal struggle mirrors the shenanigans abound in Aso Rock, the seat of Nigeria’s governance. It would appear the facts concerning the true state of his condition have become elusive. While at the early moments after his arrival an official, Mary Ikoku (Special Assistant to the Minister of Information) was quoted as stating:

“I have not seen [Yar’Adua], so I cannot say what his condition is,” ……..“But he arrived in what I can call an air ambulance, and he was taken to Aso Rock in an ambulance, so I don’t imagine that he is in the best of health.”

However, a few weeks have now elapsed since his arrival in Nigeria in the dead of the night and yet no credible sightings of him are available to anyone. Nigeria and the world are left in the dark, fed with rumours for crumbs. The rumours are served with outright deceptions masquerading itself as truth and fact. The ensuing paragraph reveals the scale and desperation of deception we face on a daily basis.

The recent widely circulated boasts from sources was that the President would appear at the Jumat service. It was reported that up to 70 foreign and local journalists took the bait and went to the mosque on that basis. The actual report was covered by NEXT news outlet of 26th March 2010, the excerpts stated:

Top presidency and PDP officials confirmed to NEXT last night, that the planned outing has being fixed for today’s Friday prayers.

However, Elomobah.com was able to report on 26th March 2010 that:

About 70 Foreign and Local Journalists who stormed the National Mosque, Abuja to catch a glimpse of President Umaru Yar’adua went home empty handed.

Other Nigerians who hoped that tension in the political and security quarters of the country will be doused today when President Umaru Yar’adua ends his four months absence from public space by praying at the National Mosque were also disappointed.

The news hounds were reacting to a Newspaper story that Yar’adua will appear today”.

The question that passes through the lips of the many, is who is responsible for treating Nigerians and the world with the spectacle of deception? It would appear that such is the contempt that the handlers of the ailing President have for Nigerians that they choose not to speak truth to power, but to hide the truth in fun and games and speak the truth in secret only to themselves.

Then there is the Jos crises and its savagery and man’s inhumanity to man. The killings have brought accusations and counter accusations between the Plateau State Governor and the General Officer Commanding of the 3rd Division. They focus on the truth of whether the GOC was alerted to the killings in Dora Na Hauwa. All African.com of 15th March 2010 covers the essence of the issue in this excerpt:

The governor had pointedly accused the organisation of failing to come to the rescue of the victims, despite being notified ahead of time about the impending danger. However, the Army was to respond in a manner that failed to obviate it of blame. Apart from trying to paint the governor as an interested party in the Jos saga and thus discredit his statement on that score, I tried in vain to see any concrete explanation or denial of this allegation.

That was until the General Officer Commanding the 3rd Armoured Division, Jos, Major-General Saleh Maina, the man directly accused came out later to make a direct declaration.

Jang and other Jos elements, had claimed that they contacted Maina on his mobile phone to intimate him of the invasion of the Dogo Na Hauwa and surrounding villages and requested him to send his men, ………… only for him to do nothing after promising otherwise.

But the army boss, dismissed this on Thursday, at a press briefing in Jos, saying no such communication ever transpired.”

It is hoped that on this note we can at least hope against that we would cease to be casual with the Truth?

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