The Limits of Propaganda

Ben Murray-Bruce


Transparency International (TI) revealed last Wednesday that corruption in Nigeria is now worse under President Muhammadu Buhari than it was before he took over. That was sad, but it was not as sad as the presidency’s response to TI’s verdict.

Surprisingly, but not uncharacteristically, the presidency released a statement with a thinly veiled accusation that former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili, both conspired to use their influence as founding members of TI to prod the anti corruption watch dog to give the negative rating it gave on Buhari’s anti-corruption war.

Is it that the government cannot take responsibility for anything? Must the president always look for someone to blame? This is the opposite of the promise President Buhari made to ‘always lead from the front’.

President Buhari must move away from seeing leadership as something tied to an office or a position or a designation. Leadership is about influence and impact. If you don’t have both, you are not a leader, no matter how many titles come before or after your name.

If I was the president, instead of looking for scapegoats, I would be more concerned about the reasons why Nigeria moved 12 places backward from 136 to 148 in this year’s CPI?

And the thing is that going by the revelations that have been unearthed this year, Nigeria is looking like it may have an even worse CPI rating next year. For instance, I have heard of man-eating snakes but I have never heard of naira eating snakes before in my life! I have also heard of monkeys stealing food, but this new tale of a monkey stealing money is certainly strange.

In fact, it seems like providence just wanted to show President Buhari the limitations of propaganda. On a week after President Buhari boasted that he had fulfilled his two biggest campaign promises of security and anti-corruption, The #DapchiGirls incident and TI’s latest CPI showed him the limits of propaganda.

After the 2014 abduction of the Chibok Girls, how could we leave any school unguarded in the Northeast? Boko Haram precisely means that Western education is sin. These people were not cagey. They announced their intentions clearly and unambiguously. That 110 girls were kidnapped in Dapchi, Yobe State, is just unimaginable. It shows that we did not learn anything from the Chibok Girls saga.

If it happened to Chibok in 2014 then the shame was on Boko Haram, but when it happens again in Dapchi, the shame is on us this time around. This incident will be aired all over the world. It will affect investor confidence in Nigeria and portray us as an unsafe country. If we did not learn a lesson from Chibok, let us at least learn it from Dapchi.

I urge all Nigerians not to politicise this tragedy. We must unite to rescue the girls and defeat the ideology that is against education. The federal government must provide armed military guards at all schools in the Northeast. If this is not possible, then the students in such schools should be moved to safer locations nearer the state capitals.

Nigeria has spent literally hundreds of millions and perhaps billions trying to promote girl child education especially in Northern Nigeria. Incidences like Chibok and Dapchi have negated all that work and will set girl child school enrollment back several years. We must give citizens the assurance that when they send their children to school, the end result will be positive for both the students and their parents.

Having said this, I sympathise with the parents of all the missing girls. My thoughts are with you and I will do what I can to mobilise the world to look for and help return your daughters.

The truth is that if we are asking our youths not to make the perilous journey to Europe through the Libyan desert, we must give them hope in Nigeria. What hope is there when you can be kidnapped from school in Nigeria? What hope is there if you work and your salary is kidnapped by corrupt government officials?

And talking about salary, let me say that in the last three years, life in parts of Nigeria has become like in the Stone Age – short and brutish. With a minimum wage of N18,000 it will continue to be so. We must increase the minimum wage. If we can afford N1.1 billion to clean the National Security Adviser’s office, we can definitely afford to increase the minimum wage.

And we do not have to increase recurrent expenditure to increase the minimum wage. We only need to cut out wasteful expenditure that does not impact on the life of the common man like the afford N1.1 billion to clean the National Security Adviser’s office, and the N4.8 billion for electrical maintenance in the presidency.

For too long, Nigeria’s leaders have been thinking about the next election instead of the next generation. That is why our recurrent expenditure is huge and our capital expenditure is minute. If Nigeria is not growing or going backwards we must look at ourselves and make changes instead of looking at our predecessors and make blames.

Too many Nigerians climb the ladder of success and burn it. We need to have a paradigm change such that we help others climb the success ladder. Singapore was like us. Lee Kuan Yew took her from the third world to the first in a generation. We need our own Lee Kuan Yew and it should not be a PDP or APC affair. We want the best Nigeria has to offer, not the best a party has to offer.

• Ben Murray-Bruce is the founder of the Silverbird Group and the senator representing