Between propaganda and performance By Moses Okpogode

Between propaganda and performance By Moses Okpogode
January 25 23:00 2016

Most Nigerians are panicky as the economy seem headed for the rocks. The currency is on a free fall as manufacturers take a hit from the central bank’s restrictive foreign-exchange policy. The uncertainty is palpable. The average Nigerian is confounded, petrified even, that the economy may fail to rebound at this rate as it groans under the strain and weariness of a 12-year low crude oil prices.

While the situation remains worrisome, the administration seems clueless, at the very least, or unperturbed, at worse, by the economic suffocation inflicted on the masses. The government plays up its trump card of anti-corruption, backed-up by the now soap opera-like unending drama of probes, media prosecution and the promise to recover stolen loot. Of course, closely related are the daily drama of arraignment of accused persons, detained suspects and the bail subplot.

But the Nigerians generally remain curious, if not disappointed, so far as the anti-corruption circus continues. Supporters of this administration seem very concerned that the media campaigns against corruption could be losing steam, especially as the government that rode to power on the promise of change continues to disregard court rulings on the bail of allegedly corrupt members of the immediate past administration. The government’s chief propagandist, Lai Mohammed’s recent concerted consultations with various media stakeholders to solicit support and loyalty lays credence to the existence of some kind of desperation to sustain an unsustainable narrative. The stark reality that stares Mohammed and his co-travelers in the face is that the media has suddenly discovered that the whole anti-corruption brouhaha is just a gimmick intended to divert attention of people from the obvious shortcomings of an under-performing administration.

Unfortunately the more change is promised, the more things remain the same. No roads. No jobs. No improvement in the power situation. No improvement in infrastructure. In fact, things seem to be worse now than the previous administration left them. Budgets implemented in the past eight months have been on recurrents, mostly overhead and personnel costs including payments of salaries (which continues to be delayed), foreign trips, payments of military allowances in the fight against Boko haram. Amidst all these, fuel crisis looms over the inability secure letters of credit to the tune of $4.2 billion and on the repayment of loans acquired by oil marketers.

A time-bomb like the issue of Niger delta militants’ threat is taken lightly, treated almost as an inconsequential matter. For the present administration, governance is a one-way street of loot recovery. The ordinary man on the streets is expected to toe the line but they are unable as the economic strain continues to bite harder. For owners of small businesses and firms, it’s even worse. They have long rested their case, like we say, as credit facilities are a forlorn hope made worse by the mirage of power despite a new regime of higher tariffs.

The youths who were promised N5000 monthly by the administration have long withdrawn into their shells because the budget to which their allowances have been tied, even if they have to resort to being farm attendants, is mired in avoidable controversy. They are still amused by how a budget which was not withdrawn as claimed by spin doctors of the government but got it figures changed and a new version sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari. While they have not stopped in their admiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed integrity, most youths are worried about the lies, exaggerations, half-truths, failed promises and unrealistic hope that pervade his administration.

Trust is still in the air but with the application of caution because since Mr President promised in the United States of America that he would disclose the names of looters who were returning the stolen funds, nothing has been heard from him. Neither the Governor of the Central Bank, custodian of the treasury, nor the Finance Minister seems to be sure if anyone has returned any loot at all and where it has been deposited.

All they have continued to hear and see replayed are the dramatic scenes that have dominated headlines – issues bothering on contempt of courts, bogus allegations and weightless charges hanging on the noose of the accused persons-. These days when you put on the television and people see those scenes that now look orchestrated, all they bark out is frustration turned against the supposed ineptitude of media houses over lack of contents.

People are worried that a country that relies on oil and the accompanying fallen oil prices should refrain from increasing budgetary allocations on frivolities that gave it reasons to query the previous administrations’ spendings as an opposition. Majority of the people are now sad that government has to continually sit on the neck of the media tribunals to sustain its campaigns against corruption when it holds the power and prima facie cases against accused persons.

Such exercises are in futility but affirms the Presidents’ earlier position that the ministers are ‘noise makers’ after all. Because in every government the work is supposed to speak for itself. It’s not about owning the media or making media friends at a time the opposition is so weakened; but on taking the right steps toward achieving enduring legacies by bringing about the change promised both obvious and the intangibles, in all spheres of our national life. And not allow a Donald Trump to smear us as rogues and thieves because our leader takes every opportunity to carpet Nigerians as corrupt at foriegn public forums without recourse on the overall implications of such statements to the generality of the citizenry. Unfortunately for the citizens, it is mostly the public servants and their permanent civil cousins that have recorded more cases of high profile corruption than the man on the streets since the formation of this republic in 1963.