There are various ways to react to the announcement of the results of the presidential election held on Saturday, February 25, 2023 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). My own immediate reaction is to reflect on the ascendency of lying and deceit as directive principle of official actions in Nigeria. A well-coordinated political engineering of lying and deceit was at the driving seat of the electoral process that culminated into the elections of that particular day. What appears to be smart (but unintelligent) manipulation and allocation of votes across the country was meant to deceive the public. This, perhaps explained why some very garrulous spokespersons of the ruling party presidential campaign council kept claiming arrogantly that whether some Nigerians liked it or not, their presidential candidate would be elected. This arrogant and deceitful mien has long been part of the prevailing political order and its culture, which has over the years been institutionalised in all the three tiers of governance in Nigeria. It however took an alarming dimension since the inception of the All Progressive Congress-led Federal Government. All well-meaning Nigerians had believed that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would put a lie to this kind of arrogant claim, but we did not know that the deceit had been taken to another level.
I make no pretense of my own political inclination. I am among the citizens of today who are desirous of a new Nigeria which the prevailing political order has failed to guarantee, and there are millions of Nigerians who desire this new order including many of those with different political inclinations. My last Saturday’s vote was philosophically rooted in the desire for a peaceful, united, just and prosperous Nigeria, where inclusiveness of all ethnicities and religions rather than exclusion, is guaranteed. In this envisaged new Nigeria, justice is at the foundation of its existence. But it appears that this hope is now dashed. We hope not so, as we still remain optimistic of a new Nigeria.
The process that produced the outcome of the presidential election demonstrates clearly that Nigeria as a nation is sitting on a foundation of fraud, deceit and injustice, and that more than ever before lying has become a directive principle of official actions. This is a country where individuals are forced to lie even when they do not want to do so (but they have to) because they want to retain their official positions. This is a country where institutions lie, governments lie and the nation itself lies. Yet, as the Bible says the Devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 10:44). Is the country called Nigeria a creation of the Devil rather than God?
Again, is the operational headquarters of the Devil’s global lying industry in Nigeria? Take for instance where some individuals in government (ministers for example) lie without qualms. Some with the exalted title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) lie openly with impunity and without shame. At times when explanations for something that happened are being searched for, some of them would loquaciously manufacture a lie to cover up. They talk before they think all in the desperate effort to cover unpleasant things up.
More shockingly, state institutions like the revered Courts lie openly by giving judgments that even the uneducated could dispute. Take the case of the judgement where the number 4 political primary contestant was awarded the governorship position in Imo State, or where some people who did not participate in the original and INEC’s officially recognised senatorial primary elections of their parties in Akwa Ibom and Yobe states, were declared as the legitimate political party candidates for the elections. Is it not right to think that the devil is indeed more Nigerian than of other nationalities?
A government sacred institution such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lies blatantly and shamelessly by not keeping its words. The Commission lied and deceived Nigerians in the 2019 presidential elections and got away with it. Then it deceived Nigerians again during the February 25 presidential election by going ahead to violate the provisions of the Electoral Act with impunity. After the violation (and at a time when patriotic citizens were still in shock), it went ahead without qualms to perfect its illegality by announcing the presidential election results. By INEC’s misconduct, the nation’s conscience appears to have taken a final flight, as illegality upon illegality would now be a directive principle of state policy. It is indeed right to say that the devil is a Nigerian because lying and deceit are now found in all strata and occupational groups in society. Where can we find trust and hope again? Is it in the courts or universities – our erstwhile revered and sacred institutions – which are now shadows of themselves?
Think of some governors who have been behaving as political thugs in high places. They constitute the executive but they act as if they constitute the judiciary and even the legislature at the same time. Some of them have put the legislature in their deep pockets and then continue to act as emperors. They then lie, deny and then lie again without remembering that the internet does not forget. Lying has become a part of our national life. But lying is a major attribute of the devil. It must stop in high places in Nigeria so that we can stop it in lower places. But when will it stop? This old political order is incapable of stopping it as it feeds on it. So we still have a long journey to go.
Think of our universities, many of the Vice-Chancellors (VCs) have become emperors whose words are now laws as they go unchallenged not even by the ‘almighty’ ASUU at the local (branch) levels. Branch level ASUU leaders have either been cowed, compromised or out rightly coopted into the administration in very smart manner by the VCs. In the past, the judiciary and the universities used to be sacred and revered places and were widely regarded as bastions of integrity. Today, it is no more. The political virus of lying and deceit has taken over these two places. Yet all patriotic Nigerians are still hoping that this same judiciary can redeem its battered image and safe Nigeria when the political ball being played now comes finally to its court.
•Prof. Isaac N. Obasi can be reached via [email protected].