@Gimbakakanda: Beasts of a dead nation (Y! FrontPage)

by Gimba Kakanda

“Dem go hold meeting o/ Dem go start yab human beings/ Animal talk don start again/ Dash dem human rights” ~ Fela Kuti, Beast of No Nation
Sometimes it defies understanding, this country. Sometimes you understand it quite well, only devastated by the complexity of the problems and of, especially, the condescendence of the leaders. You only need to read a speech, ad or campaign slogan of a Nigerian political leader and match it with his “achievements” to have a clear picture of the disturbing interpersonal relationship between them and those they aspire to lead. The former are unmindful of the bitterness and anger they have instigated.
If I may make an essential recommendation for aspiring and active political leaders and, particularly, their media aides, it must be to drag their attention to the essence and necessity of defined political communication in their engagements with both the media and the people. This, even if not for their own good, may protect the reputation and privacy of their family and colleagues whose live are affected by the decisions in which they are not contributors or supporters.
Evidences of such communication are some of the campaign slogans of our political aspirants. Here, you see a politician, justifiably failed, seeking re-election with words like “for continuity” – of maladministration, of course – written in the face of his campaign posters. He does this because of his conviction that the audience and his constituents are dumb beyond, beyond redemption. A famous example is the ad that has our President, under whom the nation has fallen flat on its belly, compared to Martin Luther King jr. and Nelson Mandela. You don’t have to go to an advertisement school to learn that slogans are not meant to represent easily verified lies, they’re done to highlight and exaggerate defensible trends and events.
This week, in aggregating thoughts on a project, I and a few colleagues took time to study the speeches, ads and slogans of notable model public figures and what amused us was their sensitivity to the effects of words, and even though, as politics requires, they could have easily employed reckless propagandas, they built certain walls to control the slips from the defensible to the mundane.
These leaders were prescient in their campaigns, and communication with their people. They were conscious of their place in history and struggled so hard to maintain a narrative that, despite their shortcomings, still stands as honest. This way, they protect the image and names of not just their children, but that of anyone from their lineage. Your participation in politics shouldn’t make you destroy the place and identity of your descendants, born and alive.
There are three sides to every story, to every narrative built on and around the personality or decision of a public figure. While others get fairly portrayed, some don’t even pay mind to their representation by a one-dimensional media or people displeased by their activities. Our political communication is a depressing reflection of the blemishes and scars on the face of the country, and our politicians have succeeded in exploiting this other of our imperfections to hoodwink, polarise and even destroy the country. This is also the only explanation for Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema’s careless remarks in tasking his followers to crush his opponents who, in his eyes and view, are cockroaches – sub-humans!
Sadly, even the Defence Headquarters, tasked with projecting and propagating the progress of military operations, and shaping the narratives of the counter-terrorism arrangements in the north-east, has also caught the bug of this disastrous communication strategies. In the efforts to diminish and ridicule the spread and effects of Boko Haram propagandas, its communication and information arm has employed what it took for effective propaganda in, sadly, embarrassing the security organisations in the country, which only inflated the egos of Boko Haram commanders.
A propaganda is not a mundane lie, it’s a necessary economy of the truth, meant to disarm the opponent. And this is only effective when verifications of such invented realities can’t be done with just a phone call or text message. Coming out to lie to a country of over 100 million people that a particular town seized by the insurgents has been “recovered”, while thousands of its panicked residents are scattered in refugee camps, is not smart.

We manufacture stories of triumphs over Boko Haram to serve whose interests? Even though I’m also keen about changing the narratives of the ongoing counter-terrorism to mitigate the fear of the perverts, we need to employ some fact-checking strategies in understanding what’s really happening up north. There are better ways to communicate with the nation. The people are not dumb, at least not all of them.

For, while we celebrate stories of imaginary victories, our people, innocent citizens, are being killed, with the lucky becoming destitute in strange towns and refugees of unhygienic camps. Of the politicians in the north-east, whatever be your political affiliation, the humanitarian efforts of Atiku Abubakar in his home state are commendable. We need more political leaders rising up for the members of their constituency in this most trying moment of their existence – and aggregating the real stories there for international press conferences. If we don’t know the exact stories, how do we proffer solutions, how do we even assure the international community to intervene and save us from us?

One interesting ad I like in my studying of the social engineering of the one for the re-election campaign of America’s Ronald Reagan in the build-up to the 1984 U.S. Presidential election:
“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
Reagan may not be saint, but even the most hateful of the political economists of his time might need to put up a robust defence to challenge his claims. This is the essence of political communication, it gauges whether a country is deaf or not. May God save us from us!

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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