There is something about politicking that makes the average man morph into an inveterate liar.
If you spew nonsense or tell lies, someone sooner or later will call you out. Not with politicians, it seems.
In true populist fashion, they spout what they think their voters want to hear and they get away with it.
Nobody encapsulates it better than Femi-Fani Kayode, a former critic of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who defected to the party from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
A past disavowal in September 2019 had Fani-Kayode vehemently refuting reports of a defection to the APC.
In a series of tweets, he had insisted that he remains a staunch member of the opposition PDP.
He described the report of his defection as “false and insulting”; adding that it was nothing but fake news.
Fani-Kayode, however, asked those sponsoring the report to bury their heads in shame, saying he would “rather die than” than join the APC.
He accused the ruling party of failing to protect the nation and its people; as well as faulted the government’s anti-corruption war.
“I am committed to opposing the APC, and those that are in their ranks for the rest of my natural life; and I will never join them no matter what!” he said.
Fast forward to 2021 in a year that has witnessed a gale of defections to the APC and Fani-Kayode’s volte-face begins to crystallise a clearer and bigger picture – the scramble for posts ahead of the 2023 elections.
Speaking with journalists after he was presented to President Buhari by the caretaker chairman of the APC, Governor Mala Buni of Yobe State on Thursday, September 17, 2021, Fani-Kayode said he believed that “it was time for him to cross over to join hands with the president in moving Nigeria forward.
“The point is that I felt it was time to do the right thing, to put Nigeria first and appreciate the efforts that have been made, particularly in the last couple of years in terms of security; fighting insurgency and terrorism,” the former minister said.
“It is not always negative and when the time is right, we change direction to join forces and join hands to move the country forward.
“Doing this doesn’t mean we are enemies to anybody. Even if we are in another party, the PDP or any other party or group, we can still work together across party, regional, ethnic or religious lines,” he added.
Empty platitudes devoid of any substance, if his antecedents are anything to go by.
Why do politicians lie?
The factor of the common man
Anybody who can/will speak in public can get up and tell people ‘this is what I think’. You put a decent suit or agbada on somebody and the audience’s social conditioning kicks in and does most of the rest.
You’ve got to navigate the preferences and opinions of the masses by the way you present yourself. This is not like super difficult stuff, but it’s also not necessarily easy in any given context. Presidential candidates have a huge pool of people to appeal to at any given moment, and they fight over very specific groups of people.
So there’s some skill and there’s probably an organization behind you, which also means a great deal of money sometimes. If you have neither the skill of social posturing nor the organization/money behind you, you can attempt to be a politician, but will you be a successful politician and actually enter into office?
The specialization factor
Politics and government are like many other jobs. The details of what is happening are essentially a mystery to the outside world and are constantly changing in both little and big ways.
Almost everyone residing in Nigeria pays taxes, for example, but almost nobody actually understands what is happening with the Value Added Tax collection until the recent suit filed by the Rivers State Government.
The average person has literally no clue about most of what is happening in the federal government, never mind their own local power company, police station, etc.
At the same time, running the government is an endeavour ostensibly concerned with issues that relate to the public interest where political institutions required by law, say, voter participation.
So how do you bridge these two worlds? You reduce the content of the issues involved to more easily digestible parts. This is especially the case because the voting citizenry can truthfully only talk about this stuff so much with detail and working knowledge.
The larger point here, though, is that upon reducing the issues involved to more easily digestible parts (which is arguably lying/being dishonest anyway) in order to win the competition for votes or to set precedence with the audience that makes winning those races easier in the future; many politicians will reduce and misrepresent issues, or they will play to their constituencies biases and not intend to actually carry through with campaign promises.
The last of which is sometimes even commendable because, for most issues, the average constituent has no clue what is actually in the public interest in terms of actual government activity.
So why do politicians have to lie? They don’t have to lie, but it’s not an easy situation. They’re being squeezed on all sides. It seems that they can only tell the full comprehensive truth in very rare situations.
And if they did, no one would listen. No one would vote for them, and if people did listen, the party machine and the bosses would sabotage their efforts.
There is a large organizational machine at work here. Politics equals unlimited access to a pool of resources.
Assuming there is a problem with politicians; how do you fix that? The answer will most likely be multi-faceted and not something the average citizen is really willing to come to terms with, articulate to others, conceive a long-term strategy for, or execute a strategy to redress the situation, or Nigerians actually love being lied to.
AUTHOR: Mayowa Oladeji
Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.
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