Silent moments, changing times, by Ken Ugbechie
These days, there is a troubling silhouette that stalks the streets; there is a loud silence that reminds you of the changing times. The chimes in the political space collude with the rhymes in the social ecosystem to produce a dissonance of a thousand tongues. Things really seem to have fallen apart in the Republic. Can anybody still hear the once loud, stentorian voice of the progressives? Does anybody still know the way to the house of the ‘lord of lies’, the Joseph Goebbels of modern Nigeria? Goebbels was the Nazi Germany Minister of Propaganda. He was one of Adolf Hitler’s closest allies and confidants.
Goebbels’ story is not always an edifying narrative. He was a man who started well but ended badly, committing suicide with his wife after poisoning their six children with cyanide. That was on May 1, 1945, aged 47. That marked the sordid end of his story. But his beginning was a remarkable preface to a life full of promise. At just 24, he had already obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Such early exposure to scholarship also exposed him to power.
As Minister of Propaganda to Hitler’s government for a dozen years (1933-1945), he became the most influential figure around Hitler and practically ruled the mind of the Nazi megalomaniac. A good public speaker and one endowed with oratorical sagacity just like Hitler, Goebbels and his master struck a rare alliance and understanding in the art of deploying propaganda as a lethal weapon of war. His overbearing influence on Hitler later began to take its toll on the Third Reich. Hitler believed Goebbels and everything he represented. Hitler lost his own mind and sense of logic to Goebbels’ ceaseless spins and fabrications. Goebbels cleverly understudied his master. He knew what he wanted to hear and see at all times and Goebbels fed Hitler with only what his itching ears would always want to hear and flaunted before him what would look pleasant in his sight.
It was a study in human manipulation; a case-study of how an otherwise intelligent mind could succumb and submit to the caprice of one man. Goebbels seized the moment and manipulated Hitler into a war he was not fully prepared for. Legend has it that once Hitler realized he had lost the war in which he set out to exterminate the Jews, he committed suicide, paving the way for Goebbels to assume office as Chancellor of Nazi Germany. Even that fortuitous thrust to the throne of power could not last. Goebbels became Chancellor on April 30, 1945 but the next day, May 1, 1945 he took his own life rather than face the indignity of being humiliated by the forces he had set out to destroy.
The death of Goebbels also marked the end of propaganda and his web of lies. It marked the end of deceit and Hitler’s blind followers began to see and realize the futility of their actions and the folly of their conducts over the years.
The lesson here is that every lie has an expiry date. The potency of lies and deceit soon fades and the dour and scummy face of the liar is revealed. The Nigerian state has thrived on the slimy threads of lies woven by men and women entrusted with public trust or persons who foisted public trust on themselves, a la military power undertakers. Post-independence Nigerians have been the victims of this special army of liars. Every Nigerian military government rode to power on the crest of lies, promising to be a corrective regime to right the wrongs of the politicians but ended up needing to be corrected.
The politicians, more adroit in the art of lying, have continued to fool the people with Goebbels-like propaganda. And this has nothing to do with political parties. As Nigerians have finally come to realize, all politicians are the same. They are a tribe of liars. The more monstrous their lies, the more chances they stand to win an election.
The trajectory of Hitler as a supremo whose story ended with a noxious odour of tragic death should humble African leaders who bestride the power space with dictatorial know-all swag. Most dictators and leaders who started well but ended woefully share a common story. They usually were victims of the nest of sycophants that they ended up surrounding themselves with.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari no doubt came into office with very good intentions. But it does appear he has himself become a victim of the gang of Goebbels in his party particularly among those he easily sees as his henchmen in Aso Rock. Not only did his party, the APC, promise more than it can deliver, the President appears to be hemmed in by some forces bent on manipulating him into taking actions he would not otherwise take under normal conditions. At the moment, he appears disconnected from the people. He cannot come to terms with the suffering in the land. He is totally alienated from the same people who voted him into office to better their lot. Whose counsel does Mr. President heed?
Pastor Tunde Bakare, one of Mr. Buhari’s friends and his former running mate in his homily recently alluded to the existence of some Philistines and cats around the President in Aso Rock. He predicted that soon the Philistines will be taken away from the President while the cats who are now entrusted with Nigeria’s choice meat shall be caught. Bakare should know. He admitted he is in touch with Mr. President and has always availed him of his advice. Mr. Bakare may not have been lucid enough in his homily but what can be deduced from his coded message is that the President has come under an influence that makes him not act in the interest of members of the larger Nigerian society.
Just recently, another man who should know, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and now Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, cautioned the President to retrace his steps and tweak some of his policies otherwise he would end up on the wrong side of history just like his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan. Sanusi specifically warned against subsidizing the dollar, saying just as oil subsidy under Jonathan produced overnight billionaires, Buhari’s subsidy of forex is producing armchair billionaires which does damage to the economy. And just lately, another former CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo, the maverick economist, added his voice to the growing list of red flag raisers. But is the President listening? Can the falcon still hear its falconer? Only time will tell.