Development deceit in the media
The issue of development deceit orchestrated by the systematic spread of half-baked and non-existent development projects on the pages of newspapers and other media outlets by the various tiers of government across the federation deserves attention.
Since politicians whose mission is to loot the treasury and impoverish the citizenry hijacked the mainstream political establishment in Nigeria, the culture of using the pages of newspapers to deceive the public through well-orchestrated propaganda has become the norm.
Every now and then, Nigerians are fed with patchy photos of what those at the helm of affairs perceive as development. But at the end of it all, there is no respite for the common man whose plight remains unchanged, as the socio-economic realities keep worsening.
The occasion of the one-year anniversary in office of governors in particular, provide opportunity for the heightening of this deceit all over the print and electronic media in the country. Usually, the state governors roll out pictures of what they regard as their achievements. Like their predecessors who used the same route to hoodwink the public, they consist of basic necessities that would ordinarily not be reckoned with in other climes, like gutters cleared of silt, borehole water supply, erected overhead water tanks, roads rehabilitated, streets planted with flowers, city-centre cleared of commercial motorbikes to enhance transportation etc. These in the thinking of our governors constitute the development projects they have to accomplish while in office.
The question is what is the essence of advertising that you have swept your dirty house and that should be applauded as achievement? After more than 60 years of independence, what makes the provision of one or two boreholes and perhaps an overhead water tank a major achievement? Does the fact that the road network in the country is in tatters make the repair of a road section a major breakthrough? What about our filthy urban centres surrounded by dirty smelly gutters? How do these constitute achievements worthy of media advertisement when they are cleared?
The point is not that solving these problems is out of place in the scheme of our quest to make life better for the people. The point is that using the media to propagate what ordinarily should form part and parcel of governance is in bad faith. Nigerians have seen this delusion foisted on the citizenry in recent times without corresponding real-time development on ground. The resort to the media as the avenue to bring non-existent so-called development to the people amounts to corruption. It is corruption to the extent that it is dishonest and merely designed to delude the people with intent to defraud. The bogus projects and advertorials are deliberately designed to create a false impression that the government is working while in reality, it is marking time. The adverts provide the plank on which huge funds are siphoned without anything to show.
Since 1999 when this official deceit became pronounced, little or nothing has changed in the quality of life of Nigerians, yet the administrations that swayed across the country over this period bombarded the public with fraudulent pictures of executed development projects that are nowhere to be found. If these developments were real, perhaps by now, we would not be talking of lack of water or lack of motorable roads in many parts of the country. We would have advanced further to be talking of more challenging issues of development.
I would like to stress once again that development is not something that could be hidden from the public. The people who are the beneficiaries of development projects are there to testify and carry the news beyond the state. The Americans don’t go about advertising the infrastructural development in America on the pages of newspapers. No country in Europe is advertising the roads it built or water facilities built by a local authority. The Japanese are not advertising their state-of-the-art roads and bridges or other infrastructural masterpieces in different parts of the country.
It is only in Nigeria that a governor would carry out a basic function of governance and he makes mountain out of it in the media. The practice is an indictment of leadership and governance. It simply shows that nothing is happening and the people are being taken for a ride. It is a cover-up and amounts to failure. That is why successive administrations come and go but the plight of the people remains pitiable instead of improving. We are in a dispensation where nothing new comes the way of the people. All that the government is concerned with is repair of dilapidated roads; unending sinking of boreholes, repair of dilapidated schools, etc. Any attempt to improve the lot of the people in any way is given wide publicity in the media.
There is no doubt that Nigeria is in a serious socio-economic underdevelopment quagmire. It is sad that the government has failed to do what it is supposed to do over the years. Ordinarily, the state structure ought to be a viable framework for developing the country but it has turned out to be the undoing of this country. The quest for the creation of more states is not, in truth, meant to bring development to the grassroots but a political agitation to create little emperors as governors along ethnic lines. Whereas the governors see themselves as being the smartest in the state, they use this bloated ego to lord it over the people and underdevelop them.
Fifty-four years since the first states were created in the wake of the civil war in 1967; the development has not moved the country forward. I have said once in this column that states were not created in the first place to bring development to the country but to prosecute the civil war. That imperative has haunted this country and is partly responsible for the deceit Nigerians have faced over the years. It is doubtful if the present political structure whereby the governors have overriding power within the states would ever move the country forward in terms of development. If the states were living up to their responsibility, the socio-economic standards of the citizenry would have improved.
But this is not the case. We are caught up in rigmarole. The governors are lords in their states. They control the state allocation and disburse it as they like. The governors strangulate the local government councils that are supposed to complement the state in development. The funds allocated to the local government councils are cornered by the governors and disbursed at their own whims and caprices.
Earlier, it was thought that the local councils were not performing their statutory functions but experience shows that these councils are starved of funds. Competent sources indicate that over 60 per cent of allocation to the local councils is spent in the payment of salaries and allowances on monthly basis. What is left is not enough to carry out any meaningful development project. Apart from that, it is the governors that dish out funds to the local councils at their own discretion. Attempts by the Federal Government to disburse funds directly to the local councils have been vehemently resisted by the governors.
As a result, the governors have huge funds at their disposal. There is a need, in the light of the public deception and falsehood perpetrated about development to make it an offense punishable by law for any governor or local government to advertise deceptive pictures of none existent projects in the media.