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#EndSARS and the power of truth

By Martins Oloja
01 November 2020   |   6:12 am
Not even the build-up to the United States elections on Tuesday this week can take any steam out of the deconstruction of the epochal #EndSARS campaign.

Not even the build-up to the United States elections on Tuesday this week can take any steam out of the deconstruction of the epochal #EndSARS campaign. As state actors and we the people are still ruminating over and smarting from the rebellion by the youth and curious ambush by drafted hoodlums who threatened to pollute the campaign for progress, we need to understand that this present darkness should not be another time of lamentation on the state of the nation. As I have always noted here, lamentation has never been a strategy for development. We should see the state of anomie that the #EndSARS wake-up call has triggered as another opportunity to rebuild our institutions of governance. Specifically, though the campaign-for-Nigeria’s-progress has left in its trail some public relations tragedies for the Nigerian army and the police force, we should not allow the failure of the president to punish some public officers whose incompetence and misjudgment escalated the crisis to dampen enthusiasm for our country. I believe that it is not another time to take our once-resourceful armed forces and indeed the police to the cleaners. It will be recalled that even the #EndSARS brand ambassadors’ first demand on the state is reform of the police and improved conditions of service for their tormentors. That is remarkable. Oh yes, the #EndSARS revolutionary campaign appears to have made the army and the police too small in our eyes at this moment given the integrity issues the two institutions have been faced with. The Nigerian policemen and women curiously disappeared from the streets and some roads in most parts of the country for a whole week. And the country didn’t collapse. For the first time in the life of a particular generation, at least for a week, the police was afraid of the people. We have always been afraid of them. At least, we the people regained power for a week. That is a great gain. Now the army is still smarting from the public relations tragedy it created when the spokesperson, a general said reports that soldiers fired some deadly shots and there were fatalities at the Lekki tollgate, were a product of ‘fake news’. Now as pieces of digital evidence began to emerge on the presence of soldiers at the Lekki tollgate on #October 20-10-2020, the army authorities have been speaking in tongues: they just said, yes we were there but on the invitation of the Lagos State governor. This is not a tragi-comedy. This is a (public relations) tragedy that we should not allow to dampen our enthusiasm about the past exploits of the same Nigerian army. This is not a public relations job for the soldiers. It is a plea for mercy for the framers of that tragedy. We need the Nigerian army. We need a good and functional army that can fight insurgency and sundry enemies of the country. We need a decentralised, restructured and functional Nigeria police service to take care of our internal security. It’s not necessary to continue to repeat the official lack of capacity and competence to deal with these exigencies at this time. As I noted the other day here, it is a time to be in search of our Nehemiahs to rebuild our broken walls. 

I would like to take advantage of ‘this present darkness’ (apology to Stephen Ellis) to appeal to all our angry young and old in the country to imbibe this inescapable fact: that we need a strong army and police force at any time. Let’s not remember that Nigeria’s leader at this time failed to even rebuke leadership of the police service that produced, nurtured and sustained the discredited SARS. Instead, it is a time to reach out to the resourceful youth and assist them to strengthen their ‘Let’s-Rebuild-Nigeria’ Movement’. But more important, let’s manage some priorities at this time. Let’s assist our armed forces about the power of telling the truth in managing communications in this digital age when truth can no longer be buried in the grave as I have noted here several times. Let’s us share modern strategic communication knowledge with those in authority. Let’s tell them that in this digital age powered by social technologies, the people, especially the young ones ‘shall know the truth’ as it is written, and only the truth can set us free from damnation and youth revolt. No one can teach Joseph Goebel’s manual on propaganda anymore. It can only be good for a World War history class; never again as a communications strategy. So, let’s go back to school to learn something good about the power of truth at this time. We have believed in a lie that nothing good can come again out of our institutions. Let’s see our wrong and ask for healing for our country, where God too can be magnified to show Himself strong, as a cleric and a gospel artiste, Don Moen would have noted. Let’s not lean alone anymore on the wisdom of our perverted elders.

‘The Power Of Truth’
Let’s lean on the wisdom of a worthy elder, William George Jordan, an American editor, lecturer and essayist who researched extensively on the “The Power of Truth” and wrote a classic on the subject.

Let’s learn. Truth is the rock foundation of every great character. It is loyalty to the right as we see it. It is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals. It is always—power. Truth ever defies full definition. Like electricity it can only be explained by noting its manifestation. It is the compass of the soul, the guardian of conscience, the final touchstone of right. Truth is the revelation of the ideal; but it is also an inspiration to realise that ideal, a constant impulse to live it. Lying is one of the oldest vices in the world—it made its debut in the first recorded conversation in history, in a famous interview in the Garden of Eden. Lying is the sacrifice of honor to create a wrong impression. It is masquerading in misfit virtues. Truth can stand alone, for it needs no chaperone or escort. Lies are cowardly, fearsome things that must travel in battalions. They are like a lot of drunken men, one vainly seeking to support another. Lying is the partner and accomplice of all the other vices. Truth is the oldest of all the virtues; it antedated man, it lived before there was man to perceive it or to accept it. It is the unchangeable, the constant. Law is the eternal truth of Nature—the unity that always produces identical results under identical conditions. When a man discovers a great truth in Nature he has the key to the understanding of a million phenomena; when he grasps a great truth in morals he has in it the key to his spiritual re-creation. For the individual, there is no such thing as theoretic truth; a great truth that is not absorbed by our whole mind and life, and has not become an inseparable part of our living, is not a real truth to us. If we know the truth and do not live it, our life is—a lie.

In speech, the man who makes Truth his watchword is careful in his words, he seeks to be accurate, neither understating nor over-colouring. He never states as a fact that of which he is not sure. What he says has the ring of sincerity, the hallmark of pure gold. If he praises you, you accept his statement as “net,” you do not have to work out a problem in mental arithmetic on the side to see what discount you ought to make before you accept his judgment. His promise counts for something, you accept it as being as good as his bond, you know that no matter how much it may cost him to verify and fulfill his word by his deed, he will do it. His honesty is not policy. The man who is honest merely because it is “the best policy,” is not really honest, he is only politic. Usually such a man would forsake his seeming loyalty to truth and would work overtime for the devil—if he could get better terms.

Truth means “that which one troweth or believes.” It is living simply and squarely by our belief; it is the externalising of a faith in a series of actions. Truth is ever strong, courageous, virile, though kindly, gentle, calm, and restful. There is a vital difference between error and untruthfulness. A man may be in error and yet live bravely by it; he who is untruthful in his life knows the truth but denies it. The one is loyal to what he believes, the other is traitor to what he knows. 

“What is Truth?” Pilate’s great question, asked of Christ nearly two thousand years ago, has echoed unanswered through the ages. We get constant revelations of parts of it, glimpses of constantly new phases, but never complete, final definition. If we but live up to the truth that we know, and seek ever to know more, we have put ourselves into the spiritual attitude of receptiveness to know Truth in the fullness of its power. Truth is the sun of morality, and like that lesser sun in the heavens, we can walk by its light, live in its warmth and life, even if we see but a small part of it and receive but a microscopic fraction of its rays.

Which of the great religions of the world is the real, the final, the absolute truth? We must make our individual choice and live by it as best we can. Every new sect, every new cult, has in it a grain of truth, at least; it is this that attracts attention and wins adherents. This mustard seed of truth is often overestimated, darkening the eyes of man to the untrue parts or phases of the varying religious faiths. But, in exact proportion to the basic truth they contain do religions last, become permanent and growing, and satisfy and inspire the hearts of men. Mushrooms of error have a quick growth, but they exhaust their vitality and die, while Truth still lives.

The tradesman who lies, cheats, misleads and overcharges and then seeks to square himself with his anemic conscience by saying, “lying is absolutely necessary to business,” is as untrue in his statement as he is in his acts. He justifies himself with the petty defense as the thief who says it is necessary to steal in order to live. The permanent business prosperity of an individual, a city or a nation rests finally on commercial integrity alone, despite all that the cynics may say, or all the exceptions whose temporary success may mislead them. It is truth alone that lasts.

A leader or manager or even a professional who is vacillating, temporising, shifting, constantly trimming his sails to catch every puff of wind of popularity, is a trickster who succeeds only until he is found out. A lie may live for a time, truth for all time. Hold your breath, truth is the most powerful force on earth. And that force (truth) is a useful tool in managing reputation of a brand at this time.