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Some fantastic questions and gaffes!


Martins Oloja

Martins Oloja

In the complex logistics of everyday life in Nigeria, it is becoming more and more difficult to understand the times we, in this thankless job, report and interpret. What is more, as I observed in this column recently, public officers, even civil society organizations and elders of the land are also becoming more and more taciturn. As a colleague also observed in another column, there is an inscrutable conspiracy of silence everywhere you go these days. Even public officers who have responsibility to explain the complexities that confront us at the speed of thought now, are not forthcoming. Their telephone numbers ring out these days and they don’t reply short message service (SMS) we send to them. They only talk to us through international media brands that end up distorting their messages to the people. It is unfortunate that our leaders talk to us only through interviews they grant foreign media when they travel. One year in office, our president has not granted any major interviews to any major news media. You must be a Christiane Amanpour from CNN to get their attention. They have knowledge of Marshall McLuhan’s theory that “the medium is the message” but they lack understanding of Tip O’Neill’s word of wisdom that “All politics is local”, after all.

The consequences of conspiracy of silence are grave. One of them is that gossips thrive in the social media, in churches, mosques and at pepper soup joints all over the country. We always listen to some of these fantastic questions that are being asked and no one to answer. And in these times miscellaneous, I intend to transmit some of the fantastically ignored questions to the elders in the land and then to the people who are in office and in power on our behalf.

On the new removal of fuel subsidy and imminent devaluation of Naira:
People everywhere are asking why our big men in Abuja did not consider it expedient to explain to the people when the president changed his mind about these two critical issues. What has been in the public domain is that the president said he would not be bothered by even very persuasive arguments about subsidy removal. Besides, he was quoted several times as saying that Naira would not be devalued for any reasons. So, the president’s men and women in Abuja need to answer the following questions:

When and where did the president change his mind about fuel subsidy and Naira devaluation?

Why didn’t they consider the interest of the people again in fixing these deregulated fuel prices?

What is the correlation between deregulation and “appropriate fuel prices” that have just been fixed?

Why were the citizens taken by surprise?

When did Abuja change its policy on parallel market for procurement of foreign currencies for fuel importation?

When will relaxation of foreign exchange policy be announced?

Will there be palliatives for the consequences of the new fuel price regime since salaries have not been increased?
Is it true that all the stakeholders that attended the only meeting held before the announcement agreed even without consultation with their head offices?

Don’t people deserve to know what government wants to do to officers in the oil industry who have been deceiving the country about turn around maintenance (TAM)? Shouldn’t criminals in the oil corporation who destroyed our refineries, the primary reason for this mess, be isolated for punishment that all of us are serving now?

Don’t we deserve to know the context of the state of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that has been fantastically sabotaged at the National Assembly?
Can’t we know how the PIB has been compromised and sabotaged by a cabal in the international oil industry and the Nigerian oil corporation?

On Nigeria & Afghanistan being “fantastically corrupt” and presidential response:
People are saying that Nigerian leader’s response to the sarcastic, not-so Queen’s English description of the British Premier David Cameron was very artful and decorous but it did not go far enough as a response from the most populous black nation in the world. And so they are asking these few questions:

Why didn’t the president’s men get inspiration from some British influential press editorials to the extent that Cameron and his father too were mentioned in the scandalous section of the infamous Panama papers? In other words, why did we at least demand some retraction of the statements credited to the PM even if a direct apology was not necessary?

Why was there no veiled reference to the insult even when CNN’s Amanpour interviewed the President? Why didn’t the president’s reputation managers arrange some Nigerian television reporters in London for the president to address some concerns at home about the insult to the country?

Can’t the president’s men see a correlation between the insult and what people have been saying about the danger of the president’s harping on how corrupt even the courts are in the country?

Can the president’s men now see the import of warnings by oracles and orators all the time that: “there is power in the words” that even ordinary people speak, let alone our leaders?

Can’t the big men in the governing party in Abuja see that the only way you can fight corruption is to reform institutions of governance to prevent corrupt and unethical practices as we noted on this page last week?

Can’t the reputation managers at all levels of government see the merit in the power of analysis even in diplomatic soldiering or message?

Will it not serve a more useful purpose to remain on a message of hope for the country instead of lamentation about how corrupt people in office are and how incorruptible the person in power is?

Does it serve any purpose whatsoever to be harping on the integrity of the president without reference to how integrity quotient is being built into the system?

As a writer noted this week, is it logical to continue to portray the president as a legend who is far better than the people he represents?

Can’t someone be inspired by the immortal words of the late Murtala Muhammed who forty years ago on behalf of Africa
noted that “Africa has come of age?” I mean can’t the president say to the traducers and mockers of Africa’s largest economy that the corrupt activities of a few officers in government does not represent our character and culture as a country?

Can’t it be boldly said at an international conference that government is building strong policy instruments to support institutions such as revival of Treasury Single Account, (TSA) Pensions Fund Administration (PFA) mechanism, Fiscal Responsibility Act, Public Procurement Act,

Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) to deal with corruption loopholes? Can’t these be analysed to assure prospective investors that there is nothing to fear instead of de-marketing the country in the name of dramatizing achievement in anti-graft drive?

Because “all politics is local”:
This “Nigeria is fantastically corrupt” paradigm is a big lesson to shift discussion points from foreign countries’ capitals to our locality. And these are the questions arising:

When will the president stop announcing policies and the way we are abroad?

When will the president begin to grant interviews to local news media including State House reporters?

When will research and documentation unit in the office of the president be revived to assist the president’s public affairs office in this regard?

These questions would have been unnecessary if there had been opportunities and platforms to explain policy and political issues. Even the governing party’s information machinery is inexplicably decrepit. The president’s men are not engaging the civil society organizations and the media beyond the president’s occasional media chat. So, if this is the prevailing situation, especially with the conspiracy of silence of the elite corps members and the elders of the land, why won’t there be a strong rumour mill that will continually feed the social media?
All told, as more trees are falling on trees, I hope the answers to the numerous questions posed here will not blow in the wind again.
Inside Stuff Grammar School:

Unique Vs Very Unique:

This school has also discovered that most users do not realize that the word “unique” is already in its superlative form. So, it is superfluous or wrong to insert “very” before the word. The original word (unique) means, “having no like or equal; unparalleled, incomparable; existing as the only one or as the sole example.
Examples: (i) Joseph was unique in his handling of counterpoint. (ii) We have a unique copy of an ancient manuscript. Note: Some users add “very” and it is unnoticed. In the U.S., some users add “quite” to read “quite unique”: As in, “What you did at the ceremony was quite unique”, and it is acceptable. But it is not good English to modify a superlative… Don’t emulate Shakespeare who used or modified a superlative successfully in his classic, Julius Caeser when he wrote: “This is the “most unkindest” cut of all”. He got a “poetic licence” to do so at that time.

Fewer Vs Less:
Standard written English uses fewer with things that can be counted and less with things that cannot be counted. Examples: fewer people but less money. Do not write less students or less players. In news report, do not write: ‘Not less’ than 10 people were killed. Write, ‘No fewer’ than 10 people were killed.

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