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Reflections on propaganda

By News Express on 29/09/2016

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The recent launch of “Change Begins with Me” campaign by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari tells a number of instructive stories. But we will reflect on just two. One is that the concept of change as captured in the campaign rhetoric of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been twisted. The other is that the propaganda machine of the party, which was in full gear during the campaign for the 2015 elections, has run out of steam.

Let us begin with the change rhetoric. APC, according to the campaign message of the party, represented change. The party bidded for power on the strength of this campaign slogan. It told the people that a vote for it was a vote for change. It would change the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It would also change the way government was run. The opposition APC gave the impression that the PDP government was inefficient and ineffective. The APC promised to change all of that if voted into power.

Beyond these, the APC promised Nigerians change in all ramifications of public life. There will be a remarkable improvement in the standard of living. Cost of living will be reduced to the barest minimum, as the prices of essential commodities will be controlled and made easily affordable. There will be accountability and probity in governance. Government will truly belong to the people. Indeed, the change was to be inclusive. Nigerians would see it in all facets of governance.

That was what was promised. That was the message Nigerians imbibed. Then, for some reason, the APC made it to power. It displaced the PDP from power. That was change. That was supposed to be the beginning. Every other aspect of change, as captured by the campaign promises of the APC was supposed to flow from this.

However, beyond the change of government that was effected by all means possible, Nigerians are saying that they have not seen the change that the APC promised them. The good things of life, the positive difference that they were promised have remained a mirage. Where the people expected positive change, they got a negative one. The prices of petroleum products will change. That was what the APC promised them. Truly, they have changed. But what manner of change? For better, or for worse?  Before the elections, there was howl around the opposition circles that the ruling party had ruined the national currency, the Naira. One dollar exchanged for less then N200 then. Now, one dollar is the same thing as N450. It could be worse in the days ahead. That is change. But to what end?

Under the present order, Nigerians can no longer travel. Those who have need to travel outside our shores can no longer do so. The airfares have hit the roof. They are prohibitive. Nigerians have been forced to change their lifestyle. Everybody must stay back here to moan and groan. Even those who want to move within the country are not finding it easy. The airlines are closing shop. They cannot cope with the inclement economic environment.

Nigerians who have reason to take their children and wards abroad for education purposes are also caught in the lurch. There is no foreign exchange to pay their school fees. Many are withdrawing from schools abroad and returning home to face the music with the rest of us. That is also change. But what is the content of this change?

Nigerians have been groaning. They have been complaining about this manner of change. Their verdict is that this was not the change the APC promised them. This being the case, government is expected to be humble and sincere in this matter in order to address the genuine grievances of the people. But that is not what the people are getting. Government has chosen, instead,  to deepen and heighten the propaganda of deceit by twisting the meaning and import of the change it promised the people. Rather than make genuine efforts to meet the needs and aspirations of the people, particularly those it made the subject matter of change, government chose to play with words. Change, it said, did not mean exactly what the people thought. Change, it said, must begin with each and every one of us. Change must be attitudinal. That is what government is saying. It is not about what government would do differently and better too if voted into power. They have twisted the change that the people expected.

That takes us to the second issue. What is left of the propaganda machine that was in top gear during the campaign for the 2015 elections? Let us recall that this machine was very well oiled by the then propaganda-in-chief of the opposition APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. He was in his elements then. He dished out the position of the opposition with gusto. He put the ruling party on its toes. In the eyes of the propaganda machine, everything that emanated from government was negative. The opposition had a ready way of discrediting them.

Given the near effortless ease with which the opposition trashed out issues and took a position on them, you would think that the same opposition would not have difficulty running a government if the opportunity presented itself. But that is not the situation before us. The then opposition, which has taken over the reins of governance are now obviously at sea. It has no clue on how to navigate the country out of difficulty. What this tells us is that it is easy to criticise from the outside. The chief propagandist does not know the story to formulate any more. He does not know who to rest the blame on this time.

Part of the problem is that the government is still riding the high horse. It is still behaving as if it has all the answers to all our national questions. This kind of disposition can only complicate issues for government. If the drivers of the present administration can clothe themselves with humility, they will see the need to look beyond the party. They will look beyond partisanship and embrace those Nigerians, irrespective of party or religious affiliation, who can help them deal with the difficult situation the government has on its hands. Blaming the previous administration for its woes is escapist. It can only compound issues for the present administration. True change should be forward-looking.

But because the propaganda must continue, government decided to play with the idea of change beginning with us. That shows that the idea behind the propaganda has run dry. The propaganda machine is stuttering. It is no longer in full gear. Very soon, it will pack up completely. But before it grinds to a halt, it can conveniently be said that the change the APC promised Nigerians has, as things stand now, become a bare-faced deception and an unabashed piece of lie whose ultimate aim is to lead the people by the nose.

But government has the opportunity to make amends. It must realise that government is not run with propaganda.  Government should be people-centred and any government that aspires to serve the needs of the people must wean itself of propaganda and twisted logic.

•This piece column originally appeared in today’s edition of Daily Sun. Amanze Obi can be reached via amaobi@yahoo.co.uk

Source News Express

Posted 29/09/2016 9:24 PM

 

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