• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Who dare say the Emperor is naked?

Untitled design – 2020-08-22T115524.515

At the ripe old age of 11, when people are typically most concerned with videogames, action figures and the onset of pubescence, I had a different set of, externally enforced, concerns. Born into a religious cult, I was going through an unusually early period of development and self-awareness that made me keenly, painfully aware that something was definitely off.

So many African states put an incredible amount of work into seeding slanted public discourse and planting convenient narratives whose singular aim is to confuse young Africans and misdirect their political energies

When I was forced to carry around a legal document insisting that I must not be given a blood transfusion in the event of an accident no matter what, I suddenly began to understand. With mounting alarm, I began to understand that the religion I had known all my life was a polished, socially graceful version of the various American religious cults I was raised to look down on including the Branch Davidians and the Mormons.

Of course, leaving the cult even as an adult would be far easier said than done. If I wanted to retain all the privilege I was born into, the easier decision was to simply put my head down and do as I was told. There was, however, a principle that I was unwittingly exposed to very early on that possessed me and made it impossible to think any other way.

The principle was this – if the emperor is not wearing clothes, never lie to yourself that he is anything but naked. Always tell the truth to yourself and if possible, to whoever will listen.

Clothing the naked truth

Nineteen years later, that basic principle, the backbone of my decision to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses as soon as I could, is still an ever-present element in how I view the wider world of politics, governance, economics and culture. There are very few young Nigerians who maintain an intellectually consistent worldview. Few can hold their own in the face of peer pressure to conform to the latest narrative. Perhaps most never had to deal with existential questions at 11 years of age. however, so it is understandable why
from Kigali to Harare to Abuja, post-independence African governments are unfortunately all too aware of this. So many African states put an incredible amount of work into seeding slanted public discourse and planting convenient narratives whose singular aim is to confuse young Africans and misdirect their political energies.

In Nigeria for example, there is a well-funded independent media, marketing and public relations organisation known as the Buhari New Media Centre (BNMC), whose sole raison d’être is to push pro-government and pro-party narratives – regardless of how distinctly illiterate or divorced from reality, they are. This organisation has people who work day and night to seed social media with strategic lies and mischaracterisations, place dishonest stories and opinion pieces in print media, lead broadcast conversations with compromised TV and radio personalities, and even call in on talk shows to shill for the Buhari junta while posing as regular callers.

The ruinous effect of this incredible effort to deliberately make Nigerians ignorant is undeniable. It has blinded most to the economic suicide mission Nigeria has embarked upon. Nigeria now owes more than it earns in a year. To plug this gap it is harassing an impoverished private sector. At the same time splurging billions of dollars on gas pipelines to Kano and railways to Maiduguri. A growing number are either completely unaware that this is the state of their country or are ‘Buharistans’ – true believers in the doctrine of Buhari.

The emperor’s privates may be out in the open, but as long as the Buhari New Media Centre and its various partners and proxies stay on their job, everyone will either keep quiet or convince themselves that he is dressed in resplendent, glorious, flowing robes visible only to those who ‘believe.’

Nasir El-Rufai is definitely not naked

Nasir El-Rufai is about as statesmanlike as he is Russian – the entire concept of political stability, respect and basic human decency is completely lost on him.

Here is a question: Since 2015, what Nigerian state has been in the news almost exclusively for death and disaster including an internationally-condemned massacre of over 300 Shiite Moslems, constant kidnappings and attacks on travellers, and a series of consistent and well-planned village massacres by apparently amorphous “armed bandits”? Here is a second question: Who is the governor of that state?

Clearly the state in question is Kaduna state and the governor is a certain Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai. Said individual is an internationally recognised ethno-religious demagogue and a blatant, unhidden supporter of ethnic purges on the people of southern Kaduna who happen to belong to a religion he openly despises. If there were to be an objective ceiling-to-floor ranking of current Nigerian public office holders based on their statements and conduct in office, El-Rufai would be buried beneath the foundations of the building.

For added measure, he even manages to radiate the same horrible energy he is renowned for through his children, who regularly appear on social media and threaten to rape elderly women, use vile ethnic slurs and boast about their father’s unexplained wealth. Nasir El-Rufai is about as statesmanlike as he is Russian – the entire concept of political stability, respect and basic human decency is completely lost on him. There are few people in existence whom I would argue have no redeeming feature whatsoever, but he would be right at the top of my list.

The reason I used three paragraphs to outline the extent of El-Rufai’s abominable public profile is to juxtapose it with how his name still apparently remains popular in conversations about “Nigeria’s best public administrators,” “the best president Nigeria never had,” and even “Nigeria’s next president.” If one is not familiar with how the BNMC template is used to deceptively orchestrate public discourse so as to make someone who is an objectively despicable politician, a mediocre administrator and an abject human being appear to be some sort of messiah, one might be confused as to why such a person continues to have his name mentioned in such conversations.

If one is then unwilling to stick one’s head above the wave of manufactured opinion to call out Nasir El-Rufai’s clear state of undress, the big lie goes unchallenged. As this continues, eventually everyone will conclude that his continued presence in the public space must mean that he somehow has something to offer, as against merely being a cynical political operator who spends money on hired mouthpieces to loudly praise the beauty and quality of his wonderful invisible clothing while his gonads lazily flop around in the savannah wind.

The past week saw the first stirrings of a possible critical mass of young Nigerians who finally got tired of taking part in this charade and loudly called out the accidental public servant’s clear state of nakedness. While high fives are in order, it would be a huge mistake to think that the war has been won. More traditional media mouthpieces will be enlisted in the coming days and weeks. Paid social media amplifiers will be furnished with glitzy photos of areas making up less than 0.1 percent of Kaduna state. Mr El-Rufai will be inundated with public messages of support and sympathy from his own political formation.

He will be invited to speak at dozens of events. Eventually, as always, he will then start to rewrite the story of his disinvitation from the NBA conference in a way that will make him the victim of a sectional, ethnic and especially religious hang-up. He – the living embodiment of the word ‘bigot’ will annex that very word and weaponise it against those who got him disinvited. It is the Nasir El-Rufai way and he is nothing if not predictable.

How do you counteract such people whose breakfast, lunch and supper are bad faith actions and disingenuousness? Just do what I do in the face of a wall of propaganda and dishonest narratives – never lie to yourself that the emperor is anything but naked. Always tell the truth.