There’s no denying it, a propaganda centre is in place for the government in Abuja as alleged by journalism professor Farooq Kperogi. Forget the semantics of its name and the hackneyed denial of state sponsorship of its operations. If anything, the denial by fellow pen pusher, Muhammad Labbo amounted to playing smart but not being clever or at best being clever by half. Labbo’s point was that the group is called Buhari Media Support Group, and not Buhari Support Organisation and that it receives no state sponsorship. Anyone who has followed the trial of former NSA Sambo Dasuki’s fund disbursements would laugh at these pronouncements.
The fact that this government has a ministry of information headed by a man whose single voice tracked everything that stirred in the era of locusts; information officers in each ministry and parastatal; a public radio and television and a news agency to do its work elicits the question – why a parallel group? The group’s name is just a question of semantics. Kperogi’s social media post questions why such a group is needed when there are duplicitous array of official media advisers paid from public purse but evidently not making required impact.
At the last count, the Buhari government has in addition two erudite editors who are former presidents of the Guild speaking for it but who, evidently are paying catch up. In the past, Mallam Garba Shehu has had to tackle Kperogi, his former student at the Bayero University, Kano. It would appear the action was to show that he requires nothing but unquestioned loyalty from his former student. In life, respect is earned, not bestowed – except in our clime where we live by the Jamaican proverb – before alligator, Mr. Alligator; behind alligator Mr. Longmouth.
As it stands, we have special adviser and advisers to special advisers whose professional weight ought to drive information but are evidently slacking. The real issue here is that this group exists at all beyond the campaign period when Buhari was fighting government-sponsored propaganda and that it draws funds from unnamed friends of the government. Propaganda groups exist to do a failing regime’s dirty work. A parallel media group outside government information machinery is itself acceptance of failure.
From the fringes, I have watched the ding-dong between citizen Kperogi and the Sai Baba hailing crowd. When government machinery and its hack group concentrate on silencing one single critic, there is something to it. Kperogi has paid his dues as a whistle blower. His expose on intellectual Tartuffe is unparalleled and predates the Buhari regime.
There is this dangerously ludicrous idea that people who live in Naija love the nation more than its citizens who live abroad and that those who live outside have lost the moral and inalienable right to comment and criticise their home government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take the financial contributions of Naija citizens abroad from our economy and it would simply collapse. We are all involved!
There is also an erroneous belief that no real Muslim criticises another Muslim in leadership position, but that rather pray for them. This is nonsense. Of course there are those hailers who see nothing wrong with Buhari because he is a fellow northerner – this is shameful because the legitimacy of a president’s mandate is validated by his popularity across regions and indeed religions.
We all have stakes in the evolution of our democracy and the growth of our country, whether we live in Amukoko or Amsterdam. The Naija blood flows in our veins. Unquestioned loyalty is dangerous for leaders as it is for followers. Is this government afraid of its own shadows? Is there a fear that if the likes of Kperogi are not silenced, the growing public discontent might bring it down? Truth is that Buhari’s popularity rating is evidently lower now than it was pre-election but only tangible actions can shore it up, not propaganda.
The development of any society owes a lot to robust criticism and close marking. There is so much to be learnt from conscientious criticism than could be garnered from blind followership. No amount of propaganda reduces the price of rice or gari that is now imported from India. Nor can it reduce the rising cost of living or the price of drugs. Those who concentrate all their energies on bringing down critics instead of looking in the mirror at the image the critic is sharing imperil the growth of our democracy. Sad would be the day when Buhari or any leader gets 100% popularity rating! It is shameful when propaganda is parcelled as someone’s conscientious opinion on social and mainstream media.
There is the blackmail that most critics seek popularity for political appointments or electoral gains. As funny as it sounds, public office is not the exclusive preserve of anybody or group, it is open to those who want it. Those who get there through criticism have a higher burden to walk their talk and many who tried it are failing. There are altruists among critics. They are a nation’s needed conscience.