Column Opinion

Nigeria’s Ali Baba, Baba Sala, And The Forty Liars

By Prince Charles Dickson

“Are you a politician or does lying just run in your family?”

― Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café

A former United States President famously made more than 30,000 false or misleading claims during the four years of his presidency. This is an average of more than 20 a day.

In Nigeria a contender for public office will possibly tell twice that amount of lies depending on the office, and how long the campaign will last. And take it to the bank, they will most likely steal. In a conversation I was having with one of my students, it went thus

Student: How do you know when a Nigerian politician is lying?

Me: His lips are moving.

Student: But why do they lie?

Me: Because they can.

There is nothing as pitiful as a politician who is deficient in relaying untruths, when he lies, he lies, he learns to lie, he is Ali Baba, he is Baba Sala, in Northern parts he is Dan Iboro… lying and stealing come naturally.

They spin the truth to make themselves seem more capable and successful than they are and appeal to whoever they are talking to at the time. They make promises they know they won’t be able to keep.

However, truth be told, politicians lie partly because we are drawn to lies. We love to have our ears tickled and we love to believe gossip. Secondly, because in the political world, lying works. How does the saying go? “A lie travels halfway around the world before truth has put its pants on.” This is true even when we know, intuitively, that we were just lied to.

Yet tolerating habitual lying by your favorite politicians is identical to participating in it. Complain not when your moral blindness leads to you getting the very government you deserve.

In politics what you see is not what you get, you can tell Ali Baba is lying when they claim they want fairness for all. They’re part of and represent an unfair elite who will never share their wealth, power or opportunities with the underclass.

Ali Baba is promising peaceful, united Nigeria. I am happy that they know, or at least recognize the very sacrosanct fact; the nation is in shambles, peace elusive and divided more than any other time in her history. Baba Sala is insisting that he is the most experienced, on the strength of his current position, but Nigerians have heard these stories by the tales. The question is what have you really done Baba Sala, other than tell us lies, lies and more lies.

I won’t step down for any aspirants, and why I will win the party ticket…so says Ali Baba, even as Northern groups drum up support for him. Do you know that in every election circle, all parts of Nigeria have more than a dozen loads of support groups prepping the Ali Babas and Baba Salas? And after the drama, they leave the stage, some of them on D-Day, others defecting to other parties when you deny them the ticket, which they believed was solely theirs.

Baba Sala insists that his priority is the revitalization of the Ajaokuta Steel industry, let me remind us that in 1978 a candidate promised to kill all the mosquitoes in Lagos, while another stated he will put Air Conditioning on the streets. In recent times, we were promised a near end to corruption, let me not call names and open the proverbial fowl yansh.

Ali Baba vows that he will end insurgency, and that Nigeria needs a courageous President, implying that he was one, I recall only recently we asked for a strong president, these days all we get are assurances, and getting to the bottom of it, we have never solved any matter technically. Again, we are being courted with the poisoned chalice.

Baba Sala says that his presidency will build trust; Trusting Nigerian leaders are at our own peril, leaders who are ethnic warlords, faith fanatics, betraying collective trust at the slightest possible opportunity. So, Ali Baba is of the opinion that either Northeast Southeast should produce the president, and one wonders how that addresses the concerns of governance, accountability, and probity, it does not even in practice address the question of inequality and equity.

Baba Sala meets party stalwarts and promises restructuring and ‘real’ democracy. It is very good that they know that what we are currently practicing is nowhere what democracy should be, rather in Fela’s words this is a crass demonstration of craze. The promise of restructuring, one asks from the current structure what can be restructured?

Ali Baba promises purposeful leadership, that is one myth, a word that Nigerians do not understand. Even the purpose of Nigeria is becoming lost on Nigerians. A nation with plenty potential but sadly leaders with no purpose, drive and direction. Ali Baba wants to bring purposeful leadership, he says that’s why he wants to be president.

Baba Sala wants to follow in the steps of the incumbent, Ali Baba disagrees that anyone that would follow the incumbent should be rejected. Baba Sala says that the nation needs to address marginalization for us to progress. They seem to know what the problem is but all have two or more problems. (i) How to solve them, and secondly the will to attempt solving them when they get the office. They all say one thing and do not hesitate to do the opposite.

Ali Baba says power in the wrong hands will spell doom for the country, and we ask if power has really been in the right hands. If only the right hands had power albeit briefly, we wouldn’t be here with Ali Baba and Baba Sala promising robust engagement and innovative leadership, when we cannot solve fuel crises or education strikes, what is innovative or engaging?

Baba Sala says he will restore the North central as top agriculture destination, he forgets we need to be alive to eat Irish potatoes, we need his friend Ali Baba to provide stability, unite us and secure the land before talking about food security. Baba Sala insists that insecurity requires holistic treatment, we laugh, because even the thieves and liars themselves require holistic treatment of mind, spirit and soul to be able to give the nation any chance of a great future.

Ali Baba is promising true federalism and economic recovery, many of these liars and thieves are making promises, telling the populace what they want to hear, like in the past, some cried, some wailed, all kinds of gimmicks are at work, monies stolen from public tills will be on display.

There are Ali Babas and Baba Salas that will be pushing the messianic stance, telling us they are not desperate, and they love us more than we love ourselves, and they want the best for us. These times happen so fast that before we know, it would be “open sesame” and we have been hoodwinked.

The Nigerian nation is at her lowest ebb, yet there is hope, and indeed despite all the sad news, the bad occurrences, the level of insecurity, and economic hullabaloo. We do not need fine speeches, we are not in need of rhetoric, the nation is one of an enduring people that are saying, give us electricity, quality education, vastly improved health system, class transport systems, A people that is guided by the ethos of equity, fairness, rule of law and more.

Nigeria can get it right, if it gets the right leader, a visionary, one that sees things that are not, and asks why not, and wants to lead the charge, lead a new way of thinking and doing things. In the men that want to lead us come 2023 is there one any different, and if there is one, are we willing to stake our bets and for once do something different to get a different result—Only time will tell.

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