by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi
Lafia is a very common Hausa word which means peace or good health or even harmony in some spheres, dependent on where and how it is applied. It is common practice to name people based on the meanings of certain words in most African cultures. For example Mailafia is supposed to mean custodian of peace or good health. But it is inadvertent sometimes or even most times, that we find people with such names who do not necessarily display character that reflect the meaning of their names. A few days ago, Obadiah Mailafia was on the news for a highly inciting remark, claiming that a governor from the north was the leader of Boko Haram. On the face of it, it could be dismissed as ‘mai shayi’ gist, but on the flip of it; is a very dire and consequential claim that fingers government in the perpetuation of the killing of innocent individuals. What makes his statement very weighty aside the alarming and unsettling security claim, is that Mailafia is no ordinary Nigerian. Some have even complained why CBN has to be brought into the matter, but for heaven’s sake, Mailafia is a former CBN deputy governor. He was also a Fellow and sometime Acting Research Director at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS. He also served as a chief economist in the strategic planning and budgeting department of the African Developmemt Bank. He also served on a committee that advised then Federal Military Government, on a peaceful approach to the Nigeria-Cameroon Bakassi Peninsula dispute. Mailafia was also an evangelist with the Evangelical Reformed Church of Central Nigeria, ERCC. Mailafia was also the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; in the 2019 presidential elections.
So what should come ordinarily from Mailafia’s commentary in public should be nothing other than educative, Informative, insightful and diplomatic talk that the polity would gain from. But from his backtrack on national TV again, I saw him struggling in trying to say ‘uncorroborated’ – that what he had said earlier, could not be relied upon because his sources were not genuine. I gather that he later said that he heard it from traders in the market place. For a Nigerian development economist, an international polymath, a central banker, and a product of Oxford; such pep talk should never have come from him on a public platform as wide as national radio. Except if he had facts, and even if he did; as someone who had been in the system of governance; he surely knows how best to serve his information discreetly, to better serve the good of the nation. He has walked back his statements and the DSS seem to have given their okay, with the way he backtracked.
This brings us to the new broadcasting code and the N5million Naira fine that was imposed on the radio station, Nigeria info, for airing the interview where Mailafia let out the ‘uncorroborated’. As expected, the PDP spokesperson, Kola Ogbondiyan, spoke against the fine where he stated that, “as a party, the PDP stands against the draconian methods or underhand measures which this administration has set out to gag the media and erode the rights of Nigerians as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution as amended.” He insists that even if the president is libelled or infringed upon, the process for redress is clearly stated in the constitution and must be followed. Details of the new broadcasting code at this time are a bit sketchy but the fine imposed on the Nigeria Info broadcasting station seems to draw its powers from this new code. The governing board of the NBC are already at logger-heads with the Minister of Information, with the board saying that the Minister acted alone in producing this new code and thus it is legally not the product of the NBC. If the regulations of the new code infringe on the rights of citizens as enshrined in the constitution, then erring agencies will have no hard time challenging the provisions of the code in court. If the board and the ministry will unify behind the new code? that waits to be seen for now.
On a general note, Nigeria has been one bloody lucky polity where everything goes and zilch happens. Nigerian socio-political space has enjoyed so much providence, and we have simply mastered the art of taking things for granted and doing ‘anyhow’. Everyone does as he pleases, says what he wants and gets away with it. Government officials operate with impunity and there are no repercussions whatsoever. And how we have handled Covid-19? My God! If it were to really rain down on us? So help us God! (He has been helping anyway and I guess that’s how we have made it thus far).
VP Osinbajo has been on the receiving end of a lot of such untrue, fabricated and uncorroborated statements that claimed he has committed one kind of impropriety or the other. Today it is claimed he has taken 4 billion Naira from EFCC, tomorrow he has spent 10 billion from the TSA. On another note, FCMB mistakenly pays 450 million naira to a pastor’s account, and tomorrow it is withdrawn as a false representation. That is one side of the fake news industry and it seems almost 50% or more of every byte of news out there on social media is totally untrue. The other side of the ludicrous, malicious and outrageous news items that are peddled just to destabilise the polity, cause religious and ethnic disaffection. Those are the more worrisome sides of the fake news and their perpetrators. These are cleverly spread to undermine security, to cause fear, to create animosity between the people and their government, and to distract people from the little gains of our feeble democracy. Those are mostly for political gain and ethnicity and religion are the soft targets as instruments of destruction. So therefore, a system where there is appropriate action and punishment for wrongdoing is instilled is long overdue and more than necessary. Government needs to make scapegoats of this mess and since charity begins at home, this government must look at its barn first and sacrifice a few goats. Persons and organisations that are legendary in inciting people along ethnic and religious divides must be disciplined and brought to book. Media houses especially online media must be fined and held accountable for peddling fake news and rumors, just to incite the public, or taint some people and shed them in disparaging light. If something is not done now, soon enough, we may run out of our providence cards with God and Rwanda may be knocking on our doors.