Tuesday 23 February 2016

After the promise, comes the Lai By Emmanuel Bello

After the promise, comes the Lai

When you find it difficult to fulfill a promise, you could lessen the impact of the embarrassing situation by doing any one of the following.  One, you could deny ever making such a promise in the first place, accusing your opponents of trying to set you up. This method is very effective when dealing with imbeciles and children, though the latter group almost never ever forget a promise made. Two, you could advance fantastic reasons you can’t keep the promise like pointing to the huge pile of work you are dealing with. The problem with this method is that people are bound to ask you if you were not aware of these same things when you were busy making promises.
Three, you can blame internal saboteurs and swear on your good intentions. Your traducers may not take you seriously if that’s all you can come up with. Even the road to hell is paved with good intentions, they would remind you. Finally, you could just shut up and leave everyone wondering. After all, no one can misquote silence! And promises, by nature, are very tacky things: the more you want them to go away, the more they stare you in the face, demanding that you own up to them.

Sometimes, you are even forced to wonder why you ever made the promise in the first place. Did you underestimate the challenge? Were you deceived by campaign directors who only used your influence to grab power? Were you out of touch when making the promises? These are the questions that keep many a power broker awake at nights? They even come out sometimes to sound as if they are regretting (remember “why did I become president?”) But then campaigns are all about promises and nothing is wrong with that because that is how to win elections. With the crowd surging and the heat on; and with the need to sway the mob, a desperate candidate could about just make any promise he or she had no idea how they were going to be fulfilled. 
 I’ve been on some campaign trail myself and I can speak of the urgency, the atmosphere and the energy that propels such promises. A candidate arrives a rally ground amid frenzied supporters chanting the campaign’s slogan. The campaign’s top directors whispers something to the candidate minutes before he climbs the podium, telling him what they believe the audience wants to hear. It may be the need to fix a bad road; or to build a bridge; or to provide a befitting hospital; or to tackle youth unemployment; or to build a school, market, hall or some other needs of the community.

As a candidate, there is always no time to interrogate those needs and investigate the enormity of the challenge. No time to ask the very important question on whether there would be funds to prosecute the promised projects. At the campaigns, you have no idea the global economy was going to run into serious bad weather; you have no idea you may be saddled with incompetent lieutenants. You may have a sound and iron clad idea of the lofty plans you have for the state or country but you never can tell that litigations and other politics would eat up the time. 
Or those four years is actually such a small time in dealing with challenges. Or those problems don’t just go away at the wave of a magic wand. But with campaign music blaring and in the heat of the moment, what matters is grabbing votes and the best way to go about it is to slam your opponents and talk about a new day.  And if your main rival is the incumbent, the job is even easier. All you need do is query his records, blame all the failures on him, and turn the crowd against him. 
Tell them that the fading regime has made their lives miserable and had squandered their common good will. Tell them the regime did not keep any of the promises they made. Point out the bad roads, or the clinic that wasn’t built or some other things. Ask your crowd if they want to still live with four more years of the crisis they are dealing with. Then make your own promises. Tell them, you would wipe away their tears and that business would not be the same anymore. Ensure you have a catch phrase like “Redemption” “Salvaging”, “change”, “new order”, “fresh air” etc. This is even more effective when you are armed with the broom – a symbol of cleansing and renewal.

Honestly, that was a very effective thing by the All Progressive Congress (APC). I remembered how the broom became such a scary object to the ruling party at the campaign. I still can’t forget the fear and anger the simple item instilled in many politicians. In fact, one top member of the PDP, back then, banned the commodity from his house. He just couldn’t stand the sight of brooms. Yet, the majority of electorate held on tenaciously to their brooms, provocatively waving them, hoping for a better deal. But the story has suddenly changed in less than a year. You hardly even see the broom again adorning cars as some fans were doing last year.  Anger, fear and a certain sense of despondency appear to be taking over. In some areas of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), you may not be treated well should you scream “Sai Baba” – that rallying war chant that dealt a death blow on the former ruling party.

I find that amusing because, let’s face it, not all the current crises are as a result of what critics are calling a clueless leadership. As a journalist, I try to be more realistic: the president can’t be blamed for everything. Can he? But even as I write this, I know that some would disagree, noting the buck stops at the Aso Villa. And many countrymen and women are pointing at the promises of a better deal that made them vote in this government. They voted, among other things, for better electricity as they were promised. The light actually improved as promised. For a while, everyone was elated by the change in the electricity profile as power improved. I visited a top PDP chieftain in the early days of the new regime. I found out he was really happy with the new nation’s leader. I was surprised because I thought he should be pining away after the defeat.
 He laughed when I expressed my confusion and said: “Emma, look up there (pointing to the ceiling). There is light. Did you hear any generators making noise? So you see, even because of this light alone sef I’m really happy.”
I visited the same chieftain last week and saw the old anger building up again. I didn’t need to ask him why. His generators were blaring again. And when a certain minister showed up on his TV screen, I saw him reaching for the remote control to change channels with a scowl! Oh, and the minister on TV was my big brother and mentor, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information. 
Honestly, Sir, I know how it feels. I used to have this kind of job at the state’s level and, believe it or not, Sir, I know how tough it is. At a point, even you begin to feel that the politicians can make your life easier if only they try and do their home and keep their promises. For now, just know that they brought you in actually to clean up their diapers. And all anger, frustrations and insults would first get to you before your bosses. But, make your life more stress-free, sir by subtlety getting them to keep some simple promises. If they can, that is.

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