WHEN POLITICIANS TRADE LIES BY EMEKA MADUNAGU





Here's an article I found . Please read and leave your comments. 

I was working on a central thread for this week’s column when my friend and colleague, Prince Charles Dickson (PCD), suddenly posted something on BBM. That got me laughing and thinking at the same time. I must confess that PCD is someone whose wit is simply infectious. His witty posts usually achieve a double effect: they make you move from laughter to thinking. So, it was that he posted this shocking quote: 

The only time politicians tell the truth is when they call each other liars. I don’t know what you make of this but I couldn’t help wondering at how poignant that assertion is. Now, I don’t lay any claim to understanding the intricate ways of politicians or politricians (like the Isekhure of Benin Kingdom, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, once told me in an interview). I remember in the heat of the Sharia crisis under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, then chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Zamfara State (pardon me. I don’t remember his name) said on a TV interview that if you are driving behind a politician and his car indicates that it will soon head left, just know that he will actually turn right. He used that to say the Sharia crisis was just a smokescreen for a hidden agenda. In recent months, politicians have been busy hurling invectives at each other. If it is not Peoples Democratic Party spokesman, Chief Olisa Metuh, hurling stones into the All Progressives Congress yard, then it’s APC spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, attacking one thing or the other about PDP. It also operates at different levels, with politicians frequently describing their colleagues as ‘liars.’

 Now, since I’m not a professional politician (?), I find it hard to understand when politics stopped being about lying (?) or rather, telling the people what they want to hear as against what they ought to hear. In gathering materials for this piece, I asked Google to give me information on ‘Politics and lying.’ What I got was 763,000,000 results. One of the results was about a 2011 book by political scientist, John Mearsheimer, titled, ‘Why leaders lie: The truth about lying in international politics.’ 

Here is a sampler from Wikipedia. com about the synopsis of the book: The book has a perface, an introduction and nine chapters. Mearsheimer systematically analyzes lying in international politics. He argues that leaders lie to foreign audiences as well as their own people because they think it is good for their country. For example, he maintains that President Franklin D. Roosevelt lied about the Greer incident in August 1941, because he was deeply committed to getting the United States into World War II, which he thought was in America’s national interest. ‘Mearsheimer’s findings include that leaders actually do not lie very much to other countries, and that democratic leaders are actually more likely to lie to their own people than autocrats. 

Thus, he starts his book by saying that it is not surprising Saddam Hussein did not lie about having WMD — he truthfully said he had none — but that George Bush and some of his key advisors did lie to the American people about the threat from Iraq. Mearsheimer argues that leaders are most likely to lie to their own people in democracies that fight wars of choice in distant places. The author says that it is difficult for leaders to lie to other countries because there is not much trust among them, especially when security issues are at stake, and you need trust for lying to be effective. He concludes that it is easier for leaders to lie to their own people because there is usually a good deal of trust between them. ‘Mearsheimer suggests that most political lies fall into one of five categories: inter-state lies, fear-mongering, strategic cover-ups, nationalist myths, and liberal lies. 

He explains the reasons why leaders pursue each of these different kinds of lies. He also says that international lying can have negative effects, and there he emphasizes “blowback,” which is where telling international lies helps cause a culture of deceit at home, and “backfiring,” which is where telling a lie leads to a failed policy. He also emphasizes that there are two other kinds of deception besides lying: “concealment,” which is where a leader remains silent about an important matter, and “spinning,” which is where a leader tells a story that emphasizes the positive and downplays or ignores the negative. Mearsheimer does not consider the moral dimension of international lying; he looks at it simply from a realist perspective.’ 

This brought home the recent revelation that Chad fooled Nigerian officials into thinking it was working on a real ceasefire deal between Nigeria and Boko Haram. The expose detailed how Chadian President, Idris Deby, allegedly organised phoney discussions on the possibility of reaching a deal with Boko Haram. One consequence of the deception was that it made Nigerian military authorities to suspend the bombing of Boko Haram locations. The alleged deal also raised hope about the likely release of the Chibok girls. Surprisingly, the ink had hardly dried on the ceasefire statement by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, when the sect moved into some parts of Adamawa and Borno states, killing and destroying. That set Nigerians wondering about what manner of ceasefire deal had been reached. There was also the idea that the agreement may have been reached with the wrong set of Boko Haram representatives. 

The sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, made matters worse when he posted a video, dismissing reports of the so-called deal. Last week, PDP governors openly described their fellow party members in the Senate as ‘liars.’ Governor after governor came out to say that a reported concession by President Goodluck Jonathan and the party’s national leadership for 40 senators to get automatic tickets was a bundle of lies. Whaaaat! Anyway, the more you look, the less you see in Nigerian politics. Or the less you want to see. Some weeks ago, it was Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, and his predecessor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, calling each other a liar in the public space. The truth was not lost on Nigerians that, as my friend PCD said, that in between the allegations of lying, the truth was hiding somewhere. When the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, dumped PDP for APC, he claimed that the platform had deviated from the path of serving Nigerians. Next thing, the ruling party’s spokesmen fell over themselves, calling him out on his claims. When APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, recently advised President Jonathan to resign for being unable to put down the insurgency, the Presidency replied by saying that no president had ever resigned during a war. Swiftly, the APC accused the Presidency of lying, saying that Neville Chamberlain resigned as British Prime Minister on May 10, 1940 after Adolf Hitler forced the allies to retreat from Norway.


 As we grapple with a season of lies and counter-lies, I leave our readers with these lessons from an article by Peaco Todd titled, ‘5 signs that a politician is lying.’ They are: 1. Notice eye contact. It’s a myth that liars won’t or can’t make eye contact. However, look for unnatural eye contact: either the person is unable to maintain contact or s/he fixes you (or the camera) with a strained and aggressive stare. 2. Read body language. Pay attention to such indicators as crossed arms or legs, slouching or tilting the head away: these can indicate the discomfort that accompanies lying. 3. Follow the eyes. Many researchers posit that when the eyes look up and to the right (his or her right, not yours) this suggests that the part of the brain linked to the imagination is being triggered. Conversely, the eyes looking down and to the left might indicate the part of the brain linked to memory. 4. Look at the hands. Often liars’ hands will speak eloquently of deception. Watch for clenched fists, covering the mouth or part of the face, rubbing the eyes, scratching on or behind the ear. 5. Pay attention to detail. The person who offers too much detail, especially unasked, might be lying. Because the narrative of the lie is fabricated, the liar can often be tripped up by inconsistencies in the story, especially if the same questions are repeated after some time has passed. It’s a global phenomenon of trading lies. So, Nigerian politicians have some consolation that they are not alone when they trade blame about lying. BTW: Please, don’t say I told you to look at the nearest politician to find out for yourself whether Peaco Todd’s signs are there. Till next week, enjoy!

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