The relationship between lying and Nigerian politics

Umahi legacy


By Abdul-Azeez Suleiman

If we want to be generous, we could say it is an occupational hazard for politicians to occasionally back themselves into the type of corner where they need to take a creative attitude to the truth. When a politician is on the campaign trail, trying to be all things to all people, he is bound to talk up his achievements or promises a little too much. That is simply the nature of the game. It is how it has always been.

Yet in Nigeria, over these last few years, we have witnessed this relationship grow ever more intimate, until today it has reached a stage where it is often completely shameless. Lying – and doing so in a blatant way – is now such a part of everyday politics that it is barely newsworthy anymore. We are at the point where, the Nigerian government and politicians are now lying about lying, and doing so with impunity.
After decades of almost daily dishonesty, it is difficult to take our political leaders entirely seriously. The problem, however, is that all those who are supposedly in a position to take action against this constant rewriting of reality, instead end up condoning and reinforcing it.

For several of today’s political leaders, it seems preferable to spin an entirely fabricated tale than to admit to making a mistake. And this, ultimately, is the biggest problem about the intimate relationship between politics and lying in Nigeria.

In the case of many of our most high-profile politicians, it is not merely that they are lying about lying to the electorate; they are also lying to themselves about what constitutes a lie.