By Lekan Sote
To aid your understanding of the logical paradox of the pseudomenos, the science of lying, take a look at a posting culled from the Facebook page of Lolu Akinwunmi, Group Chief Executive Officer of Prima Garnet Africa.
It goes: “The liar argues, if I say, ‘I am lying,’ then if I am lying, I am telling the truth. And if I am telling the truth, I can’t be lying. And if it is the truth, it must be true that I am lying.” This may have twisted you quite a bit, but it only means that if you admit to a lie, you are being truthful.
Those who say that a cup is half full or half empty, offer an advantage to those seeking to tweak facts to suit their purposes. The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola’s argument that Nigerian roads “are not as bad as they are often portrayed,” is an optimistic perspective.
But his quip, “That’s your headline, we know,” while addressing a press conference on the state of Nigerian roads, got up the dander of the media, and it escalated the confusion of perspectives.
The media cast the headline, “Fashola says Nigerian roads are not that bad.” The Nigerian Employers Consultative Association promptly responded, “The minister is not in touch with reality. He needs to speak with his road maintenance engineers, and get the true situation of Nigerian roads.”
Unlike a witness in court, who is expected to say “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” to avoid perjury, a journalist can emphasise an angle to a story without necessarily compromising the truth of the story; it’s called “framing.”
Ambassador Emmanuel, Jr. tweeted that maybe the minister, who apparently prefers the half full cup perspective, needs to tour the roads. Adebayo Onanuga, the immediate past Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, momentarillly found his journalism mojo, and reportedly saw a half empty cup especially concerning the state of the roads leading to his hometown, Ijebu Ode, in Ogun State.
Though it is true that Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, appeared in an Abuja Federal High Court in a wheelchair, no one can say, for sure, the truth about his state of health.
However, there are myths that there is an inexplicable affinity between Nigerian courtrooms and state actors who appear in court in wheelchairs in order to answer cases of one misdemeanour or the other.
A myth, some would argue, is a speculation, which may be supported by a view once expressed by former American President John F. Kennedy, to wit: “For the great enemy of truth is not the lie… but the myth…”
Journalists, who say that “News is sacred, comments free,” take refuge under the opportunity of “academic freedom” to interpret an event according to their individual understanding– or limitation.
The process of news analysis and interpretation is what transforms data, or facts, from what may be conveyed into information, or knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.
The late Dr. Delu Ogunade, who taught news reporting in the Department of Mass Comminication of University of Lagos, insists that you must first report that an individual is six feet in height, before you can determine whether he is tall or short.
To basketball player, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who was 7 feet 2 inches, Nigeria’s Akeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, whose height is seven feet, would be a short man. But for Michael Jordan, another basketball great, listed at 6 feet, 6 inches, Olajuwon would be a tall man.
Sociologists, who say it’s the law of relativity that applies here, argue that the truth that you see will depend on your perspective. And it’s difficult to disagree with that argument. Esu, that the Yoruba regard as the confuser of men, may mix his colours in such a way that two men, flanking him, would see two different colours.
Because the first can see red from his side, while the other sees black, it will be very difficult for both men to agree on what they saw. Esu, of the Yoruba pantheon, may have to make a 180 degree turn for either man to see that Esu had been playing with their optics. As they say, the devil is in the detail.
The Nigerian Constitution continues to maintain a lie, as its Preamble still reads, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolved… do hereby make, and give ourselves the following Constitution.”
Many Nigerians disagree with this claim.
They insist that there was no time that they, or their delegates, ratified the sham constitution. They insist that because the constitution was proclaimed by a military decree, constitutional experts may have a tough time explaining to them that Nigeria is not still under military rule.
If you told them that holders of offices in both the executive and the legislative branches in all tiers of government are civilians, they counter that so were the executive and legislative arms of the (very military) Interim National Government of Ernest Shonekan.
American televangelist, Frederick K.C. Price, has an interesting approach to the matter of when a lie is indeed true. He once argued that whereas everything in the Bible is truly stated, not everything in the Bible is true.
The fib told to Jacob by his older sons that their brother, Joseph, had been killed was a lie that was truthfully stated. Another lie, truthfully stated in the Bible, is that by Isaac, who told the people of Gerar that his wife, Rebecca, was his sister, because he feared they would kill him.
In claiming that the Bible is the Word of God, or at least inspired by God, Bible scholars must however recognise some of the false claims made by some characters in the Bible narratives, and accept that the Bible contains not only truths, but also half truths, and outright lies.
And this, in the view of logicians, would not necessarily cast them in the mould of apostates or unbelievers. They will only be confirming that the Bible, being a faithful chronicler, contains stories that are truly stated, even if they were lies.
Perhaps, the professional with the greatest credibility problem is the public relations officer, who is unjustifiably expected by most people to lie all the time. Whatever he says, or doesn’t say, is suspect, even before he addresses his audience.
Recall the way correspondents looked on, with a wry and knowing smile, whenever Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary, attempted to answer their questions concerning American President Donald Trump, who is admittedly hard to sell.
Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger State East Senatorial District, is sponsoring a bill for, “Prohibition from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation,” which prescribes N150,000 fine, or three years in prison, or both, for posting falsehoods on social media.
The imprecise definition of the fake news – that this bill seeks to control – will provide government the liberty to define what amounts to an offence, and then jail Nigerians according to its whim – in the manner of the outrageously intolerant Decree 4 of 1984.
If President Muhammadu Buhari signs this obnoxious bill into law, it will be difficult for him to lie, or truthfully say, he has no hand in it.