By Martins Oloja
Three years ago, I used this same construct: the correlation between the truth the Jews put in a grave more than two thousand years ago and the truth we continue to reject in our political system. We haven’t changed. What can illustrate that more than this extract from the Bible: And so when the crowd had gathered then the Pilate asked the crowd who should I let go, Jesus, who is called the Messiah or Jesus Barrabas, the thief? The people shouted: Barrabas, (the thief) Matthew 27:22. Curiously, more than 2000 years after, we the people still prefer the thieves!
I would like us to re-examine the ancient plot of how truth was put in a grave at the time and what happened thereafter. In the complex logistics of everyday life as a journalist reporting, writing and analysing issues in the news that feeds our fragile democracy, it is quite clear to me that there has been too much deception in most of our affairs. As one encounters fellow citizens of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good people who will tell you the truth about anything from the mundane to the serious issues of life. The artisans, the mechanics, the petty traders in your estate, all are artful dodgers in the business of people deceiving people. They deceive you about current trends and pricing and the nexus between it and transportation. They deceive about the effect of weak Naira and COVID-19 on the prices of even kola-nuts, pepper, tomatoes and sundry food items. It is worrisome that even church elders and leaders deceive their congregation that cannot “study to show themselves approved” these days. The dubious pastors quote scriptures out of context to deceive miracle (not Christ’s) seekers.
It is obvious that clerics of some other faiths too deceive their followers with scriptures that they know the illiterate and the poor in their congregation cannot read. They hypnotise malleable and naïve millions with elements that appeal to the flesh and base sentiments. Gripped by the arms of flesh that will always weaken the physical man, these ignorant ones are told that they will get to sleep with hundreds of virgins in paradise if they can carry out certain deadly operations against some unbelievers. They are never told the truth about how to make heaven. It is clear to me that the spirit of deception is now very strong in our midst and it has become a potent weapon that drives our governance system and, in fact, part of the news items and impurities that feed our democracy. It is also said that most of us as citizens have given up on the pursuit of truths. It is also saddening that our leaders now daily exploit our culture of low expectation and indeed laziness nurtured by the newspeak now dressed as political correctness to tell us damned lies. They now lie with statistics even in this age of the big data. Our leaders have been lying to us since democracy returned in 1999 why they cannot give this blessed nation electricity, for instance. Since 1999, they have been hovering around 5000 megawatts of electricity. I now understand from Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary that deception is actually one of the most powerful – albeit negative – forces in the universe.
According to the public commentator on CultureWatch, it is risky to discount the enormous power of deception. All forms of deception can be immensely powerful and controlling, and self-deception is certainly one of the most worrisome among them. The ability of people to deceive themselves, or be deceived, seems almost limitless. And I think that is where we have been since 1966 when the ‘militicians’ struck and toppled democracy and federalism.
And once someone is in the throes of deception, it can be very hard indeed to break people out of that. It is like some great force has taken over and they become almost unreachable. It is as if they are now under the control of someone else. And they are.
Research has shown that there are different types of deception. Mass deception is another sort that is frightening to behold. The power that demagogues and charismatic leaders can have over the masses is all too familiar. Whether it be a Hitler, or a Jim Jones, or some other cult leader or political personality, masses can be easily led – and deceived – by these leaders.
Even those who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can have their heads and hearts turn to mush as they hold some men of God and leaders up to be some messiah figure. They are quite happy to jettison core biblical values such as humility, righteousness, godliness, integrity, honesty and decency as they shill for their man of God as if he were God of man.
According to Bill, that is mass deception of a high order, and it is one of the most shocking things we have had to deal with in recent times in this new world. But individuals can and do become deceived quite easily as well.
But the good news is that there is yet another powerful force that can neutralise the power of deception. The name of that powerful force is truth. It is written that it (truth) is the most powerful force on earth. I had never been conscious of the power of this ancient word until 2013 when a Muslim friend and a colleague who is a member of the Guild of Editors, sent me a stunningly deep Easter greeting: ‘Martins, this season means just one inescapable fact: that you can actually keep the truth in a grave but it won’t stay there.’ I was shocked to receive this message from a Muslim. I have been sharing the import of the message actually credited to Clarence W. Hall who originally noted that:
“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”
The original Easter quote:
“If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: You can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise.”
Even before Hall was a synoptic preface to this: Some 2500 years ago, the three guardsmen of Persian king Darius held a contest as to what was the strongest thing in the world. The first wrote, ‘wine is the strongest”. The second wrote, “the king is strongest.” The third wrote, “women are strong but above all things, truth is strongest” (1 Esdras 3:10-12) And as Carlo Beenakker was quoted as saying on this at the Phoenix Institute Symposium on Responsibility in decision making” (Bruge Belgium, 2000), what message could a scientist have, at the gathering of young professionals focused on “responsibility in decision making”? I have one message: Truth is strongest. Which is what may have inspired Mike Murdock who is credited with saying that, “Truth is the most powerful force on earth because it cannot be changed.”
The point I have been trying to make today is that there is a need for national value reorientation for all of us as citizens, leaders and followers to imbibe a culture of telling the truth at all times. Specifically, those who have a responsibility to lead us at any levels should note the subtext of Clarence W. Hall that “you can put truth in a grave, it won’t stay there…”. I mean here that our leaders at all levels need to know that no one teaches anymore Joseph Goebbels Principles of Propaganda in today’s world of the big data, except for the purpose of historical references. In today’s world being daily driven by the forces of “citizen journalism” powered at the speed of thought by the big data dynamics being leaked to the cyberspace, no one teaches “principles of propaganda” for the purpose of driving operational efficiency in marketing management or public communications or reputation management. Deception, yes, deception management is a hard sell now in dealing with issues that are either customer-centric or people-oriented.
That is why we need to tell reputation managers, political managers and those who manage their lies and lying liars that tell them (apology to Senator Al Franken, U.S) that they need to imbibe a culture of telling the people, their customers nothing but the truth at all times. They do not need to deceive the people about the medical conditions of their principals. They do not need to hide any truth of their net-worth even in dollars anymore. Our leaders yesterday and today need to tell us point blank that the parlous state of the hospitals in the country has compelled them to seek medical advice or check-up in the West. They should not allow dangerous exigencies such as COVID-19 to call out that hospitals in Nigeria are ‘mere consulting clinics’. They should not create a diary of confusion in the system when it comes to managing presidential movements. Has the truth they put in a grave about a chief of staff’s medical condition not come out after a week? I hope public officers who are feeding fat on the blood money – COVID-19 relief funds are aware that they are merely hiding the truth in a grave. Do they know in this age of forensic money trail driven by “citizen journalism” where information rips out of a grave at the speed of thought (not of light anymore)?
The lesson of how to prevent public relations disaster should not be lost on all our leaders: they should tell us everything about themselves. They should tell us how much they earn, their net-worth including constituency and other sundry allowances from the public purse. The reasons are not far to seek. The truth is the same for everyone. It is not relative, not bound to a certain culture or ideology.
There is only one truth, not a scientific truth on the one hand, and a religious or political truth on the other hand. The conclusion of the whole matter is that we should at all times remember that as leaders and managers, we can keep or even hide the truth in a grave, it won’t stay there. Just as it happened more than two thousand years ago when they kept Him in a grave: after just three days, truth resurrected.
That is what Christians are celebrating today in a global context. Yes, that is the truth, the most powerful force on earth. Tell it, and you will be set free. If you hide it in a grave, it won’t stay there!