Yahaya Bello and “the Danger of a Single Story”
By Hafsat Ibrahim
“I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”
That was vintage Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one of the greatest story tellers of this generation, a compelling writer and powerful, world-class speaker who holds her audience spellbound with the depth, originality and sincerity of her thoughts and who tells her own life story and that of Nigeria and Africa in an infectious manner that makes her listeners want to live her past and experience her background.
In her celebrated TED Talk speech titled: “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda warned against one-sided narratives, incomplete stories and biased delivery of events and issues that lead to stereotypes against individuals, nations and races. According to her, a single story breeds ignorance and makes people misconstrue isolated events as the norm just as they misconstrue individual shortcomings as negative traits of the whole.
She told her own personal story of how the wrongful notions she got from childhood misled her into wrong conclusions and how she overcame them as events unfolded in her evolution. She also told the audience about how her American classmates were surprised about how brilliant she was, how perfect her mastery of the English Language was and how much of positive attributes she displayed despite coming from Africa which was supposed to be the darkest part of the world where disease, famine and violence were the order of the day, as has been portrayed by the western media and western literatures.
Perhaps the biggest victim of “a single story” in Nigeria is Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state. He is probably the most misunderstood and widely misrepresented governor in the country. As governor, focusing a lot of your attention on the job and how to liberate your people from poverty and insecurity with little or no time, energy and resources for self-promotion and blowing your own trumpet has its advantage. The advantage is that there will be a lot of progress and the results will be there for all to see. But the disadvantage is that professional spin doctors and propagandists can get away with outright lies and half-truths about your administration.
And one fundamental fact about falsehood is that when it has been repeatedly told across all media platforms and in every village square, it gradually begins to assume the status of truth in the minds of majority of people.
So the governor had an opportunity to personally dispel all the rumours, lies and misconceptions about salary payments and management of state finances in a recent interview with BBC Hausa Service programme titled: “A Fada A Cika” and hosted by Aliyu Abdullahi Tanko.
He said: “When I assumed office in 2016, I met a lot of challenges which made it difficult for my first tenure to be fruitful in terms of security, infrastructure, salary payment and unity in the state. The state was also in debt before I assumed office. I conducted screening and noticed that many teachers were not educated which was why I sacked the unqualified ones and slashed salaries in order to get full graduates employed for the job. Many people have lied against me for not paying staff salaries since I became the governor of Kogi state. They are all lies. We are up to date in our salary payments.”
“I can claim that Kogi is the most peaceful state in Nigeria, and there is no issue of strike action in our tertiary institutions. My administration has also unified all the tribes, religions and tendencies in the state. I have also given the female gender more than 35% opportunity to be involved in political affairs. I am the youngest governor in Nigeria so I want to make an impact by involving youths.”
The governor also pledged his commitment to improving the teacher’s welfare as he promised to increase the minimum wage of all civil servants to Fifty Thousand Naira, (N50, 000).
He also promised to complete all his legacy projects like Ganaja Flyover, Okene Reference Hospital, Model Science Secondary School, Adankolo among others.
On his presidential ambition, Governor Bello spoke about his plan for Nigerian youth and women and the disabled community, adding that he would extend all the policies and programmes he put in place for them in Kogi state at the national level. He pledged to tackle insecurity head-on and emphasise human capital development to create jobs and also make the youth employable and productive.
Governor Bello was confident that he was the favourite of the Nigerian women and youth and their votes would take him to the Villa in 2023.