How to sell a skunk
How in the world do you sell a foul-smelling animal such as a skunk? Not only does this animal travel with a putrid odour, but it can also turn around and squirt a revolting fluid at you, the smell of which will stay with you for a long time.
To whom can you sell such an animal? I know who, but first, let us talk about how.
Consider: As he sought power in 2015, Nigeria leader, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) said he would deliver a new national airline to Nigeria. With only six months before Nigerians name his successor, the government has so far spent over N14.6bn,producing only a name and a logo…and but no airline.
On several occasions it has named a date for the airline’s takeoff, but because the government has such a bad image, no investors seem to be interested, and time has run out.
Previously, I have advised the government to go back to basics: Buhari’s original declaration that he would start the national airline with the aircraft in the presidential fleet.
“That is still the best option, if the will is there,” I wrote in November 2021. “Start with that small pool, run independently, covering the Nigerian and West African markets, and within those first four years, develop a strong, positive reputation. Otherwise call this airline “Buhari Air” or “APC Air.” Because it will evaporate just as quickly.”
Somewhere out there, “Air Nigeria Minister” Hadi Sirika continues to spend by the billions, running frantically on his “Aviation Roadmap.”He never mentions by name, the Aerotropolis aviation plan of the predecessor government it rejected, the same fate its own road map is likely to meet.
You can use this same template to interrogate the administration’s infrastructure propaganda, and answer for yourself why many of its prominent claims have fizzled out consistently for nearly eight years.
Consider: last week, the federal government gave N6.25bn to Katsina State “for the establishment of cattle ranches in local government areas affected by banditry” in that state. The announcement was made not by the Federal Government but by Alhaji Mannir Yakubu, the state deputy governor.
As a supporter of ranching, I was glad to hear the R-word. It suggested that the Federal Government has accepted ranching over open grazing. But why is one state, the president’s home state, getting so much money but not others? Would these be local government or private ranches? If they are to be local government-operated, what does that mean, and how long has the Federal Government arranged for those funds to disappear?
Consider: the National Assembly has received a report of the Auditor-General of the Federation which says that between 2010 and 2019, Nigeria’s foreign missions were beset by financial infractions, including illegal spending and refusal to remit Internally Generated Revenue. Some of them, acting on a directive by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), also frustrated efforts to audit their accounts.
Were you to look at the website of the Ministry (go ahead, why not?) three pictures, including that of the Permanent Secretary, stare back at you. They proclaim: “World-class and highly experienced diplomatics (sic) are at the helm of our affairs.”
If you have ever been to the missions abroad at any time in the period under review, you must have doubted the meaning of the term, “world class.” Presenting his report, the Auditor-General lambasted a culture of impunity.
In March 2010, as the then MFA Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, left that position, he drew national attention to what he called its “financial recklessness and lack of transparency.” So disturbed was he that he called on the EFCC to probe the biggest five. “A zero tolerance policy on corruption should not just receive lip service by rank and file but must receive a more robust implementation,” he said.
As minister, Maduekwe should certainly have done better, but he was correct, and today, so is the Auditor-General. But this “world class” cesspool now passes into the indolent hands of the House of Representatives for justice? The House is going to investigate and bring to book “world class and highly experienced diplomatics,” many of them now retired? It is a ruse.
Consider: Buhari last week assured governors of his APC party that he will not interfere in the 2023 elections.
It was unnecessary. Would any leader ever announce a plan to interfere or rig? At the federal level in particular, the ruling party never informs Nigerians, ahead of time, that it will deploy federal resources to keep power. It is not in what is said openly, but what is said or done behind closed doors or in related policies.
Buhari has already signaled, for instance, that he will only support APC candidates. But some of his appointments into the electoral commission have already been faulted for corruption or partisanship or both. He has appointed his brother-in-law to lead the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, which also prints for the electoral commission, an action denounced by the Human Rights Association of Nigeria as possibly breaching the constitution.
Beyond that, and even before election campaigns begin, Festus Keyamo, a minister in Buhari’s government, has become part of the APC 2023 Presidential Campaign Council as well as its official spokesman. But of course, that is incestuous: using the resources of the government for a partisan candidate. What and who else, particularly behind the scenes, is using the long reach of the Buhari government for private, partisan purposes?
Perhaps I asked the wrong question.
The correct one is not how do you sell a skunk, but: To whom can you sell such an animal, and why would they buy it? Why would an intelligent, self-respecting person—his sense of smell intact—accept a skunk from a salesman?
Well, people sell all sorts of things. Sometimes, they count on the magic of their own tongues, the ruthlessness and versatility of their wordsmiths who know how to spin a lie, or the overpowering Danfo-bus-medicine-salesman abilities of their marketers.
They manipulate the absence of a sense of smell of the potential buyer, his greed, his stupidity, or his gullibility.
It is how an otherwise normal person, who is otherwise able to sense and to smell, takes home a skunk and even thanks the salesman.
This may not have been how we got to the bottom of the valley, but it is how we have stayed here for the last several years, the homestead demystified, devalued and destroyed before our very eyes.
A group of skunks is known, appropriately enough, as a stench. This month, as the electoral commission flags of the campaign season for the 2023 elections, a stench is exactly what is heading your way.
Mission: to sell or be sold to you.