Arising from COVID 19 pandemic, two issues are deficient in our polity. These are our political culture and communication, and information management. According to Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, ‘the modern use of political culture dates from the period after the Second World War with studies showing how cultural development and political development move hand in hand.’
Fundamentally, political culture relates to the norms, values and symbols that define and help to legitimate the political power system of a society, and when a political culture collapses or is thrown into doubt, a crisis of legitimacy is created. The various fake news, information hoarding, rumours, speculations, failures, misinformation and disinformation are undermining citizens’ faith and belief in the whole system. They indeed, acerbate the disconnect between the government and the governed.
It is melancholic that our political culture since independence has not changed. Rather, our political norms, values and symbols that should be improving continue to nose dive, thus our political culture is not only collapsing but a crisis of legitimacy is being created. Or how else do we explain what we have been witnessing in our political space to the extent that matters already dispensed with by the apex court of the land are being brought back for a review, despite the constitutional finality of the Supreme Court.
LEGITIMACY: Our leaders must realize that their legitimacy is derived by the people and they hold power in trust. It is, therefore, expedient that they strive to grow our political culture to ensure transparency, accountability, probity, and egalitarianism in our polity. We do not seem to have learned anything from history and if this trend continues, our political culture would be more chaotic. For now, our attitudes, beliefs, and values underpinning our political system must be re-jigged. Ethnicity, tribalism, religion and other primordial sentiments must disappear from our political culture. According to Holtz-Bacha and Kaid, ‘political communication refers to the communication sent out by or taking place among political actors: the messages of the political system and its individual parts to either the media or directly to the citizens and the politically relevant offerings of the media.’
Wikipedia, on its own, says ‘it can be defined as the connection concerning politics and citizens and the interaction modes that connect these groups to each other.’ Contextually, we are concerned with the production, dissemination, processing, and effects of information, both through mass media and interpersonally.’ In Nigeria, what is the connection concerning political leaders and citizens? Ordinarily, they require adequate, timely and regular information from their leaders on activities, challenges, issues, development and other activities that impact on their lives. Unfortunately, most of our leaders see this natural request as being burdensome, unwarranted and unmeritorious.
A case in point is getting the leadership to strategically communicate to the populace, the corona virus that is ravaging the whole world. Until President Muhammadu Buhari made a nationwide broadcast (last night), naysayers were of the opinion that the president had been flown out of the country for treatment on account of contracting the virus. The social media aided the spread of the imaginary or fake news since government was not forthcoming with speedy information. What could have been responsible for this? We can imagine the reasons! Lack of effective information, the President remaining incommunicado, improper information management and the tendency by our leaders to think that they owe Nigerians no obligation for timely, effective and responsive disclosure.
It is not too much for the president to speak to Nigerians on daily basis on the efforts being taken by government to confront the rampaging pandemic. A major blow to government information management was lack of full disclosure on the COVID 19 status of the Chief of Staff to the President (until last night). Despite overwhelming demand, we were not told what happened to him, until he broke his silence Sunday night! The virus is not a death sentence and our leaders should be prepared to tell us what is happening to those that are being maintained with public purse in a timely manner rather than allowing the public to speculate. Information management by the government requires proper strategy(ies), credibility and reliability of the source, custodianship and distribution to the populace in an effective, efficient and timely manner.
As long as information is hoarded, so long shall government credibility, reliability, responsiveness and responsibility be questioned. It was soothing hearing from the President, but we need a better and greater momentum. Our President must brief us daily or regularly if traffickers or purveyors of fake and unverified news are not to be patronized. Our political culture and communication, and information management should advance our political emancipation and by extension, the development of our country.
Fassy Yusuf, Ph.D. E-mail: email@example.com Mobile: 0809 615 8530 (SMS only)