The Nigerian government has accused the US-based Economist news portal of peddling untruths and engaging in ‘a deliberate put down of a whole people under the guise of criticising a government policy.’
The policy in question is the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign that was launched by president Buhari on September 8.
A statement released by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, criticized the Economist’s use of the word ‘tame’ in reference to what Buhari sought to achieve with the campaign.
‘‘Contrary to the newspaper’s self-professed belief in ‘‘plain language’‘, the article in question, from the headline to the body, is a master-piece of embellishment or dressed-up language. It is loaded with innuendos and decidedly pejorative at best, and downright racist at worst.
‘‘The Economist wrote that President Buhari wants to ‘‘tame’‘ Nigerians with the ‘‘Change Begins With Me’‘ Campaign. For those who are the owners of the English language, the use of that word is unpardonable, the verb ‘‘tame’‘ suggests that Nigerians are some kind of wild animals that must be domesticated, and the usage reveals the mind-set of the authors of the article,’‘ the statement said.
It further pointed out a factual untruth with the Economist’s report relative to the claim that some 150,000 volunteers were to be deployed to enforce values of the campaign. ‘That is not true,’ the statement added.
The article that has angered the Nigerian authorities was published on September 24 under the headline, ‘Nigeria’s war against indiscipline – Behave or be whipped.’
It stated in part that Buhari by the new campaign had relaunched the 1984 ‘War Against Indiscipline’ brigade. During the 1984 campaign, ‘‘soldiers used horse whips to beat those who littered or jumped queues and punished others by making them jump like frogs.
‘‘Under a new “national reorientation” campaign called “Change Begins with Me” Mr Buhari wants to tame Nigerians. Moral “degeneration”, he says, is the reason that drivers run red lights and militants blow up pipelines,’‘ the Economist wrote.
The government reiterated that at the launch of the campaign, Buhari, a believer in the rule of law, emphasized that moral suasion, will be employed to achieve attitudinal change among Nigerians.
‘‘In that speech, the President said: ‘‘I am therefore appealing to all Nigerians to be part of this campaign.’‘ To the best of our knowledge and, surely the knowledge of those who own the language, the words ‘‘appeal’‘ and ‘‘enforce’‘ are not synonymous,’‘ the statement added.