By Gbenga Olumekun
Man was created for a purpose. To survive, God the Creator, endowed man with several characters which were to enable him survive the hostile environment. He created the senses in order to ensure the superiority of man over all creation. He created sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. On the basis of these, man was endowed to master his environment. Give a man sour milk and he’ll be able to exercise the right to decide whether he would like to continue to feed upon it, not minding whether it is called yoghurt.
One facet of life is truth. We all have the ability to recognise the truth but not all men have the grace to accept it. Truth may seem ubiquitous to the philosopher. Defining truth as a layman is such a gargantuan exercise and my search into the realm of knowledge has brought out several confusions, not on what truth is, but on how to succinctly define it. Many men have delved into the definition using philosophy while others are more comfortable using the scriptures. Regardless of the lens used in viewing what truth stands for, there seems to be a convergence of opinions on certain facets of truth. That was why Alford could say, “Truth does not consist in minute accuracy of detail, but in conveying a right impression; and there are vague ways of speaking that are truer than strict facts would be. When the Psalmist said, “Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law,” he did not state the fact, but he stated a truth deeper than fact, and truer.”
Knowledge of the truth is a feature that enables man to distinguish between right and wrong and that in itself may determine the longevity or expanse of life. Our lives as Nigerians would therefore have been progressive if only we knew the truth and were willing to pay a price in its defence. This is because knowing the truth gives one the opportunity to turn a lie on its head.
It is generally said that truth is bitter hence men have acquired what may be called “sweet tooth”. This is a desire that drives one to seek that which is palatable. If we must function in our own environment we must be able to recognise the truth but since truth has acquired bitter characters, people naturally shy away from it. The implication is that, “everyone wishes to have truth on his side, but it is not everyone that sincerely wishes to be on the side of truth” – Whately. Ultimately truth is seemingly defenceless and may initially be isolated, pulverised and orphaned but the passage of time will expose its roots and encourage regeneration whereas falsehood needs to be stoutly defended in perpetuity by its adherents.
Those who must be on the side of truth should however take solace in the fact that truth does not conform to certain orientations in life. It does not like to be turned upside down nor inside out. It certainly does not like to lie on its head neither does it like to be abused. For truth to continue to be truth it must have an unimpeachable consistency. Truth can only be truth if and when in the face of the onslaught of the forces of falsehood it maintains its sovereign integrity. It is therefore necessary to point out that regardless of who is involved and what is involved, truth will always be truth. It will have no other name and any aliases must maintain this integrity in order to be allied with truth. According to the Holy Scriptures, God, the Creator of the universe hates lies (Proverbs 6:16-17) and we who are His subjects must act like Him.
In the political and social arena truth is a major ingredient for national development; it forms the bedrock on which men relate with one another without fear or favour. When it becomes absent or becomes diminished by reason of political expediency or the desire to please, it becomes transformed and will never be the truth. If a husband needs to continue to enjoy the confidence of his wife, he needs to be truthful. This ramifies all relationships, regardless of where authority or strength lies. It forms the basis of the building of lasting relationships and eventually trust becomes built up.
Looking at the theses above we find that our governments must therefore not be insulated from the truth. The currency of truth must be acceptable on all sides of the divide, whether the opposition, governor or the governed. Each side must demand of the other, basic elements of truth so as to sustain relationships and no side must lay claim to piety or the superfluity of this virtue, neither must the responsibility of truth be unevenly shared. Any fracture in the bond of truth is a call to distrust and outright disintegration. Unfortunately the populace is being exhorted daily to continue to display the virtue of truth whereas there is no corresponding attempt by those in power to listen to their own exhortations. No wonder the rest of us can be called upon to tighten our belts while our leaders constantly pillage our collective heritage like a pack of wolves descending on a wounded antelope. Nobody needs mega wisdom to discern the fate of the prey. It is a lost battle.
With these in mind, I view certain conducts of our leaders cum politicians with disdain. These conducts have been responsible for the slow progress we have attained so far. Progress demands some measure of forthrightness in seeking ways to advance and when the ideas garnered are to be assessed there must be a willingness to accept the truth regardless of how it is presented. Very often we quarrel with the truth because we do not like the messenger or his mode of presentation; we refuse to acknowledge the truth because we cannot easily determine the motives behind the action, as if the basic ingredients for evaluating initiatives lie in the perceived motives. We seek other parameters to judge whether an opinion is acceptable and we fail to measure it on the truth gauge. By so doing, we lose sight of reason and we commonly eject reason. Such acts have led to sycophancy and praise singing which will lead a nation nowhere but into the valley of ruin.
Sometime ago I read the statements credited to the erstwhile National Security Adviser who has “gone to be with the Lord”. He only bravely opined that the resurgence of Boko Haramism and the attendant violence in the nation could be traced to the policies of the ruling political class. He let it be known that the so-called zoning policy and the failure of adherence was the ingredient that has stoked the wastefulness of lives and property which we have witnessed in the country. I cannot determine the correctness or the truthfulness of his hypothesis even though a part of me is in agreement with the late General. After all, we have all witnessed the conducts of our leaders since the civilian dispensation. We can all vividly recollect where we were and where we are.
The human memory may be so short but the events that have made history cannot be wished away. In human associations, even if we do not like a message we must at least not debase the integrity of the messenger; sometimes if the messenger is a man of integrity or he is a man of unimpeachable credentials in his chosen field, then we must at least hear his message. That’s why we need not dismiss a Professor of English when he talks about grammar or a Consultant Paediatrician when he talks about childhood diseases. Military Generals are more knowledgeable than the rest of us on security and the act of killing people. When a man who had the integrity that allowed him to be trusted with national security matters speaks on a security issue, then the whole world must listen to his message first. When a Financial Specialist talks about the economy, what we need to do is listen and listen attentively. However, what we have seen and heard are calls for the heads of purveyors of truth just like Salome was induced to ask for John the Baptist’s.
Very often, patriots like us make comments on national issues with concise suggestions on the way forward but the perception is that the brazenness is evidence of disloyalty. What is the height of loyalty in this nation, if not to the people and the Federal Republic of Nigeria? When some of us speak, it may be bitter, it may be caustic but it still remains our own recollection of the truth. There have been several wise men in history whose sayings have given us confidence. Even though the reactions from the powers may be negative, there is always a transformation of conversations that pursue the path of truth, albeit after much damage has been done.
According to Arthur Schopenhauer, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”Our society is looking for men and women who are able to speak the truth under any circumstance, albeit in wisdom. Would men prefer a spineless Professor who would be unable to hit the nail on the head or an Esau who would rather trade-in the prosperity of future generations because of the hunger of the moment? The truth has to be spoken constantly and consistently and we all know the colour and the taste of truth. It may be unfancied; it may be unpalatable; it may be unwelcome, but it is the truth and must be said by those who have the boldness to stand up and be counted!