Truth is a commodity and can have a variety of meanings, from the state of being the case, being in accord with a particular fact or reality, being in accord with the body of real things, events, actuality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard. In archaic usage it could be fidelity, constancy or sincerity in action, character, and utterance. The term has no single definition about which a majority of professional philosophers and scholars agree, and various theories and views of truth continue to be debated. There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth; what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective, relative, objective, or absolute. (Wikipedia, Online Encyclopaedia)
Truth, I believe, is very relative and subjective. It depends on who is claiming to be saying the truth and who is hearing it. For example, there are times I tell my wife the truth, and she takes it as a lie. I am convinced I was telling the truth, while she is convinced I was lying. That makes truth, or for that matter, falsehood, relative and subjective issues of life.
Therefore there is nothing like absolute truth, or rather, truth cannot be absolute.
Truth ...“Is the opposite of lies.”, “What is truth but what we believe to be truth?”, “I don't believe that there's one truth. There are so many different people, and there are so many different ways you can look at things. I don't see how there could be just one truth.”
These quotes, giving vague descriptions of truth, point toward relativism – a doctrine instructing that truth and morality are relative and not absolute. Relativism asserts that what is accepted as truth is relative to a person’s situation or standpoint, and denies that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.
If truth is relative, then absolute right and absolute wrong become doubtful and obscure. And if truth is relative, then only subjective and indefinite answers exist for the purpose and meaning of life. So is there any absolute or real truth in this complex and uncertain world?
And it is because of this that I have actually stood back and watch the saga of President Yar ‘Adua’s health and the implications of this on the running of the country play themselves out.
This is because each of the 140 million or so Nigerians have different views on the issue; with so many different hidden or open agenda, interests and opinions. And you know what? All of them are either true or false or both. We do not know the truth or the lies. Permit me to outline this strange conclusion of mine below:
News: “We also call on those whose duty it is to ascertain the situation of things to act constitutionally without any further delay. …However, if (Yar’Adua) is found to be incapable of discharging the functions of the office, it is a constitutional duty and as patriotic a duty as any to resign. - The Nigerian Bar Association
This is true. Especially the last sentence, as stipulated in the Constitution.But is that the whole truth?
News: 56 prominent Nigerians demanded that Mr Yar’Adua hand over power to his deputy. The statement’s signatories included activists and opposition figures and heavyweights from the ruling party, PDP, including Ken Nnamani, a former Senate President, and Aminu Bello Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. “He is not able to run the country the way it should be run,” said Annkio Briggs, an activist from the oil-producing Niger Delta region. “He doesn’t want to admit how precarious his condition is,” said Nasir el-Rufai, a former minister who has clashed with the Yar’Adua administration and also signed the statement. “This kind of power vacuum is very dangerous in a young democracy.” Mr el-Rufai faces corruption allegations which he says are politically motivated.
True! But who are these “prominent Nigerians” and how prominent are they in the state of the Nigerian nation today? What have earned them their “prominence”? And just because they are “prominent”, should we take their words for it just like that? Haven’t most of them been, whether in the past or now, helped run the country to ground, or just sat back and made no difference?
News: There is no time limit for Yar’Adua to return to the country to continue his job. There are concerns over his health, even in the United States, but that is not enough for him to resign. “The Constitution does not make provision for how long the President can stay out of the country after which he would lose his job. So, if he spends one year abroad, of course you have a Vice President who will be acting in his place. But I don’t think there is anything for any person to worry about. That is why it is good to always create a system. Nobody is bigger than a system. So, if we have a system that is running, even if the President is not there, hopefully, I am sure that things will move normally.”- Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (That is the same view expressed by former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar)
They are right and constitutionally saying the truth, backed by experience and knowledge. The problem is “Will the Vice President be allowed to take over officially?” or “When will the VP take over officially – 2 months, 6 months, 1 year?”
News: The office of the President is not for sick people. “We cannot have any progress if Yar’Adua continues to remain in office as President of this country. The man, we all know, is seriously ill and a sick man does not have time to preside over serious matter concerning development of the country, as he will be busy searching for medical attention; and this we see in Yar’Adua. Since he became president in 2007, he has been frequenting hospitals for medical attention. …..It’s obvious now that the President can no longer cope with the responsibilities of the office of the President, particularly which of the Executive President as provided for by the 1999 constitution. The constitution should be followed to the letter in resolving the present crisis facing the country and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan should take over the mantle of leadership, if the president resigns or dies” - Alhaji Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State.
Again, this statement is right, and is the truth that many will agree with.
News: The Nigerian Governors Forum, observes as follows: We commend the sense of leadership demonstrated by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under the leadership of the Vice-President. This demonstrates that government, at the Federal level is alive to its responsibilities and it is being complemented by the 36 governors.
Constitutionally, in the absence of any incapacitation on the part of the President, it is precipitate and diversionary to call for Mr President’s resignation. It is on this basis that the Nigerian Governors Forum considers the calls for Mr President’s resignation as a betrayal or a lack of respect for the Constitution and the system of government for this country. On the basis of this foregoing, therefore, the Nigerian Governors Forum hereby restates our firm commitment to the peace, progress and stability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We wish Mr President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, quick recovery as he continues to lead our country." – Nigerian Governors Forum
The Governors are right and are presenting the truth the way they see it or want to see it. They must not be seen as undermining the democratic and political process. Remember that any one of them could find himself in that same situation. But if the President is not “incapacitated” by being in a foreign hospital for almost 2 weeks now, then let the Governors tell me what “incapacitated” means.
Also, some former state governors who have seen corruption probes quashed on his (Yar ‘Adua’s) watch, have much to lose if he resigns.
News: The Action Congress (AC) has described as unprincipled, self-serving and predictable the stand taken by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the issue of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health. “FEC’s contention that the government is running properly in the absence of the President and with no one in charge is the biggest joke of the year, and shows that the members do not have the interest of Nigerians at heart”, it said. AC noted, however, that it would have been surprised if the FEC, the only body Constitutionally mandated to initiate a probe of the President’s health, had acted otherwise.
The AC, as an opposition political party, assumes righteous indignance and may be speaking the truth, to call for the President’s resignation. If they do not, they cannot be considered a credible opposition.
News: "Oppose Umar Musa Yar'Adua and die!" Plot to assassinate some Katsina State indigenes who signed the petition calling on Yar'Adua to resign from office, as ministers start propaganda war. – Saharareporters
Getting nasty now, are we? Another truth, perhaps, but deniable. I will not put it past our politicians, well known for their murderous inclinations to stay in power.
So the truth? Everybody is saying the right thing and making the right noises, but I can’t find the real truth in what they are saying.
Politicians across the world raise questions about their opponents’ health to undermine them. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s heart problems and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s post-jogging collapse were exposed to the full glare of media publicity.
In India, there was public disclosure of 78-year-old Premier Manmohan Singh’s diabetes and heart bypass surgery. Although China has brought in a younger generation of leaders, the official obsession with secrecy on health continues.
Africa’s politicians struggle to stop the fiery local media discussing their health. North African leaders look particularly shaky: Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 72, suffers from chronic stomach ailments; Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, 76, was recently prescribed bed rest; there have been several scares for Egypt’s 81-year-old President Hosni Mubarak; and at 67, Libyan leader Moammar el Gadaffi is a comparative stripling but his rambling oratorical style prompts claims of drug abuse. A picture of health at 85, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe confounds his opponents’ hopes for his retirement, and along with the equally robust Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, flies the flag for octogenarian leaders in Africa. (AFRICA CONFIDENTIAL 4 December 2009 Vol. 50, No. 24)
But let us now consider the phrase “Being economical with the truth”: The meaning is “Conveying an untrue version of events by leaving out the important facts. It is a euphemism for lying, in short. More literally, it describes a careful use of facts so as not to reveal too much information. This is a trademark of politicians all over the world and is not unique to Nigerians; the only problem being that in Nigeria, it assumes very dangerous, disastrous and lethal proportions and consequences.
Although it had its origin from the 18th century, and rarely used, the phrase was brought into the contemporary language by the UK Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, who used the phrase during the Australian 'Spycatcher' trial in 1986:
Lawyer: What is the difference between a misleading impression and a lie?
Armstrong: A lie is a straight untruth.
Lawyer: What is a misleading impression - a sort of bent untruth?
Armstrong: As one person said, it is perhaps being "economical with the truth".
What Armstrong left out (perhaps he knew but was being economical) was that the 'one person' was Edmund Burke. In 1796 Burke wrote: "Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatsoever: But, as in the exercise of all the virtues, there is an economy of truth."
In 1992, Alan Clark MP, was cross-examined during the Matrix Churchill case and embroidered the phrase a little:
Clark: Well it's our old friend "being economical", isn't it?
Lawyer: With the truth?
Clark: With the actualité
Will somebody or some bodies, tell us the truth for a change?