A popular saying is that figures and pictures don’t lie. Well the bad news is that liars will figure out how to make figures and pictures lie. No be lie?
Like some of the things you would find in the holy books no longer applying to modern day living, many sayings that held true years back, before the proliferation of advanced technology, may not be quite
applicable or correct, these days.
Yes, pictures can be made to lie through computer graphics manipulations. Speeches can be electronically joined together to say what the speaker neither meant nor intended, and the advent of modern day thriller movies show impossible feats like Superman flying like a bird.
Similarly, I have been struck in recent times how organizations and governments successfully make figures speak “facts” different from palpable realities on the ground. Often, supposed authorities in their field produce results that are at variance with their touted expertise.
I have seen the Ministers of Agriculture and Finance (past and present) in Nigeria respectively receive. international accolades for their transformative roles in their spheres of (in)competence. I have seen international accounting bodies and rating agencies (Fitch,PWC, etc) give organizations sterling ratings and clean bills of health, only to have those organizations collapse shortly after. It has happened elsewhere apart from Nigeria.
Companies with skyrocketing share prices have been known to fizzle out overnight, despite financial experts using powerful computers to reach the conclusion that those shares are ‘a buy”.
Nigeria is rated the biggest economy on Africa, but the economy is in stupor, majority of the citizen are de facto glorified paupers and industries are producing well below capacity. Yet, we are rated the biggest economy in Africa, ahead of South Africa.
All these sent me into an introspective mood, ruminating about how easy it is to make figures, pictures and sound portray what you want it to.
Government would tell you they are creating jobs, while conveniently neglecting to counterbalance that with the number of jobs being eliminated as a result of subpar and comatose infrastructure. How balanced is that?
Like a brother (afflicted with too much critical thinking) used to say, don’t believe what you see, read, or hear. Believe what HAPPENS. Therefore when the bean counters reel out their figures showing how
wonderfully Nigeria is doing, adopt the “Thomas Mode”, and read between those figures to discern if somebody is trying to pull wool over your eyes.
Here is a dictionary definition of bean counter.
“A person, such as an accountant or financial officer, who is concerned with quantification, especially to the exclusion of other matters”.
Yes, figures (can be made to) lie. Eloquently. But realities are sacrosanct. And those don’t lie.