It’s been an amusing weekend watching members of the opposition jump from pillar to post on social media over a statement made by Governor Seyi Makinde at the Nigerian-American Business Forum event in Tampa, Florida, where he was pitching to investors on Sunday, March 1, 2020.
His exact statement was as follows; “Presently, Oyo State has 115,000 Civil Servants and a wage bill of N11Billion per month.”
At first, opposition supporters believing the Governor had goofed tried to show that it was impossible for the wage bill of Oyo State to be N11Bilion. Fortunately, they tagged the Oyo State Government Feedback Twitter account to their queries.
The feedback account then clarified that the statement by the Governor had been made to an international audience, and that Governor Makinde had given the total wage bill of Oyo State which includes both state government and local government workers.
One would think this clarification would suffice. Imagine my surprise when I woke up to a “fact check” by Sikiru Akinola, owner of a media blog, Oyo Insight where he stated as follows; “Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo State recently said that the state now pays 115,000 civil servants N11B monthly.” Sikiru then includes the relevant part of the governor’s speech which directly contradicted his concluding statement in which he stated that “even though the total wage bill of civil servants at both the state and local government is N11 billion, It is wrong for the governor to have claimed that the state government paid N11 billion to workers in the month of February since the state government paid only the state workers and the wage bill of civil servants at the local government level was paid from local government accounts.”
Here’s the thing, no one who did English comprehension in primary school will read Governor Makinde’s clear and unambiguous statement and arrive at the conclusion that he claimed the State Government paid N11B in wages to workers in February 2020. It takes a mind full of mischief to arrive at such a concoction. What makes this even more amusing is that the writer claimed to be “fact-checking”.
Even more hilarious is that the answer to his headline question: Fact Check: Does Oyo State Pay 115,000 workers N11B monthly is YES. Oyo State has 115,000 workers at both state and local government level and pays a total wage bill of N11B. But Sikuru who asked the initial question correctly couldn’t arrive at the correct conclusion because he equated Oyo State with the state government. Which is how he arrived at the erroneous conclusion that Governor Makinde said the state government paid wages of N11B in February 2020.
Usually, journalists/bloggers are advised to get exact quotes and listen to audio/watch videos if possible in order not to misquote public figures. In this case, Sikuru got the exact quote, asked the correct question and still arrived at an erroneous conclusion. Tragic!
One would expect that a person who is fact-checking would get all his facts right. The Governor mentioned 115,000 workers. Surely, Sikiru does not think that the State Government employs 115,000 persons. Or perhaps in his haste to justify being retained by his paymasters, he did not stop to ask himself salient questions. One could rightly compare Governor Makinde’s statistics to when Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Asue Ighodalo said Nigeria needs N35Trillion Naira to develop infrastructure. How warped a thinker do you have to be to insist that he must break the figures down by State/Local Government Area for it to be “Fact”?
Let me end this piece by quoting a well-articulated lecture delivered by Abigail Anaba on Twitter to someone who like Sikiru ended up clowning when he should have been fact-checking.
One of my favourite pastimes these days is watching the @FeedbackOYSG handle respond to people about governance issues in Oyo State.— Nne Umu Boys (@Anabagail) March 7, 2020
I'm presenting reading a conversation about wage bill in Oyo State and a Governor's speech in Tampa, Florida. Very interesting convo.
Even more interesting because people are contending over whether the Governor made an error or outrightly lied about the wage bill of the state without even listening to the speech for context. And you educated people do know the importance of context to conversations.— Nne Umu Boys (@Anabagail) March 7, 2020
So, English Class?— Nne Umu Boys (@Anabagail) March 7, 2020
Let's start with the alleged offence.
The Feedback handle clarifies. It's not really just State Govt workers but Local Govt as well. But this raises another question…next tweet. https://t.co/HRH5vNgaaV— Nne Umu Boys (@Anabagail) March 7, 2020
You need to listen to the speech from about 26 minutes in. He not only said the wage bill was 11Bn, he also said FAAC was 10Bn and gave a number for the workers 115k. That is the context. https://t.co/57NueYVq98— Nne Umu Boys (@Anabagail) March 7, 2020
And there ends our English Class for today. And the keyword of the day is: Context. Never go into a conversation, debate or argument without understanding it.— Nne Umu Boys (@Anabagail) March 7, 2020