The biggest challenge in the assessment of any government is always the counterforce of a marked legion of partisans loyal to it and willing to employ both literary and physical violence to defend it and malign its critics, often without bothering to address the faults exposed in the critiques.
Over the past months, one has been challenged to explain that clear-eyed assessments of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and even of his candidacy years before he was sworn into his present Office, aren’t expressions of regret or mortal disappointment in him. They are the basic civic vigilance required to keep politicians on their toes, because, despite their declared interests, all are selfish or self-serving in different ways and to peculiar extents. But their partisans are quick to remind you, for every honest critique, that their principals or candidates are infallible. Perhaps this is because at our schools, teachers are not motivated to point out the difference between criticism and critique in public discourse or civics or even social studies.
The truth is, for many of us who have registered that Buhari’s honeymoon is over, if an election is conducted even today between him and the ousted former President Goodluck Jonathan, none would have a second thought before casting their votes against Jonathan, whose government almost legitimised corruption and was cruel to the point of diverting funds meant for counterterrorism to personal accounts of party stalwarts and terminal sycophants. Which was the reason for the overpopulated IDP camps across the north!
Our assessment of President Buhari was exactly the mindset we expected the pro-Jonathan to exhibit when they were busy singing praises of atrocious mismanagement of resources and disdain for critics of the government. Jonathan failed because they asked us to give him more time—even sharing his statement that a 4-year tenure wasn’t enough to fix Nigeria— while things were steadily falling apart. Jonathan failed because, even after squandering his goodwill and unable to meet expectations of the majority as validated in the March 28 polls, the sycophants allied and formed a sycophantic group paraded as “Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria” to extend the sufferings and dying of the Nigerian.
It’s easy for us to identify with Buhari based on shared religion and regional reasons, in the PDP apologists’ fashion of polarising realpolitik. But how would such sentimental advocacy fix the problems of the average Nigerian from Aba down through Oyo to Zaria?
Another mischief, though surprisingly infrequent, employed by some successors of the Pro-Jonathan, the Buharists, in countering critics of the government is reminder that criticism of the government is a ploy to get the attention of the government. This is the pitiable low to which public discourse has fallen in Nigeria. Unknown is the truth that many of these critics are frequently approached for political appointments, often rejected on grounds of principle or on having realised their role really is merely to head the propaganda unit of a government department.
Early this week, I questioned the need for the popular #iStandWithBuhari movement. It’s hard not to notice them, with their outrageous spending on ads, planting billboards at strategic locations in Abuja to complement their online ads that spam the social media platforms of even the most tolerant internet users. If know what it means to have a billboard planted on the busiest streets of Abuja and also promote an obscure Facebook page for a large audience, then you may have an idea of the millions going down the drains for a markedly irrelevant partisan cause that masks its sycophancy in patriotic garments. This waste of resources on political frivolities is happening in a country with the third largest population of internally displaced persons in world, after Syria and Columbia!
If partisan movements designed to promote the interest of politicians, instead of that of the nation, are a confirmation of patriotism, then we must have a second thought on our disapproval of Daniel Kanu’s Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) for the late General Sani Abacha and Ifeanyi Uba’s Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Both campaigns elevated the virtues of personalities to the detriment of national or patriotic interests.
It is, to me, embarrassing that youth who ought to remain in their workstations to manage their specialised ventures and contribute to salvaging our collapsing economy are busy with sycophantic advocacies months after elections. The greatest service to any politician is electing him to choose qualified citizens to run the affairs of the nation. But what forms a good leader aren’t the cacophonous praise songs hummed by partisans, but the determination of civic-minded citizens to ensure that electoral promises are kept.
Between TAN and #iStandWithBuhari, I don’t see any difference. If anything, TAN and YEAA pursued justifiable interests, the electoral capitals of their principals. Theirs were sycophancy with a defined purpose. #iStandWithBuhari, happening months after the elections, for, as one of them argued, the defence of an elected leader, who has the military and the para-military institutions and the civil service at his beck and call, isn’t only sycophantic but inessential. They are a collective of ambitious partisans desperate for relevance. If indeed the partisans need such profligate movement to get Buhari working, it means they don’t even trust the man. Which is ironic. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda On Twitter