There seems to be an unwritten agreement among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups that frowns at criticisms of leaders from one’s region or ethnic lot. For regional, ethnic or religious solidarity, it’s an exception not a rule to be found holding a leader to his campaign promises, and calling out duplicity, complacency, system abuse, dereliction of duty where one see one. Critics that attempt to go against this unholy arrangement are usually met with strong opposition, resistance, campaign of calumny, character assassination, resentment and, even, threat to their lives from their respective ethnic or religious lot.
To be fair, I have not come of age to sufficiently and honestly gauge Obasanjo’s regime and the tone of his people with respect to his leadership style. However, I am a living witness to when and how Jonathan’s regime was given all sort of excuses and protection from obvious and manifest leadership failures and policy summersault by people from his ethnic group. In spite of the existential threat of Boko Haram, wanton killings, brazen abuse of office privileges and profligacy of uncommon height; Jonathanians which were largely members of his native Niger Delta region, his fellow Christians of Igbo extraction, chose to look the other way not because Jonathan’s presidency is serving their short or long term interest, but for ethnic, regional and religious solidarity. Any dissenting voice from the Niger Delta region or of Igbo extraction was either muted or have had cause to deal with isolation, resentment and rebuke.
Today, history has gone full cycle. The ascension of Buhari to the coveted seat of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has turned the erstwhile advocates of good governance of yesteryears to corruption crusaders and nepotism defenders of nowadays. “How ironic!”, one is tempted to say— but irony might have a Nigerian citizenship, in a way.
It is clear to the blind how manifest failures of leadership and policy backsliding have been given a vote of thanks by the see-no-evil-followers of Buhari’s presidency. The deaf and dumb too can testify to a degree what the blind, in spite of his situation, could see. The indifference and lackadaisical approach to contain the threat of Boko Haram demonstrated by the Jonathan regime which we all condemn and reproached is today substituted with the conspiracy of silence and subtle endorsement to the threat of kidnappings, cattle rustling, ethnoreligious crises, unemployment by Buhari supporters. Any attempt at calling the administration to order is always met with scathing rebuttals and strong resistance from the uncritical Buhari supporters which are largely people he shares region, religion and ethnicity with.
There’s no reason too illogical and no excuse too bizarre not to defend the indefensible of Buhari’s glaring leadership failure by the Buharists. The logic is simple: Buhari is ours, ours to protect and shield from criticisms, for he is our brother in faith, kin in tribe and colleague in neighborhood. Good governance, inclusive growth and development should not form part of our priority list. An attempt to go against these shameful norms would buy one, for free, the labels like ‘Shiite’, ‘Corrupt’, ‘Thief’, ‘Looter’, ‘PDPig’ and many more. Nothing can be more absurd!
Granted there are number of critics across divides that have consistently keep the government on its toes and hold it responsible for its actions and inactions; however, their voice is often drowned by a cacophony of misdirected protests from the hordes of government’s supporters. This disgusting attitude is antithetical to the evolution and development of democratic processes.
What cannot be denied, however, is that the sovereignty of Nigeria as a corporate existence is being challenged from various angles: IPOB in the east; militants in the creek; ethnic militias in the Middle-belt and upper Benue; Boko Haram in the far north; and lawlessness in the plains of Sokoto-Kebbi-Zamfara axis. Former American Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell argued that Nigeria has perfected the art of dancing on the brink without falling, and I am inclined to agree. However, what’s contestable in the assertion is that if we don’t collectively hasten to arrest the steady descent to anarchy the country is tethering to, we may not just fall into the lagoon, but there’s every tendency we may get drowned all together. God forbid!
And while it’s okay to love, support and defend a politician you like, it’s equally fair to stand up for the truth no matter whose ox is gored. The Muslims among us have an obligation to tell ourselves and our loved ones the truth, as per the saying of the Prophet ( ﷺ): ” You should say the truth even if it were against you…”. If we really mean well for this government and the President as we often claim, we should tell them the truth that things are not going right and we need to push the government to act right and resolve these issues. Our silence worsens the situations, we are not helping matters.
Our destiny as a nation is tied together. It’s either we collectively hang together, or assuredly, all hang albeit separately. Democrats all over the world are known not to give citizens what they deserve but what the citizens bargain for. Civil society advocacy and citizen participation in the discussion and pursuit of good governance are ingredients of reaping the dividends of democracy. Politicians aren’t doing us any favor by governing us hence politics isn’t a charity business. We should hold them responsible on any noticeable failure in the art of governance, and citizens should not let the supposed love we have for them stop us from holding them responsible for what they are responsible. By telling them the truth and calling them to order, we are showing them that we really love them and wish them the best.
And to my comrades in Zamfara-Sokoto-Kebbi axis, nobody will fight on our behalf. Nobody will hold a candlelight vigil at Unity Fountain for us. Nobody will carry placards and match to the presidency to state our grievances and disappointments with the way we’re treated. Media Houses are not charitable organizations hence we shouldn’t expect them to cry more than the bereaved (us), and report our plight to the world while most of us are busy manufacturing consent (left, right and center) for a leadership that obviously failed us. That’s our duty, that’s our responsibility. Ethnic, regional or religious solidarity will not spur Buhari to action but planned and well-orchestrated protests and peaceful demonstrations will. The earlier we disabuse our minds and runaway from profiting Imams/Pastors that are daily manufacturing silly excuses for the failed leadership at both the center to contain the threat of the marauding kidnappers and cattle rustlers, the better for our continued existence.
We deceive ourselves if we always assume that the government and its allies [read: ‘supporters’] will fight for our interests. Pessimism is bad, but a small dose of it may help boost our morale in taking charge of our affairs in ways we are capable of. Remember, comrades, majority of ‘these people’ are only champions of political interests, and relying solely on them (to consider our cries and come to our rescue) further gives credence to their Conspiracy of Silence.