On the 29th of May, as Nigerians celebrated “Democracy Day” and the midpoint of the Buhari-Osinbajo administration, I published an article using a selected metric to appraise their performance so far. As we have come to see in the last few years, Nigerians are generally passionate about the leaders they love or hate, and so my article attracted lots of offline reaction in some public chat groups and in personal chats I had with some persons. I have now chosen to do a public rejoinder to respond to some of the issues raised.
The first sign that I had stepped on the cobra’s tail was a message from a friend I sent the article’s link. His reply was clear: “Don’t ever send me this kind of post again”. A second-hand response I got from another person said the article was not worth discussing at all, and serious people should go about their daily activities and “let those who seek attention find it at their own request”. With the level of incoming vitriol, some clarification is deemed necessary, especially with respect to the feedback that was constructive.
First, someone said the article was wrongly titled. This person’s suggestions included “Where is the change promised by APC” and “The differences and similarities between APC government and PDP government”. Now, this is the kind of criticism I like, as it deserves an intelligent response. I understand that some persons while reading that article may have felt like this person—that the title was wrong. However, that was my intention. The title was intended to be sarcastic, with the contents basically making a mockery of the title. My central point was that during the campaigns, Buhari’s camp painted a picture of a country that had never had a functional democracy, and that their ascension would entrench the “real” democracy. If this point was not understood and anyone felt deceived by the title, I am truly sorry.
Another feedback said I failed to define “democracy” and simply went on a spree of criticisms of the government. In the last part of the preceding paragraph, I have shown a reason for this. In my [possibly flawed] opinion, I did not need to give a definition because a definition was not necessary to understand the article. Democracy has several definitions, with the most popular being a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. If this definition were adopted, then it can be argued that in some way, Nigeria has had a democracy since 1999, even factoring vote rigging. Regardless of the preferred definition, I don’t think my central point is negated—Nigeria of today is very similar to Nigeria of 1999, 2007 and 2011. The basics of the governance culture has not changed.
The last constructive feedback I would address is from someone who said I did not do a holistic appraisal. This person said I simply chose an area and used that to judge the government. To this point, my reply is that a holistic appraisal would require a very lengthy article or better put, a series of articles that would focus on different sectors of the Nigerian socioeconomic sphere. What I did was to look at corruption and the bloated bureaucracy as two areas that show that as far as this administration is concerned, it is still “business as usual”. Nothing has really changed, just the principal actors, and some have simply changed uniforms. I asked this person to provide a list of different sectors and state how things have changed. That list is still being expected.
When it comes to opinion pieces, the fact that we are different persons suggests that we would logically have different views about issues. We may agree on some and disagree on some others. Our ability to intelligently discuss our different perspectives and try to convince the other person, or at least be content with understanding the person’s opposing views is what makes us sensible humans. Anything other than this is unhelpful to real development.
It is true that the Buhari administration has made some achievements, especially in the North East where the Boko Haram insurgency has been reduced greatly. However, trying to shut me down for not praising a president is silly. Nobody is beyond criticism. Even I, by writing a piece and putting it online, make myself available to be criticised. When a person runs for public office, even if that person is a god, criticisms should be expected, especially, if that person fails to perform as expected. I tell my friends that getting worked up because someone criticised Buhari or Jonathan or one pastor simply demonstrates childish behaviour. Instead of blowing up, sit with the critic and give logical reasons why his/her criticism is incorrect. However, if the criticism is valid, whoever is concerned needs to listen before sycophants block off both ears. I rest my case.
Image Credit: raanetwork.org
PS. To provide a “balance”, here’s the Acting President’s national broadcast on 29 May 2017.