There is some sense in which the Buhari presidency appears to have set a standard of communication, which is familiarly remote. The absence of polish runs as the essential weakness of an administration which has shown no mercy to phrase, metaphor or imagery. In many instances where the same sense may have been conveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words, it is slaughtered in a sickening defence of the indefensible. The information or publicity handlers of the regime have set themselves against the cherished tradition of employing simplicity and virtuosity in office. Cynicism has replaced noble expression, gaiety and a profound sense of history. Conventions which must be noted as integral parts of culture have been ignored or debased with accompanying serious consequences for envisaged calm grandeur. This exactly is the dilemma presented us by the likes of Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Adviser to President Buhari on media matters and a long line of persons in his mould who are mis-managing the symbolism of their exalted office. It is impossible to align same with our understanding of true humanism.
By their obvious acts of omission and commission, these ones charged with the responsibility of giving the Buhari presidency a good press appear not to understand the intrinsic symbolism of their office or of the office around which they hover. In rather nebulous philosophising, Garba Shehu dis-ingeniously justified the abduction and killing of an indeterminate number of farmers in Borno State by wondering if they obtained licences or permission to go to their farms. The deceased needed not to have taken their entry into and egress from their farms for granted. When Ondo State came under the scourge of herdsmen militia,she did not have the right to limit the incursion of the murderous gangs into the state by ordering them out of their hiding places. The presidency necessarily took umbrage,finding logic in a convenient mis-interpretation of a simple exercise of authority by a state government. Even though the issuance of quit notices and the promulgation of political fatwa have become fashionable and are pronounced at the least provocation in Nigeria, the presidency found the Ondo State version thereof as particularly objectionable, asinine and contrary to the grundnorm.
Every Nigerian, the presidency found its voice to expatiate on the spirit and letter of the constitution for the guidance of all is entitled by law and the constitution to reside in any part of the federation, Not to be outdone in a matter for which it is the North’s foremost gadfly, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria otherwise recognised as the combative Fulani nationalist formation, issued a belligerent “…That Ondo State order is in vain”. It further declared that the herders in the Ondo State Forest Reserve would not obey the governor’s directive. The presidency’s position was embarrassingly in tandem with Miyetti Allah’s cry just thinly shorn of Miyetti Allah’s accoutrement of deceitfulness. A sectarian philosophy has been fashioned and foisted on the country as the ruling ethic of governance or of this presidency. The kind of perceptive insight that is expected of a national government is not the possession of Buhari’s administration. It is lacking in sobriety.
Truly, there is no presidency that has trifled the symbolism inherent in the corporate meaning and in our mutual ownership of the nation’s apex of governance than this Buhari’s presidency. Instead of being the fulcrum on which our peaceable existence turns, a general feeling of invidiousness is the badge of this administration. Government is perceived as overly partisan such that many people feel alienated or sidelined. Issues or events that require the rules enforcement authority of the presidency have been conveniently left to fester into national uproars. Even as militant herders sacked farming communities from their farms resulting in low farm productivity and a looming famine, the presidency appears to be saying all is well. It needs to be observed that the increase in number and in the fierceness of the advocacy of pressure groups reflect a loss of confidence in the presidency’s ability to produce results in consequence of national debates without pressure beyond that which is generated by the inherent strength of the case in point. The clear indication is that some case will be smugly ignored altogether or in part unless it is chanted in the form of a slogan or, worse still, brought to the attention of a usually indifferent National Assembly by direct interference with the pleasures of the public e.g mounting road blocks, making bonfires, lockdowns etc.
The government has become too remote to listen to otherwise gentlemanly advocacy of issues. It is either too pre-occupied with matters too trivial or irrelevant to the mandate of those who voted massively for it or it is too atomistic to produce a rational policy at all. So the enthusiasts of reforms resort to further pressure and then to demonstration, and finally, perhaps, to illegality and, in the end to violence. Success of the campaigns conducted on these lines often leave the government pretending that what has happened is victory for common sense. At the bottom of their hearts, they know that it is nothing of the kind. What has happened is that they did not yield to reasonable argument and when they did yield, they were made to do so by pressure, or even worse. The moral of all this is simple. If you want to get your own way, you must make a nuisance of yourself, and what matters is not the strength of your case but the amount of nuisance you can cause. Such a principle is not necessarily immoral. It is inherently a-moral however; and its social and political consequences can be far reaching and serious. Power begins to move away from an inarticulate majority in favour of various articulate and more or less militant minorities. The remedy may only be found in making government better able to represent the majority, and in other ways to make it less remote.
Very few constituencies have had the courage to decry the shenanigans of a government that is stiff in its bearing. Although the overwhelming majority of the people yearn for a refreshing direction in the manner the country is being run, they are this time up against a government that is obdurate in its ways even when it is not achieving the purpose(s) of its unpopular policiesin the first place. Otherwise esteemed for his character, General Buhari is essentially lacking in progressivism. His proverbial dour has tended to determine the poor direction of his government. A convenient loss of memory or a forgive-less disdain for history and its uncompromising lessons had guided the choice of Buhari as the projected “Change!” agent for relieving our woes.
This president’s scorecard is un-impressive. It is apt to close this conversation with the immortal words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who, as the nation embarked on the road to the second republic, warned:
“… At this juncture in the annals of our country, it is imperative and in the best interest of stability and progress that democracy should succeed. But the portents are bad. And I do really tremble to contemplate any alternative to democracy. If we fail to make a success of these… experiments, the consequences would be most dreadful…”
Words on marble; words of wisdom
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs wrote vide [email protected]