By Frisky Larr
It’s been quite amusing since the inception of the Buhari administration barely one year ago, observing self-styled critics of the new government, who are driven by diverse motivations. I have identified them in three different categories. The first group comprises those who have set out to criticise the government from the very beginning, no matter what the regime does. This group has now become popularly christened as “The Wailing Wailers” very much in disrespect of “Bob Marley and The Wailers” of the classical Reggae fame! The second group includes those who believe that they are being objective by being seen as criticising the government after throwing their full weight behind Buhari’s watershed election in a juicy grand style. The third and final group comprises those who are genuinely angry that things are not proceeding the way they had hoped would uplift the common man in a very short time.
I have issues with all three groups with varying degrees of understanding. I tend to show the least understanding of the position and attitude of the first group, which set out from the very beginning, to attack and disparage the government at all costs no matter what it does. It is the group that exemplifies the “ideal” form of despicable attacks and criticisms like it should never be practiced in a healthy democratic culture. Confronted with the levity of their actions and illogicality of their utterances, their most commonly advanced argument is “What does it now feel like getting back a taste of what you dished out to Jonathan?”
This extremely infantile and pubescent approach to important matters of state and the destiny of a nation can hardly be qualified by any discerning mind, with any flattering or polite adjective for the sake of decency. The actors are aware of the sense of immaturity that their actions reflect but they are very well driven by the impact of group dynamics. What an individual would never do, left to himself, he will now do very easily with a sense of justification and righteousness, feeling not alone in the company of like-minds. Educated minds that would ordinarily weigh the pros and cons in words and deeds simply metamorphose into cyber touts and rabble-rousers, spewing hate and mischief for the simple sake of angering the state because they feel secure in the comfort of a mob. Their most popular stock in trade, so far, has been the habit of jumping on every issue perceived as negative in relation to the government of Muhammadu Buhari and ripping all facts apart and out of context if need be, as long as it serves the purpose of boosting a negative perception of the government in public view.
They celebrate, in ecstatic fascination, the shortage of cash in the state’s treasury as incompetence in the management of financial and economic affairs, knowing too well what the impact of dwindling prices can be when it affects the mainstay of the economy. They celebrate the padding of a budget as incompetence and hypocrisy, conveniently ignoring the criminal dimension to the despicable act perpetrated by remnants of decadence and the preparatory environment under which the habit thrived. They celebrate the emergence of buyers’ queues at filling stations as an opportunity that can never be missed to cut a pound of flesh, willfully negating the reality that the folks also suffered same in the reign of their hero. They suddenly find the mega-phones to announce the random criminal killings perpetrated by Northern cattle rearers as the new crime-in-town introduced by the hated Northern President. The truth that they know so well, however, is that the problems have existed in varying degrees in several governments. They know so well too, that it is one thing to point out the urgent need for a solution and another thing, entirely, to label a problem as the poster-problem of a hated regime.
Then they are led by people who should have known better with an intimidating background of academic experience and financial resources, lending credence to pettiness and idiosyncrasies. They tweet half-truths and sponsor ads for political ambitions and clearly overlook the consequences of the political tradition they are breeding for future generations within and outside the senate.
The tweeting senator with a not-so-covert presidential ambition simply ends up spearheading a movement of half-truths and willful manipulation with recklessness and reminds me of the foul seeds of journalistic analyses that were sown by the likes of Reuben Abati, Okey Ndibe and Simon Kolawole at the peak of their activism against Olusegun Obasanjo. Today, the behaviour of the so-called Wailers is a partial manifestation of this academically misplaced tradition that I strongly condemned in vain at that crucial point in time.
The tweeting senator who saw all the ills of the preceding government and made no commonsense to challenge the fundamental spread of decay has now suddenly re-discovered and redefined the word “common sense”. In all his tweets and rants, he cleverly forgets to make commonsense on Dasukigate or Badehgate. He makes no common sense of the financial recklessness of the red chamber. Femi Fani-Kayode has long gone silent under the yoke of a corruption cover-up that went awfully wrong and no tweeting senator saw a commonsense factor to tweet about.
Then it dawned on me that the folks are trapped in a state of mind from which they have failed to free themselves. They are yet to grow past the problem of the North-South dichotomy that has plagued Nigeria for several decades past. To them, Buhari is always a Northerner before being Nigerian and they themselves remain Southerners before being Nigerians. It’s “Us” versus “Them”! It does not matter to them that even President Muhammadu Buhari, who in the past, was a personification of sectionalism with reckless pro-Northern utterances, has now grown past that stage and continued on the footpath of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, embracing the Federal Character mandated by the constitution for the good of the country. No.
In their perception, a Southerner who embraces the anti-corruption project of the president (which, in their view, is nothing but hypocrisy because Buhari is also a thief) is nothing else but a traitor and a sellout. The fight against corruption has sud-denly become a misplaced priority of governance as long as the thieves may end up being predominantly Southerners. Never mind though that the hated government has, so far, focused far more disproportionately on its Northern kindred.
This is the point in time in which we recognise the pitiable state of mind that the critics have long degenerated into.
The second group of critics for which I show a limited understanding of seeks to wear the cloak of objectivity by being seen to be criticising the administration having staked a lot of energy backing the same regime. I am sometimes irked by this group for the simplicity to which it reduces itself to be loved and adored as everybody’s darling. For want of subjects to criticise, its members hop aboard the bandwagon of trivialities and irrelevance. With a vast and radiant array of positive mental and rational energy, they unwittingly obscure their hard-earned reputation needlessly flip-flopping in the murky stream of dirty water lilies. They suddenly find favour in unleashing attacks on a president’s honesty that promises foreign partners the resolve to rein in the rampant culture of crime and dishonesty, for which a section of Nigerians is known all over the world. They dance upon the carnival wagon showcasing budgetary irregularities to be seen as fair and square. Then they fail to make amends when news unfolds of the criminal syndicate underlying the embarrassing plot. They suddenly begin to hinge on the president’s distinctive slow pace in prosecuting his signature policy of War Against Corruption. They occasionally stray into the Wailers’ terrain, illogically asking if this was the Change they sought with their votes, only to provide the relevant answer when they start defending the president again.
This is a group that basically means no harm to the national interest, but seems to crave the notion of advancing their personal image with a simplistic approach to popular appeal.
The last group, with which I sympathise and empathise, is the group that is simply reacting authentically to the persistence of pain against all expectations. My grudge with this group, however, is bedded in its involuntary supply of needless ammunition to the camp of the grumbling wailers. This is the group that heaved the most sigh of relief when power supply suddenly surged upon the assumption of the presidency by Muhammadu Buhari. It enjoyed every bit of the moment, in which our comatose refineries swung into action and did outlandish magic. We called it all the body-language impact. Deep within though, we all knew, it was a transient knee-jerk reaction. After all, the fear of the unknown was leaving a livid track on the comportment of those who had axes to grind. With revenues dwindling, however, and culprits compelled to spit out the “yam” that they have eaten, the fear of who may be the next person in line, now seems to drive the panic reaction of overnight saboteurs.
Yet, I must not fail to pay tribute to all these men and women in this last category of involuntary critics, who live in Nigeria and bear the brunt of hardship that daily life demands and still remain level-headed enough to separate the wheat from the wasteful chaff. I doff my hat for all courageous men and women who go through hours and days of power failure, weeks and months of fuel shortage, unpredictable days of armed robbery, and the uncertain days of kidnapping. I adore their resilience and doggedness for making ends meet in extremely challenging conditions. Yet, they keep their cool and know where to lay the blame and help to craft a blueprint.
The missing link of added patience that is required in the face of mounting pressure signals the weight of the burden that they bear. Yet, it will all get worse before it becomes better.
Little wonder then that the group of the Wailers, in its isolation and desperation, seeks to capitalise on the pains of the vulnerable third group in the hope that it will bring it relief. But the nagging and wailing of the third group is as transient as the pains that it endures. It simply requires a heightened dose of reality check.
By the way, if I were a tweeting senator, I’d imagine myself saying right away, “My name is Frisky Larr, I’m just trying to do some reality check”.
Frisky Larr is a German-based Radio/Television Journalist and author of Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment.