A few days ago Dede Mabiaku appeared on a radio talk as a counterpoise to Femi Adesina. If all parties understood their roles, the ultimate beneficiaries would have been the nation. Adesina defended the government’s record perhaps with some apologies. That is his national duty. The president’s effort would bear fruit in the near future, he said.
Many are fed up and are easily irritated by any optimism, but his argument was not irrational: It could amount to impatience to conclude Buhari has failed when he has 60 % of his tenure to run; Buhari has a four-year mandate and he has only had the opportunity to author and supervise one annual budget. Dede Mabiaku was restless, peeved. And he had every right to be agitated. But it was in his particular interest to maintain decorum so that his grief could be heard.
After a few failed attempts to interject and rudely stop Adesina’s arguments he perceived insufferable, he unraveled. He could have left Femi Adesina prevaricating about why the DSS has not questioned the officials of Miyetti Allah ? But he self indulgently threw a tantrum and walked away.
If Dede Mabiaku understood his role well he would have swallowed his ego. That unprovoked outburst was patently childish. He was in that discourse partly as a trustee for all desirous to hold the government publicly accountable, perhaps for all ordinary people of this country. It’s common knowledge that only a bad messenger allows his sensibilities to get in the way of the message he must deliver.
Dede misunderstood his status and his task. But there is more. Mabiaku was ill prepared, didn’t come with sound arguments. A man with strong objective reasons would bide his time in a debate. He would not allow emotions muddle his presentation or deny him the opportunity. Mabiaku could have smilingly conceded to Femi Adesina that the president has four years. But could have struck an uppercut by asking if patience meant keeping quiet while the country was driven towards a cliff?
Then Adesina could have conceded again that the ordinary people were going through difficulties, but temporary difficulties. Adesina could dispute the idea that the country was floundering. Then Dede could have thrown a joker: “the government inherited economic difficulties, but it has toyed with the self-destruct button for too long.” He would have looked into Femi’s eyes and raised the issue of mass murders committed by cattle herdsmen.
Femi Adesina is smart, he would know when he has been cornered. Dede could then have gone on and on about how the Federal Government has shackled itself by cleaving to ruinous cattle rearing sentiments. He could have shed a tear or two after mentioning Agatu and Nibo. And since Femi is such a well mannered man, he would have offered his handkerchief.
Then Dede could have politely refused saying, “ I am weeping because our national unity is easily perishable and you guys don’t get it.” But Mabiaku derailed. He conjured up an insult from a good-natured banter and scoffed away. But Mabiaku is not alone. There is a growing tendency in Nigeria. Discourses aren’t opportunities for rigorous argumentation and exchange of ideas any longer.
The spirit of intolerance has possessed nearly everyone. And impatience has become a virtue. At the very highest levels of the society, spurious arguments are invested with emotions and propelled to knock reason into submission. Obfuscation has even become outdated. Alternative facts and outright falsehood are employed freely by men who perpetually claim integrity. And because emotions have taken over even ridiculously outrageous claims are bought by millions.
The leaders of the opposition have abandoned seminars and lectures and have mastered the art of ‘sound and fury.’ There is no attempt to lay down concise arguments and put the ruling party on the spot. There is no attempt to lay down clear policy alternatives to contest against what is perceived as medieval ideas of the ruling party. Because the opposition lacks ideas and is exceptionally lazy, its recourse has been to shallow alarmism and fear mongering.
The foreign exchange rate mechanism has failed woefully. But the opposition has no clear stand on its preferred exchange rate regime. The country is more divided than it has ever been but it is so mainly because the opposition has tapped into dangerous veins of poisonous sectionalism, shamelessly. The opposition screams recession but sympathizes with the Avengers who are bleeding the country.
Opposition cannot be reduced to anarchism. Wike and Fayose need to understand this. A certain easy recourse to absolute lawlessness in the ostentatious defence of the rule of law has become unfortunately rampant. What such an opposition represents, in its essence, cannot give any discerning voter any real hope.
But there is another variety. The ones who are not belligerent. They understand that lawlessness and violence do not serve the interest of the ordinary man. But they are not effective in opposition or in citizen activism because they are lily-livered, cowardly.
They are cowards because they do not understand that championship of great social causes would come with great personal sacrifices, losses. Consider Tuface. Before calling for a general protest, he should have prepared his mind. I wasn’t going to be part of the protest because I remain personally convinced that the president needs more time. But I understand why many others may have strong contrary views.
So I was happy that a celebrity like Tuface was rising to champion such a worthy cause. Any action geared at raising public awareness and demanding accountability is patriotic and noble.
Nigerian politics needs citizens who are primed to react to actions of government rapidly. Tuface was on the verge of a monumental change that could have positively affected our political trajectory. Celebrities can use their enormous social capital to check politicians. But he chickened out. Besides cowardice, he, like Dede, was utterly ill prepared. He should have reconciled himself to the threats, intimidation and gimmicks of security agencies.
The idea that the protest could be hijacked and that many people could die and therefore such a protest is always reckless is utter nonsense. To buy that sophistry is to concede the right to protest forever. People are only alive if they are free and when they can’t protest against perceived sloppiness in governance, they are already dead.
The opposition is weak and dying because intelligent people are fearful of the personal costs of taking strong moral vocal positions. Nigeria and Buhari would have been the biggest beneficiaries of a well attend mass protest. Buhari needs a virile and intellectually engaging opposition.
The government needs to be put on its toes. Decision making process is a contest of ideas. People outside government can influence decision making at the highest levels by being lucid, vocal and insistent. When we take strong reasoned positions we help elements within the government pushing sound but rejected ideas to thrive.