A lot has happened in the last few days. It was nice to see the president return to Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari held himself with dignity and had not lost his wits while clearly depicting the figure of someone recovering from a serious illness. I have strongly maintained that Buhari did not plan to be sick and from all indications has not been careless with his health. These things happen in life. Nonetheless, there is no contradiction between wishing him a speedy recovery and asking that he must weigh the implications of his health for the well-being of Nigeria. The president is in no shape to preside over a rambunctious family meeting in Daura much less superintend a complicated country like Nigeria. He should be allowed to enjoy for a longer time, the company of his spouse, children, and grandchildren.
There is also the curious story of rat infestation at Aso Rock. If you genuinely believe the story, I have a bridge to sell to you in Lagos. The rat story (much like the recent opaque and vacuous speech) is another indication of the intellectual capacity of those around the president. Its aesthetics are not great for the Buhari presidency.
President Buhari’s health issue reveals more about our society than a lot of contemporary problems in Nigeria. It is quite remarkable that a president who campaigned against overseas medical trips goes on the longest medical tour of any Nigerian leader, uses significant state funds in the process, and returns home to a hero’s welcome. Nigerian politics make nonsense of all known political theories. How do you explain a situation where marginalized people came out in large numbers to welcome a president who has just returned from accessing medical facilities he has not provided in his country?
This is the illogic of the Nigerian situation. We have been focusing in the wrong direction and must now grapple with the fact that our society is the way it is because our people are easily pacified and are probably not ready for 21st-century governance. Kudos to the officials of the Buhari administration for a job well done. I hope you can demonstrate the same efficiency in equipping our hospitals and resolving the ASUU crisis.
I get that many participants in the outpour of “support” were “mobilized”. Some probably joined out of sheer curiosity while others might have been genuine. I’m sorry for my friends on the Left but this goes beyond the generic “false consciousness”. Forget Karl Marx; there are Nigerians who seem content with the present situation. The genius of the developed countries is not that their leaders care about the people; it is that the people are sufficiently savvy to choose competent leaders and protest through all available legitimate channels if they are not being well-served.
In criminology and law, there is the notion of vicarious victimization, a situation where a party suffers from the trauma of victimization of another entity. We may add “vicarious enjoyment” to the Nigerian lexicon. Even in suffering, our people affirm the right of the elites to enjoy and will attempt to lynch anyone who dares to ask any questions. A people cannot be denied their right to live the way they want.
When next I hear of complaints about the epileptic power supply, I shall say, “don’t worry, there’s power supply in Aso Rock”. When next I hear someone complain about unemployment, I shall say “don’t worry, CBN and FIRS have hired children of the elites”. When next someone complains about ill-equipped hospitals, I shall say “London doctors worked wonders on our president”.
Illnesses are not the exclusive preserve of individuals. Societies periodically suffer major health complications. Many Nigerians who have visited the US may be surprised at the recent incidents in Charlottesville. What you experienced might have been the US that is seen by those attending conferences, vacationing, or on medical tourism. The America that you see is a sanitized one. You mingle largely with people from the 33.4 percent of Americans (25 years and older) with university degrees. Part of the remaining 66 to 67 percent and some of those with a degree wanted to take back their country (in other words from non-European Americans).
Trump knew what he was saying when he emphasized his love for the “poorly educated”. Most of those who propelled him to office were white men and women with no college education. However, as widely acknowledged, the underlying social issues — sentimental feelings around notions of supremacy, entitlement, and subjugation of others — date back at least to the period of slavery.
This brand of hate lays claim to a strange hue of Christianity. No wonder Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham jail” that he was “disappointed with the church”. MLK also wrote that “On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. Over and over I have found myself asking: ‘What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?’” King could not believe that most of the churches in the US, especially in the South, had a lackadaisical attitude to the cause of dismantling segregation of American blacks.
I had the opportunity to speak about right-wing terrorism in July 2017 during my “Faculty Lecture” at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ibadan. I warmly recommend an article by Tanya Sharpe in the “Journal of Black Studies”. Sharpe argues that the Identity Christian movement (whose action was witnessed in Charlottesville) is pentagonal. Its qualities include theories of British Israelism, which regard the Bible as the recorded history of the Aryans (rather than Jews); a perversion of fundamentalist Christianity, (evident in literal interpretation of the Bible); anti-government, paramilitary survivalist conspiracy mentality based on fear of elimination of the white race and belief that reestablishing white supremacy depends on organized aggression and race war.
Other characteristics identified by Sharpe includes a polygenic view of origins of humanity (they believe Adam and Eve are the forebears of the white race while non-whites come from pre-Adamic lower species) and the notion of white supremacy. Those were the ingredients of the hate that were displayed in Charlottesville in August. The widespread condemnation of the Charlottesville incident is a welcome development although it is rarely that overt.
Nigerians in diaspora rarely share their experiences with racism. Forget the pictures on Facebook. This is part of the reality confronting your family members overseas. They have to over-perform and have no latitude for errors as they know they are unlikely to get a second chance.
The money your family members send home is made through hard work, toil, and blood. Many work long shifts and excruciating schedules and engage in over time so as to meet the extra demands from Nigeria. They too pay the price for state failure despite being thousands of miles away. Ask healthcare aides, taxi drivers, nurses, pharmacists, and doctors in particular.
Of course, the US has strong institutions and will be fine even if Trump wins a second term — a distinct possibility despite all the noise. Finally, the mechatronics of a leader’s ill-health has implications for the society’s health. I wish President Buhari and the US a speedy recovery.
Follow Oriola on Twitter: @topeoriola.