When late Chinua Achebe was publicized as one of the beneficiaries of the CFR award in 2004 by Obasanjo administration, he unequivocally rejected it, saying he did so as a protest and wanted it to serve as a “wake up call.” Achebe expressed a fastidious abhorrence with happenings in Anambra, his home state, where “a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.” Instead of addressing the major issue raised by Chinua of this world, he was taken to the cleaners by one of those speaking for the government of the day. He was told that he was uninformed of the enormous strides and touchable achievements that the PDP led administration made between the year 1999 and 2004.
Let me fast forward to the day of Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan—the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Remember that everyone who objectively criticized Goodluck was taken on by the duo of Dr. Doyin Okupe and Dr. Rueben Abati. The foremost counsel that was given by Obasanjo on how to nip the issue of terrorism in the bud, especially the strategy of “carrot and stick” was dismissed and was called mundane by the Senior Special Assistant to The President on Public Affairs. A few years after though, Dr. Doyin Okupe was seen by the whole world while prostrating to Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, begging for forgiveness. Whether OBJ has truly forgiven him is another issue altogether. Okupe is almost forgotten, but the man he insulted is still here and relevant.
When President Muhammadu Buhari took over the baton of power, I thought the fad wouldn’t be the same. I thought there would be a clear departure from the culture of hurling insults on anyone who objectively criticizes PMB and his policies. I thought those who speak for him would do a unique job, since we are in the era of CHANGE. Today, only those who swallow hook, line and sinker—everything the president does are those who love him, but those who criticize him objectively are those who hate him. Infact, they are called wailers!
A few days back, when the ember of fuel scarcity was being fanned into flame by the cluelessness of the duo of Kachikwu and Baru while being cheered on by the substantive Petroleum Minister, a documentary was equally being hatched as a hen would hatch its egg. Please, before you call for my head, kindly understand that no one has said that Mr. President and his core team shouldn’t produce an Oscar Award winning documentary on the “human-side of President Buhari,” but what Nigerians did kick against was the wrong timing of the latest project of PMB. A good thing becomes bad when it is done at the wrong time.
I was one of those who said that it was insensitive to be talking about documentary when the precious citizens of Nigeria were searching for even a drop of petrol as a woman would search for a lost coin. I expected the President of Nigeria to be on the streets, identifying with the good people of our land. And if he couldn’t do that, I expected him to at least do a nationwide broadcast, letting the citizenry know what was transpiring. By doing that, he would be sitting where the good people of Nigeria were sitting. It is a crucial strategy in leadership. It is a strategy that great leaders employ during times of crisis, but PMB missed a great opportunity to bond with the people of Nigeria.
When Nigerians criticized the timing of their latest brainchild, I expected those who speak for PMB not to insult those they are supposed to be leading, but I laughed hysterically when I read these lines from Mr. Femi Adesina: “…if they mistakenly find themselves in Heaven, they would even complain against God. They have no other pastime.” He called our people “armchair critics, who wail at the drop of a hat.” It is clear as water that Mr. Femi Adesina wrongly believes that virtually everyone who criticizes PMB hates him. No! But I am of the opinion that it is those who swallow everything he does—hook, line and sinker—who truly hate him.
Nothing has really changed in the way those who speak for presidents in Nigeria respond to those who criticize presidents and their policies. We do not need to insult those who consistently and objectively hold administrations accountable. I think it is the job of Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu to be winning people to the side of PMB on a daily basis and not losing them. Those who spoke for GEJ contributed immensely to his loss in the last Presidential election. For the umpteenth time, those who are objectively criticizing PMB do not hate him; it is those who are swallowing (hook, line and sinker) everything he does who hate him.
Am I denying the fact that a section of the country does not like him and everything he does? No. But I am of the view that the job of those who speak for PMB should be to find out the reason why they do not like him and dexterously win them to his side. Insulting them as Dr. Doyin insulted His Excellency, president Obasanjo will not get the job done.