Buhari’s Supporters: Blind Followership or Blind Trust?

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President Obama ended his January 2015 State of the Union Speech with these amazing words: ‘a better politics is one where we debate without demonising each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts’. These words have since then been used by many people, especially, the supporters of the All Progressive Congress here in Nigeria. They have hinged their ‘issues based’ campaign on the fact that unlike other parties, they are unwilling to demonise any one.

I agree with Obama. I also think that to have a better politics, we must debate. A debate is quite simply, a regulated discussion of a proposition between two or more matched sides. An election debate is a forum where a candidate can, in a regulated manner, provide useful information to voters about his/her party’s issue preferences, priorities, and personalities, sensitise viewers to research more about their party and its promises, provide the citizens who do not attend rallies, an opportunity to watch and hear the candidates speak for a lengthy period of time about their vision. I support debates because I’d like to see the passion that candidates have for the positions they are gunning for.

Yesterday, a debate was organised by the National Elections Debate Group (NEDG). In attendance were the Presidential Candidates of KOWA Party – Prof Oluremi Sonaiya, NCP – Martin Onovo, PDP – Dr Goodluck Jonathan, UDP – Chief Godson Okoye and UPP – Chief Chekwas Okorie. Unfortunately, the Presidential Candidate of the APC was conspicuously absent. I chose the word unfortunately because in my opinion, it was a missed opportunity. It would have been one more shot at swinging undecided voters his way.

Truth be told, the APC lost a lot of steam when the elections were postponed about five weeks ago. The PDP has tried to put their house in order by making judicious use of the additional time the postponement provided them. They have campaigned more, become more visible and have even embarked on a war with insurgents – one that they had not thought to fight in the many years of attacks. APC on the other hand seems to have gone quieter. Whether this is due to a lack of funds, one cannot tell. However, one can say this, the debate would have been a great opportunity to have resurrected the seemingly flailing spirit of their campaign. Given the added fact the debate is so close to the elections, I can only see the positives.

For me, this would have been an opportunity for GMB to discuss his party’ policies and manifestos, a chance to point out what is so wrong with President Jonathan’s rulership and most importantly why we should make the effort to come out en-masse and vote for him on the 28th of March. It would have been his opportunity to convince many people that he is not as autocratic as he has always been portrayed to be. I would have liked to hear him speak yesterday but alas, the APC Podium was glaringly empty.

I found out that what surprised me beyond his absence is the defence offered by the APC Supporters who came up with a slew of justifications for their Presidential Candidate’s absence. Excuses ranged from the often touted  one that the NEDG is a one man show run by Raymond Dokpesi, the owner of Africa Independent Television, a TV station that has run a derogatory documentary on GMB to the fact that debate was already pre-planned. They also alleged that the organisers only wanted GMB’s presence there to  legitimise the whole process, which is why he had been invited.

In spite of the defence raised by GMB supporters, I realise that I am not convinced and I would tell you why. Considering the fact that this was a debate to which other political parties had been invited to, why did the GMB team feel there was a conspiracy targeted at him alone? I think his decline would have been appropriate had the debate been a face off between himself and the incumbent, but as is, the fact that the others attended and participated, his supporters’ point about a ‘special plot’ against their candidate is moot. Why weren’t any of the others targeted? You see, if the other political parties with a smaller followership could attend the debate, nothing should stop GMB with a huge support base from going there to have a say.

If the reason for a decline was because of long standing issues with the NEDG and AIT, then attendance would have portrayed a more magnanimous and forgiving side to him. At the end of the day, I have asked myself over and over, ‘what’s the worst that could have happened if he had attended this debate?’. I find that this is the question I can’t answer. As for me, I can only see the positives.

Now to the debate itself, apart from Martin Onovo and Remi Sonaiya’s passionate responses, i found the debate itself to be lack lustre. Since yesterday, I have become more interested in Onovo and wished that he was being fielded by a more popular party. He is a politicain to look out for. (See, the benefits of debating?). As for our incumbent, I expected a more passionate defence of work  done, but I find that was sorely lacking. Also, It did seem as though the President read  from some carefully prepared notes at certain points of the debate. Whether this is an act of careful preparation or due to the expo leaked to him, as alleged by the opposition, one cannot say. I can only posit that I would have been more impressed if he had crammed his lines and injected some more passion.

That said, I found an interesting post on the reaction of people to the debate. The most interesting part of the post is the poll that was conducted on whether or not Buhari should have attended the debate. Tthe result was overwhelmingly in support of his decision not to attend! Now, that surprised me. Is it that people do not want to hear him speak or they just desperately want Jonathan out? Read and take poll here.

Poll screenshot from www.naij.com. You can take this poll there too.

Whatever the reasons, there is a lesson inherent for us all and it is this: If any lessons should have been learnt in the last six weeks it is the one on the responsibility of the citizenry. You have a right to demand accountability and sentiments will always block that simple duty. In just six weeks, Jonathan did more than he has obviously done in five years – just because he was questioned. We should not box ourselves back into the corner from whence we came because we ‘favour’ one candidate over the other. It shows that we as a people have not learnt our lessons yet. We should ask the relevant questions and expect the best behaviour of our leaders.

So, is it blind followership or blind trust? I can’t say. I can only say that I would have preferred Buhari to debate. I however seem to be in the minority. What do you think? Should he have attended or not?

Over to you, the verdict is yours…

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42 Comments

It's your turn, what do you think?

  1. You are not alone madam TNV. I am with you on this one. The failure of the present day administration makes the debate a work over for the APC, but they preferred to be absent.

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  2. Mr Poster,u need to search ur soul and connect with your intellect. Did GEJ attend the presidential debate in 2011? Why the noise now that GMB chose to stay away from the compromised stage managed debate?

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  3. do you in all honesty applaud the below average performance of Jonathan during the debate. I was so ashamed to think this man who doesn't even pronounce well talkless of articulating his reply is really the president of Nigeria. Sai Buhari

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  4. 1999 OBJ (PDP) refused to debate, others did. Results: OBJ won the election. 2003 OBJ (PDP) refused to debate, others including GMB did. Results: OBJ won the election. 2007 Shehu Musa Yar adua (PDP) refused to debate, others including GMB did. Results: Yar adua won the election. 2011 Jonathan (PDP) refused to debate, others including GMB did. Results: Jonathan won the election. 2015 GMB (APC) refused to participate in a PDP-staged managed debate, others including Jonathan did. Results: GMB wins the election. Nigeria...Sai Buhari ....APC...CHANGE!!!

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  5. We know both Jonathan and Buhari. We know their administrative records.
    We know what naira worth during both administrations.
    We know the level of corruption during both administrations.
    We also know the level of security and unemployment during their respective tenure.

    Do we need debate and stories before we know that BUHARI is far better than JONATHAN?
    DEBATE IS NOT WHAT WE NEED. WE NEED CHANGE!

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  6. For general Muhammad buhari not attending the debate its a signal for him winning the election. Because Jonathan did not in 2011 he win, now he attended he will lose election comes28 march

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  7. Obasanjo in 1999 did not participate in debate and he won,yaradua didn't participate in debate 2007 and won, Jonathan didn't participate in debate 2011 and he won, now its clear GMB not participating in debate, prove his winning the election.

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  8. Call it watever u like dat is ur lukout. D question is why dd he 2 sunned dat kind debate invitation in 2011? By d way wat is on ground 2 b debated dat is not already known? WIT NO CHIBOK GIRLS ANY OTHER DEBATE IS A FARCE. Mischew lots.

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  9. Dont b in d past, go into history and find out dat OBJ twice decline debate and twice he won; Yar'Adua decline debate and won election; GEJ decline in 2011 and yet won; so let GMB decline so he can win.

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  10. Jonathan did not come 2 debate in 2011 so what was the basis on which we voted him then,what changed 4 him now. Rmbr he was asking 4 questions before hand @ d time, did he get it now. Apparently debates don't do much 4 us in dis country

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  11. Its payback time, GEJ REFUSED AND NEGLECTED the NEDG in 2011, we weren't blind or deaf so, its our turn not to debate, debate my foot, what are they debating, what lie haven't we heard. All we want is CHANGE.

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  12. Have you forgotten so soon? May be history is repeating itself. In 2011, GEJ didnt attend debates but GMB did and people voted massively for him. Was that blind hope or blind trust?

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  13. There is nothing to discuss. We are tired of empty grammatical constructions without actions. My people, no be grammar we wan chop o, forget about it, what we need is change

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  14. LIke Dele Momodu said " The organiser were only trying to legitimise the debate by wanting GMB to attend but unorfortunately for them he didnt. Honestly, the KOWA & NCP candidates were marvelous and we hope to have them on the progressive train or better still on a winnable platform. But for me GMB need not attend cos debate doesnt really affect opiinions especially in Nigeria. It will only give PDPig some opportunity to lash out more. NOw all they can say is "..he is afraid" "..he cannot debate" etc. Anyway we know he is a gallant soldier and have also debated not once

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  15. We are not blind, an illiterate can not lead nigeria again .general with fake certificate. It took me six years in primary school and six years in secondary school and also years in tertiary institution with qualifications and merit and you want be to be ruled by who?

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  16. MUMU didn't u see his blueprint? whats so important about debate? when Jonathan refused to debate in 2011 did heaven fall? for ur information BUHARI will win and nothing will happen

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  17. Na Wa For Jonathanians! After The Debate, Has There Been Any Reduction In The Exchange Rate Of the Dollar? Abeg Let Us Av A Change! That Is The Only Way We Will Benefit From Democracy, And The Only Way We Can Compare The PerFormances Of The Parties!

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  18. u must be senseless let ur gej, where is jonAthan in 2011 when Buhari is debating. think very well b4 u talk cus nigerian are wiser than u think. GMD all d way to aso rock

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  19. If you have all it takes to discern you would have known that the incoming president is one that refused to participate in the debate, traced back to 1999 it's clear that those who refused to participate became the president, that is to tell you that debate in itself doesn't contribute anything to their chances except that those candidates whose chances are low strive using all available means to increase their chances, hence in my own personal conclusion Muhammadu Buhari does not need the debate since he has the greatest chances.

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  20. On Buhari: It should be clear to any reasonable person that Buhari at seventy-two will struggle to rule nigeria.

    "I was 25 years old when Buhari was Head of State and now I am 50+ and he still wants to be President. I don't understand that ... I don't understand that at all. I call on all young people of Nigeria to take their future into their hands and ensure that they vote for a new generation of leaders" - Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (2010).

    "When I took office, I was 44; then I could count the white hair on my head; now I am 51, I am now counting the black hair on my head. Don't put old people there ooo. If you put old people there they will sleep ooo, and they will not be able to work"- Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State (2015).

    #Live on Al - Jazeera TV, interview, Buhari referred to his party as All Progressive 'Confidence' (instead of Congress) while making a reference.

    #Live at a rally in Owerri, Imo State, Buhari in his observation of protocol said "my able running mate, Professor Yemi Osunbade (Osinbajo).

    Shine your eyes and vote wisely. Vote Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

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  21. It is a shame on Nigerians and how shalliw minded they can be. They clamour for change but it is evident that it is mere sloganeering. Why would a people desirous of change still want things done d old way. GMB would have presented himself before d public rather than behaving like d people he wants to topple.
    And Nigerians due to desperation ain't thinking but are blinded by followership of a ship that takes them nowhere. Your situations remain d same.

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  22. This thing is very simple, I don't want talk, I dont want much from GMB. Only one thing……… ANTI CORRUPTION…. thats all and as for me o i dont need any speech, debate, exam or test to know her will do much better than the current president. Nigerians want to build a house, they have not started foundation and rthey are talking about roof and paint on the wall. Our democracy is young and though the government is old, it lacks integrity. starting from ground up we need a foundation will good integrity. This must be as corrupt free as possible. civil servants must understand they are there to serve and not to be served. I trust GBM will do this, no debate or talk required.

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