Buhari’s Supporters: Blind Followership or Blind Trust?
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.
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…