Muhammadu Buhari: The meaning and politics of language

on   /   in Is'haq Modibbo Kawu 12:35 am   /   Comments

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
“Kare jinni, biri jinni”:
Hausa Metaphor

WHEN General Muhammadu Buhari received a group of CPC loyalists from Niger State, in Kaduna last week, he probably never thought that his admonition for free and fair  polls in 2015, would become the hottest political potato of recent weeks in Nigeria.

Words carry the possibilities of several interpretations and in the context of the times inNigeria,Buhari is not just another person or an ordinary politician.

He is the bête noire of the ruling party in the country. They fear him; they loathe him; they live a career of disinformation and psych-op around his person and politics.

When a mischievous twist was deliberately concocted out of the message to party stalwarts, those in the inner recesses of power within the Goodluck Jonathan presidency and the PDP must have licked their chops and rubbed hands in absolute delirium: we have got Buhari where we want him: on the defensive!

Let us be clear about it; the PDP has long feasted on Buhari’s propensity for the honest man’s faux pas. In 2003, it was “God sent”, that the man allegedly told a crowd at a book launch in Sokoto, to vote only for Muslims. The fact that he spoke in Hausa and the reporter who filed the story was not fluent in the language and was not even at the event did not matter. It was an opportunity to robe a dangerous opponent with the toga of a fanatic.

In a country where the existential conditions forced people to retreat into ethno-religious laagers, what better  way to mask the incompetence of the ruling party than to stoke primordial fears?

Nigerians, in the South, and the non-Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria, were mobilised into a constituency of fear to vote for the same party making life unbearable for the Nigerian people.

So fear plus a decisively pernicious use of state power; the collusion of electoral umpires and security personnel, returned an illegitimate mandate. Nigerians got more of the same: corruption; inconsiderate governance and disrespect for the norms of democratic accountability.

Vote, protect the votes and follow up

By the next round of votes, Buhari served another helping of political sloganeering the PDP hawks could feed upon. This time it was: “a kasa; a tsare; a raka”, which literally told the electorate to vote, protect the votes and follow up to the points of counting/collation. By its composition as the umbrella of the most vicious segment of the Nigerian political elite, the PDP is not structured as a nation-building political party.

It is a platform of access to lucre and a redoubt for prebendalist looting of Nigeria. It cannot therefore allow a free and fair election. The reason is that the interests it represents cannot deliver on basic promises contained even in the party’s programme or electoral platform. It has evolved into a vote-stealing contraption, stripped of all subterfuge! But it also made one remarkably negative contribution to the nation’s political process since 1999; it succeeded in creating a clone or avatar of itself, in all the major  parties in the country.

Its internal dynamics are anathema to inner-party democracy; that is the same way the ANPP, ACN and CPC are also operated; it grouped individuals who often rise higher than the party; it is the same in the opposition parties. Where similarities dominate a political space, not much choice is left to make. That explains why thePDP feasts on statements by its most dangerous opponents. As we have seen since 2003, that space is mainly occupied by MuhammaduBuhari.

Buhari’s mass appeal takes a messianic proportion, in Northern Nigeria. So the ruling party’s game plan, is to make Buhari’s fanatical followership amongst the poor an eternal political burden.

He must  constantly be painted as leader for an unreasoning and excitable mob; a mob that is easily swayed into violence by the words of a man they implicitly trust as the alternative to the ‘basket of scorpions’, as the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi described the PDP he helped to form.

So when the mass was urged to vote and protect those votes, the vote rigging contraption called the PDP, turned the slogan on its head as a call for mindless violence, knowing that its impunity was likely to trigger an eruption of anger, as we consequently saw.

It became a self-fulfilling prophecy aided by the manipulation of words and the deliberate acts of the ruling party, as feared by its opponents

Crises brewing within the polity

The creation of a storm in a teacup, by the presidency through Reuben Abati’s statement and the high decibel vituperation of Olisa Metuh of the PDP, was a co-ordinated attempt to shift the focus of Nigerians from the crises brewing within the polity.

These include damaging allegations against the president and his handlers by Henry Okah, the MEND leader; the financial crisis that has seen delays in payments of salaries and NYSC members’ allowances and inability of the FAAC to meet twice; the ripples from the fuel subsidy probe; theft of an estimated180, 000 barrels of oil daily (the equivalent of $7billion annually); the controversial plan to borrow $7. 9billion (same amount oil bunkerers steal annually?); the NSA’s recent statement which tore to the heart of the ruling party; President Goodluck Jonathan’s intentions in 2015, despite an incremental display of lack of performance by the administration.

It was important to take the minds of Nigerians from the administration’s self-inflicted problems; and create a straw man out of MuhammaduBuhari. Remembrance and reminiscences can then be manipulated to acquire a dominant frame in the mind when associated with fear.

By taking a proverb out of context and stressing blood, the presidency and the PDPstoked the embers of fear associated with the experiences of the post-2011 elections. The twin-track approach hoped to score many points: demonise Buhari further, to make it impossible for him to be the alternative platform to the PDP; as well as to reinforce the sense of siege which was exploited for the 2011 election.

It worked in the recent past; it can still be useful. The various groups carefully choreographed to respond to what Buhari allegedly said show how the manipulation of meaning in the use of language, can sinisterly be achieved. It is a major weapon of political domination and control.

Those who think 2015 is still too far away are either deluded or naïve about the essence of politicking and power. This PDP regime will not go to the Nigerian people on the basis of its promises and their fulfillment. It never did in the past and it will not now!

There are rumblings within the ruling party in the run up to the 2015 elections, especially with the recent declaration by Northern Governors to find a single candidate they can unite behind. Handlers of the Jonathan presidency are not taking chances; that is why the manipulative reading of Buhari’s use of a Hausa metaphor became an essential part of politicking. Words are very potent; Muhammadu Buhari will have to learn the bitter lesson of the psych-op project that the PDP regime has taken to him.

There will be no respite till after the 2015 election. In an ironic twist, Buhari’s words might very well turn out to be the best way to describe what is rumbling towards us from 2015: “karejini, birijini”!It “simply is a metaphor often used in Hausa to define consequential outcome of an action”; and my authority is SUNDAY TRUST of May 20th, 2012.

Sacking Lagos medical doctors: Segun Ayobolu’s courage

THE ACN never ceases to describe itself as a “progressive” political party. My conception of being progressive is class-based; the party that is progressive is located in an ideological spectrum, which seeks the interest of the working people and the poor. I do not think this is how the Action Congress defines its own “progressive” politics.

So when Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State governor, sacked 778 medical doctors recently, he just underlined the class character of the regime and the party it belongs to. It would be recalled that Bola Tinubu also had a running battle with the trade union movement during his tenure. It was therefore no surprise that Lai Muhammed, ACN’s spokesperson, defended and supported the action of his party’s governor.

What pleasantly surprised me in the whole saga is the forthright position taken by Segun Ayobolu, THE NATION’s columnist and close confidant of Bola Tinubu. His column’s title last week was taken from Lenin: “What is to be done”?

He described the action as “certainly the most drastic and draconian measure ever taken in the history of industrial relation in Nigeria”. Whatever might be the alleged merits of the government and the “equally understandable…unqualified endorsement (of the sacking by the ACN)”, Segun nevertheless argued that “the stark truth, however, is that the mass sack by an ACN state government, for whatever reason, of 778 doctors has serious negative implications for the party’s professed progressive ideology and democratic commitment”.

He then asked an interesting follow up question: “If reactionary political forces, citing the Lagos state precedent, decide in future to clamp down on workers and strangulate their political rights, will ACN have the moral authority to utter a word?”

Segun Ayobolu disagrees with the method employed by the doctors but said their grievances were genuine. My questions for Segun will be directly related to the class character of the party and government. When they are described as “progressive”, is that a general description devoid of a class content?

How can a party that has a history of serially fighting the working people claim any “moral authority”, against “reactionary political forces”, when it shares the same disdain for the working people as Segun’s “reactionary political forces”? Maybe this is the time to begin to interrogate the simplistic label of “progressive” so liberally thrown about, in respect of parties like the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Or in the alternative,  stalwarts of the party like Segun Ayobolu, who share ideological empathy for the working people should begin to help their party become genuinely “progressive”.

A party cannot be anti-working people and at the same time shout itself hoarse that it is ‘progressive’; we can see through empty sloganeering! Segun Ayobolu made a stand and that was very good!

 

 

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