By Femi Aribisala
It will take some time for those Douglas Anele fondly refers to as Buharimaniacs to realize that, in a democracy, there is nothing definitive about the outcome of an election. When an election has been concluded, those who opposed the winner are not required to shut up or go into exile.
They are required to go into opposition. Those who opposed the winner are not defeated. As a matter of fact, their opposition may be justified subsequently by the actions and inactions of the winner.
In his six months in office, President Buhari has done little to change the view of his opponents that he was the wrong choice as president of Nigeria. On the contrary, he has done a lot to confirm their fears. Rather than enjoy a honeymoon period, the president has squandered his earlier goodwill. As a matter of fact, if the election were to be re-held today, Buhari would not win. If he would, it would only be by the smallest of margins.
Buhari supporters are very touchy. They would not have anybody criticize their president, even when such criticisms are justified. They feel vindicated by Buhari’s victory and believe that should be the end of the matter. However, Buhari’s victory is actually the beginning of the matter. With his victory, the matter ended with Jonathan and Buhari becomes the issue. This is what the president himself has failed to understand. In the last six months, he has insisted that Jonathan is still the issue. He is not any longer.
Buhari’s supporters are beginning to be embarrassed by his poor performance since he assumed office. Many who continue to support him do so because they are already committed to him. They find it difficult to admit they may have made a mistake. They are very sensitive whenever anyone criticizes the government. Some even become abusive and react on social media blogs by telling such persons to: “Go and hug a transformer.”
No such luck! Since Buhari supporters did not hug transformers under Jonathan; neither will Jonathan supporters hug transformers under Buhari. Since Buhari supporters did not go into exile under Jonathan; neither will Jonathan supporters go into exile under Buhari. Since Buhari supporters did not keep silent under Jonathan, neither will Jonathan supporters keep silent under Buhari.
Lessons in Democracy: Buhari supporters need to take courses in “Democracy 101.” Jonathan’s supporters will not vanish into thin air just because he lost an election. Neither will they lose their voice because of the government’s onslaught against everything Jonathan.
It is absolutely important that the voice of the opposition continues to be heard loud and clear. The rights of losers are protected under the Constitution. Indeed, the rights of losers become more important than the rights of winners in a democratic system. Losers are protected from winners, ensuring that today’s losers can become tomorrow’s winners.
It should not be forgotten that Jonathan defeated Buhari in 2011. Therefore, Buhari supporters should not be too pumped up simply because Buhari defeated Jonathan in 2015. Nobody ever said the 2015 election was the election to end all elections. Neither do elections under the Nigerian presidential system of government subscribe to the principle of “winner takes all.”
Part of the problem here is that this is the very first time a government in Nigeria will be defeated by the opposition at the federal level. Therefore, the victors and their supporters are acting as if it is the end of the world. Rather than celebrate and promote the process that made this change of government possible, Buharimaniacs seem determined to ensure it will hardly be repeated.
That is why both the government and its supporters insist the APC is entitled to everything by virtue of winning the 2015 election. That is why they are so angry that a PDP man is Deputy Senate president. An attempt was even made on his life. That is why all the signs point to a determination to create a one-party APC state in Nigeria by hook or crook.
The APC is not satisfied with winning; it is determined to strangulate the opposition PDP to death. That is why the APC keeps absorbing PDP defectors every day; so much so that it is already becoming a parody of the PDP. That is why PDP victories are being overturned while APC victories are being confirmed.
That is why those who were prominent actors in the Jonathan administration are being hounded, harassed and tried in the court of manipulated public opinion. That is why every PDP member is a demon, but when he defects to the APC he automatically becomes a saint. When you point out these contradictions to APC supporters, they remain unconcerned because deep down they do not believe in democracy. They only see it as a means to an end.
It is important to remind our dear Buharimaniacs that, out of a country of 170 million, only 15 million voted for Buhari in 2015; 155 million did not. Those 15 million only constitute 52% of the votes. That can hardly be construed as an overwhelming support by any stretch of the imagination. Buhari won the election, but only just. Like his supporters, he is mistaken in thinking he needs to pay more attention to those who supported him. On the contrary, he now has a responsibility to win over those who did not.
However, the president has lost many of those who gave him the benefit of the doubt in March 2015. Six months down the road, nothing has changed for the better. Some things have even gone from bad to worse. Fuel crises and fuels queues are back. The financial hemorrhage of the petroleum subsidy remains. Food prices have hit the roof. We are back to the jungle days where warehouses of private citizens are raided and dubious officials cart away bags of rice belonging to hapless market-women.
Buhari’s infamous body language is no longer celebrated. The bad old days of power shortages are here again with a vengeance. The president’s boast that the back-bone of Boko Haram will be broken by December 2015 is now clearly a pie-in-the-sky. Boko Haram remains to date the most deadly insurgency in the world; killing more innocent people in Nigeria than any other terrorist group anywhere else.
This makes it all the more ludicrous that the same people who labeled Jonathan “clueless” are offended when people call Buhari “Baba Go-Slow” or “Baba No Movement.” They have not stopped criticizing Jonathan even though he is no longer in power and is not responsible for the government’s lack of policies; how then can they expect Nigerians not to criticize Buhari since the buck now stops with him?
Time was when everyone who approved of Jonathan’s government was castigated outright as a PDP contractor. Since that label no longer passes muster, every critic of the present government is now called a Buhari hater. But then how much love do Buharimaniacs have for Jonathan? If Jonathan did not deserve love, why must Buhari now be entitled to it?
People like me never supported Jonathan until we saw the virulent hatred of his opponents. We never cared for the mischievous PDP until we discovered that Jonathan’s opponents were so desperate for power, they were even prepared to destroy the nation in the process. They were so determined to seize power; they threatened to “soak the dog and the baboon in blood” if they did not get their wish. Thank God, Jonathan was not like them in defeat.
I, for one, came to Jonathan’s defense because it is an article of my faith to defend the weak and not the strong. Even though Jonathan was the president, within the context of Nigerian politics, he still was the weak because he comes from a minority ethnic group. Therefore, those of us who believe in one Nigeria objected to the gang-up of the majority groups against him.
Farewell to Jonathan: Before the election, I had written already a “Dear President Jonathan” article prepared against the expectation that he would be re-elected. In that article, since overtaken by his defeat, I stated beforehand that my undiluted support for him ended with his re-election. With his re-election, we would insist on cashing the cheque for our support by demanding that his second-term must be very different from his first.
Indeed, in my Vanguard column of 13th May, 2014 entitled: “A Season of Conspiracies against Goodluck Jonathan,” I wrote the following:
“We must forget our differences and join hands to ensure that Jonathan prevails in spite of all the stumbling blocks and minefields put in his way. So doing, we would be able to make effective demands on the president. He would have to listen to us.
“With the added pressure from the international community, we will insist that the corruption that has gone through the roof under his administration must finally come to an end. The time is long overdue: some malefactors must be arrested, prosecuted and jailed. No more pussy-footing. Nigerians require a transparent government; and we require this ‘yesterday.’”
However, Jonathan did not win the election: he lost. But what do we have today? Instead of inspiring him to greater heights, Buharimaniacs have become his apologists. Instead of coming out to express their disappointment at the government’s dismal performance to date and insist he must keep his promises, Buharimaniacs are now the ones making excuses for him. The same people who were impatient with Jonathan are now preaching the virtues patience for Buhari.
Those demanding that the rule of law must be upheld under Jonathan now make excuses for the disregard of the rule of law under Buhari. Those who would normally insist that the innocent must be deemed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, are now calling for Diezani and Dasuki to face the firing squad without proof of guilt. Those who refuse to question where APC got the money to fight its costly election, are suddenly furious that the PDP might have used government funds for the election.
Unexpectedly, 100 days is no longer acceptable as a yardstick for evaluating the competence of a new government. It is now suitable to take five months to choose ministers who turn out to be the same old and tried crop. Suddenly, the Minister of Petroleum can no longer be held responsible for petrol shortages just because he now happens to be the president himself.
One thing is becoming crystal clear. Buharimaniacs are economical with the truth. Buharimaniacs are not democrats. Buharimaniacs have neither regard for, nor understanding of, democracy.