It was a spectacle watching former Vice President Atiku Abubakar weep after picking his presidential form at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) office in Abuja. The flood of tears by the Wazirin Adamawa calls to mind how politicians prey on emotions of ordinary Nigerians to gain public sympathy. History is replete with instances of pretence deployed by aspiring politicians to foist the culture of hypocrisy in a bid to gain political ascendancy. Just as “there is no art to find the construction of the mind on the face,” politicians have always been engaged in hoodwinking undiscerning populace to advance their ambition. The hunger to acquire power by politicians has been aided and made possible by the deployment of the media and other means of intellectual coercion to obtain mass support.
The quest by Muhammadu Buhari for the nation’s presidency from 2003 and his eventual electoral triumph in 2015 attests to the relevance of factors working seamlessly for targeted political objectives. Politics is a game for both the crooked and transparent. While the crooked may not succeed in arm-twisting those they have promoted into corridors of power, the absence of strong institutions to check their evil machinations strengthens their relevance in politics.
Considering the political trajectory of our country since 1999, pretence to possessing noble values in managing political powers has been Nigeria’s albatross. Despite the outcry against corruption by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he left a nation battered by demons of sleaze masquerading as politicians. John Milton in ‘Paradise Lost’ describes hypocrisy as an invisible trait that is only visible to God. The enthronement of hypocrisy by the political elite has aided the perpetuation of criminal activities that have worked against the development of the country.
More worrisome, the disposition by those in the corridors of power to dismiss criticisms as product of envy by opponents throws a wet blanket on efforts to see constructive criticisms as relevant to enhancing good governance. Political leaders should know that true freedom of speech is that freedom that grants rights to citizens to say what they do not want to hear. Those who are quick to criticize our freedom to free speech are the true enemies of our nation. As we march into yet another election year, we all should note that the personal interest of any individual cannot surpass the interest of Nigeria. Our country is a project in progress and we can only reach there when we allow all voices to be heard.
Nearly four years since Buhari assumed the reins of power, can we honestly affirm that we have moved away from the precipice? Has the promised change as championed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) unchained us from the frightening spectre of gloom that once ruled and almost ruined us as a nation under former President Goodluck Jonathan era? Can we tell our children that the Buhari administration is on the path of making our towns and villages safe from armed bandits? If we have witnessed the technical defeat of Boko Haram as claimed by the APC, have we not also witnessed the rise of armed banditry, herdsmen killings, among others, that have led to thousands of deaths in some states of the North? If these are present realities, why has the government in power not confronted these challenges by rallying critical stakeholders for consensus? Why has presidential spokesmen embraced varying narratives in attenuating the carnage that has left our nation groping in the dark? In choosing to hear only their own narrative, the nation is left to slip down the slope of frightening uncertainties.
Ahead of Buhari’s aspiration for a comeback bid in 2019, negative partisanship has threatened the national discourse and painted the picture of a nation in turmoil. The absence of consensus building for healthy political discourse has often come under heavy attack, with hypocrites resorting to falsehood to make tyrants of our leaders. The greatest malaise that kills our nation is not often the corruption we so much cry against, but the pretence praise singers deploy to convince leaders to cling to power even when the odds are stacked against them.
The downbeat trait of deception in political discourse has been aptly captured by the English writer, William Hazlitt, who sees hypocrisy as destructive virus.
According to the essayist and critic, “The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy”. Our firm resolve to rise above our tribal instincts to embrace effective national dialogue encounters a brick wall of opposition when leaders succumb to hypocritical disposition of political cheerleaders. That explains why our current national conversation has been reduced to a monologue, with each side of the debate holding tenaciously to their points. If we ever desire to promote sincere dialogue in our political discourse, then, those in the corridors of power must increasingly shut down the space against praise singers whose vision cannot rise above their bellies.
Lest I forget…
First, let me welcome readers to this debut of my thought that will continue to appear on Leadership Weekend in the months ahead. No doubt, I was a bit hesitant on the choice of issue, but I quickly resorted to writing on enthronement of hypocrisy that has continued to undermine political discourse.
For those conversant with my write-ups, I solemnly promise you a worthy experience through a broadening discourse that looks at all sides. Taking into consideration the footprints of the APC in its nearly four years of governance, political parties are just the same difference. We all must be engaged in rescuing this country from politicians who have elevated their interest above that of the people. We cannot do this by quarantining ourselves from the political process.
Let me appreciate the chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers, Mr Sam Nda Isaiah, and the management of the media outfit for affording me this weekly column. Over 10 years since I left my post as the first executive editor of the newspapers in June 2007, I take this opportunity as a worthy homecoming venture.
Please keep a date with me in the coming weeks, as I welcome your opinions on my views.