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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
When my friend rang me last week and asked if we could meet up to discuss and compare notes on happenings in motherland Nigeria, I was up for it. Tai (for anonymity sake) is a friend I have known for over thirty years and had enjoyed robust relationship with. I have to, however, stress from the onset that, in as much as I admire and like Tai, he is one of the types that you cannot win any argument with. It will take physically moving the mountain to have him change his mind once he has come to a conclusion on a topic.
Tai is a very opinionated individual who I sometimes struggle holding discussions with, especially on topics that he is emotional about. To be fair to him though, apart from his family, religion and work, the other topic that he gets very emotional about is Nigeria. There is no doubt that he loves his country of birth and at every opportunity always ready to defend her honour. I am always on the same boat with him on the love.
While I sympathise with his patriotism, I am, however, taken aback at the confusion and open lack of sincerity to the cause of the nation. I tend to analyse the trend of his thoughts, and I worry at the fact that his belief actually lies in the abilities of leaders and not the strength of the country as a whole. Many times I have tried to empathise with him in what I term his blind loyalty to leaders and not to the country he professes to love. I have accepted his position with a bitter understanding of the fact that majority of Nigerians worship political leaders and therefore blind to the reality of events around them. Along the line I stopped pointing this out to my friend and concluded that he is not exhibiting anything different from what a typical Nigerian would.
Events in Nigeria in the past two weeks, as usual, have brought out the best and worst in the average Nigerian. There have been protests and counter protests on the streets of the nation’s capital. As typical of Nigerians, the reactions give away what side they are or what leader they are in sympathy with, and not necessarily with what is right or not. I realised, rather late, that blind loyalty of Nigerians to political leaders have been the bane of the country and has indirectly stunted the development of the country. This, no doubt is why we have continued to struggle with the fight against corruption, as laws and regulations are made to suit people, groups, and interests. And where they are not in our favour at a particular time, we are quick to condemn, as politically motivated depending on the side of the divide we are.
Not too long ago the popular Nigerian musician Charly Boy led a protest on the streets of Abuja, the federal capital, against the continued stay of Nigeria’s President Mohammed Buhari in the United Kingdom. He and a handful of concerned Nigerians had taken to the streets demanding that the President, who is away on medical leave for over 100 days return or resign his post. You will acknowledge the good intentions of these patriotic Nigerians, forced to live through a political arrangement that is wholly alien to our constitution. Never in the history of Nigeria has a head of state ruled this long from abroad, with convoy of praise singers and loyalists ferried, at tax payers’ expenses, to pledge loyalty or to verify that he is still alive.
Tai and I were happy to catch up for dinner at a popular restaurant in Leeds, north of England. We settled into our seats and I kick started the discussion with a remark on the United States President, Donald Trump’s comment on the events in the university town of Charlottesville. Two Saturdays ago white supremacists and neo-narcissists took over the streets to express their displeasure of the dismantling of the statue that had celebrated and represented injustice and inhumanity in the so called land of the free. We mused over this for a couple of minutes and both agreed that Trump could have hid his support for these deranged and ill-informed individuals.
I realised immediately though that this would be the only topic we were likely to agree on this night. Tai was not interested in the events in the US as he was here to talk Nigeria and not going to entertain any distraction. He launched into a tirade against Charly Boy and his co-organisers, as he just could not get his head round what they had done. I was not surprised by his attacks, being a fanatical supporter of Buhari. Many times in the past, and especially the build up to the 2015 General Elections, he had told me how Buhari was God-sent to save the country from what he described as “generational mismanagement.”
I was on the same page on this because we were faced with the liability of choice during the elections. With the amount of propaganda that went into the election, Nigerians could not but agree that any opponent to former President Goodluck Jonathan was indeed a God-sent. The veil covering our faces did not drop until after the elections when Buhari assumed office. It started on a very good note with high expectations, as the President’s various “body languages” sorted many things out for us. But it did not take long before we realised that the “beautiful ones are not yet born”.
Tai and many Nigerians like him wouldn’t take this fact and are still preaching that Buhari is the anointed one. They have continuously overlooked the part of the scriptures that says God is benevolent and not a burdensome God who would wish his people to be without a leader for this long. While one sympathises with Buhari for his health issues, right thinking Nigerians believe this should be the collective priority and not his occupation of the office of the President.
My friend, a well-travelled man, has continually refused to rise above partisan and sectional politics, like many of us. The tone of our discussion on this night was nothing different from what I have read on propaganda pages of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) or on the walls of fanatical supporters of “Sai Baba”. The sympathy card played by these Nigerians is that the people demanding the President come back home to resume his constitutional duties are those who cannot stand the heat because “corruption is fighting back”. I told my friend that I find this line of argument rather petty and nonsensical, as nothing on ground in Nigeria has suggested that things have changed for the better since Buhari got into power.
Knowing Tai very well, I was not disappointed at his line of thought but I took consolation in the fact that I had spent some time with him over very good meal. I am praying, however, that one day, like some Nigerians, he will wake up and see issues the practical way they should.
As published in the Sunday Vanguard of August 20, 2017.