Wednesday, December 24, 2014 11:12 am
By Sola Olaosebikan
As a Nigerian electorate, one of the more interesting milieus to exhibit one’s knowledge of the country’s history and politics, or lack of it, is the social media. This is made more so by the battle for the presidency between the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and his rival, General Muhammadu Buhari. Even before the emergence of the latter as the presidential candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, supporters of both contestants had literally torn one another apart on every available cyberspace. It has now assumed a fierce dimension.In an attempt to outdo one another and perhaps satisfy their paymasters, cyber rodents, as both camps like to refer to one another, often resort to desperate measures like lies, misinformation, disinformation, insults, deliberate and, or mistaken falsification of facts to drive home their points. Interestingly, the contestants appear to be enjoying every bit of the propaganda war. Why not? Considering the kind of outreach the social media enables, it would be foolish not to take advantage of it. For this reason, resources are said to be heavily deployed by both parties in this regard.
While it is safe to admit that these cyber rodents have done a good job in injuring the reputations of Jonathan and Buhari, it is equally okay to note that Jonathan’s cyber rodents have been less than fair in their assessment of the former military ruler. As a partaker in this mud slinging, I have noticed that most of their comments are hinged on hearsays. For example, during one of those arguments, while I outlined the obvious failures of Jonathan’s government, chief of which are corruption, insecurity, failed promises, dwindling economy and a seeming lack of understanding of the rudiments of governance, his agents fired back by blaming past leaders for the nation’s many woes.
They did not stop at that. They added that ‘Jonathan is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria since independence.’ Clearly, this statement portrays five-star ignorance. Even though I did not begin to understand how government functioned until the early 1980s, it would take a trip to planet Mars and back for me and many other progressive Nigerians to believe that statement. That is not all. The president’s cyber rodents are not shy to take on anything or anyone that hurls invectives at their idol. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Wole Soyinka are some of those prominent Nigerians who have tasted of their venom.
Curiously, however, while these cyber rodents would not refer to Obasanjo as a coupist, having led a military junta in the past, they are quick to call Buhari a coupist. As if reciting a poorly written script, they often amplify how Buhari ‘interrupted a democratically-elected government.’ More than that, they refer to him as a religious bigot, an ethnic jingoist and an abuser of human rights. Well, whether he is guilty of all or some of these allegations is not my prerogative. My thinking is that the reputation of Buhari and the followership he now commands have become so unsettling to the camp of Jonathan that it has chosen to wield the wand of disinformation. One of such misleading stories about Buhari is his role in the 1983 coup.
For those who did not understand what actually transpired that time, here is a refresher. Immediately after the announcement of the toppling of the Shehu Shagari-led government, there was widespread jubilation. The coup was well applauded even in the northern parts of the country, regardless of the fact that a northerner had just been removed from the head of government. In fact, the announcement came as a huge relief because Shagari’s government was by then becoming too toxic for Nigerians. The situation then is similar to what obtains now.
I lived in Zaria then and saw people hail the coupists as liberators. Of course, they had every reason to, as politicians had stashed away essential household commodities, like rice and detergents. Their action created artificial scarcities that saw prices of those commodities spike. People had money but could not find these items to buy. About that time, too, results of the 1983 general elections known as ‘Verdict 83’ had polarized the nation along ethnic lines. There was general distrust among the various ethnic groups. Nigeria was a disaster waiting to happen. Fear was palpable. Thus, the military intervention was welcomed as a tension douser.
The people trusted Buhari and his co-travelers more than they did Shagari and his government. It was akin to a miracle of deliverance. And the coupists did not disappoint. They helped to retrieve the stashed commodities and sold same at give-away prices to civilians. My father, a captain in the Army then, was a member of the military task force entrusted with this task. I remember him coming home to tell us stories of how they recovered bags of rice from an underground storage belonging to one Alhaji Umaru Danja, a popular government contractor and front, who lived along the Zaria-Jos Road in Geylesu, Zaria. I also remember how civilians sought my father’s help in purchasing some of those commodities. I remember how roadblocks were mounted to intercept trailer-loads of those commodities on their ways out of the country.
I remember how Captain Usman Shagari, the youthful son of Shagari, was forced to resign from the Nigeria Army after being arrested, just because he benefitted from proceeds of corruption. The captain lived directly opposite my house at the Nigeria Army Depot in Zaria. I had not only witnessed his predicament, but was wise enough to understand what was up. Sadly, too, I remember how Nigerians were not happy when the Buhari-Idiagbon government was ousted in the 1985 putsch. I remember so many other things that had to do with the raised standards of discipline in the military and, by extension, the civil society. I am sure you, dear reader, remember, too. Therefore, it is incorrect to infer that the 1983 interregnum was a disappointment to Nigerians.
Having said that, I would like to implore those cyber rodents in the President’s camp to invest more energy in showing off the achievements of the president. After all, the president is rumoured to have improved the power situation in the country. Some also argue that Nigerian roads are now more motorable than ever before.
Then, methinks those who refuse to tell the president the truth about his performance are the real enemies of progress. Those who refer to themselves as Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, are the real enemies of progress. They are saTANic!
Those poor people who purportedly donated their meagre incomes to Jonathan to help purchase his presidential ticket are the real enemies of progress. Those who liken the president to Jesus Christ are the real enemies of progress. Where did all these people come from? Nigeria has never been this debased before. Issues of national importance and urgency are now being treated as comic reliefs. There is no better time than now for Nigerians to retrieve that mandate which was fraudulently obtained from them. It is now or never!
Sola Olaosebikan, a teacher and Occupational Safety and Health Management consultant, lives in Missouri, U.S.A.