opinionBy Ikeogu Oke
Some of the reactions that have trailed President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech did not disappoint in their cynicism, especially those posted on various social media platforms.
If you could map the character of those behind the reactions, you would notice a consistency of hostility towards the current Federal Government which makes them antagonize it with predictability.
This suggests a bias that should naturally render their opinions suspect or compel us to consider them non-credible.
And they are not alone, for as their alter ego are those in whose eyes the government cannot say or do anything wrong.
These groups belong to two extreme dispositions, and have sometimes sarcastically called themselves Jonathanians and Buharideens, as fanatical loyalists of former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari, and their parties and governments respectively.
The fact is that the cauldron of hate that was the 2015 election continues to steam in the aftermath of the polls under a fire continuously being stoked by lack of patriotism.
This has ensured that some of those whose side lost the election do not put the nation first.
And this, I think, explains why they have responded with the type of hostility that sees nothing agreeable in the President’s Democracy Day speech even in those instances involving the mention of verifiable facts and figures, and obvious improvements in the nation’s infrastructure as in the transport sector, specifically the railway system.
Some of these reactions, coming even from identifiable individuals to whom one would ordinarily ascribe respect for objectivity, have dismissed the whole speech as a catalogue of false claims, or the delusory wish list of an out-of-touch President.
But how can such cynicism be justified in the face of the speech having said, among other things: “The country achieved 5,222.3 MW representing the highest peak of power generated onto the national grid and delivered to customers in December, 2017.”
The above claim was preceded by the one below: “In the area of power generation, Nigerians from all parts of the country continue to report better power supply and less use of generators.
This underscores the effectiveness of the methodical plan to deliver incremental and uninterrupted power supply to our homes, markets, offices and factories.”
It is a vice of citizenship and a perversion of the idea of holding a government to account to deny it credit for any achievement, regardless of our political leanings or party affiliation. And patriotism, which should make us desist from such act, should be deemed superior to such leanings and affiliations.
It is understandable if bona fide members of opposition parties do not seem to see anything good in the government from which they would be normally expected to wrest power and are not supposed to help it retain it by any means, including speaking well about its achievements.
But for what should be normal “political animals,” with no formal party affiliations, it is a type of cynicism to be discouraged.
This is not only because of the capacity such cynicism to demoralize a country’s leadership but also for its tendency to portray those behind it as untruthful or prejudiced observers and commentators on their nation’s affairs.
Of course, they might think they only undermine their victims even as their credibility suffers as a result of their conduct.
What, indeed, can justify an outright dismissal of a speech that makes the first of the claims I have quoted above as “a catalogue of false claims”, for instance, even though the country has generated its highest quantum of electricity – reported by The Punch newspaper – as 5,090 megawatts for April 26, 2018 (link: http://punchng.com/power-generation-hits-5090mw-highest-in-2018/). And though this value is not the exact one given in the speech, it still represents the highest value of power generation in our country.
And I think it would be a fairer and patriotic response, and a reflection of balance, or objectivity, to acknowledge its achievement as the peak value so far, and give credit to the government under which it was achieved, while pointing out the discrepancy in the value given in the speech in good faith, which, I think, patriotic citizens should always show towards their country regardless of the government in power.
Of course it may not be literally true that “Nigerians from all parts of the country continue to report better power supply and less use of generators.”
But doesn’t the enthusiasm of the implied self-adulation, the hype, which governments engage in worldwide make such exaggeration understandable?
Besides, one would expect that an improvement in power availability would create a trickledown effect that would lead to some Nigerians reporting improved power supply and reducing the use of their generators.
But ascribing this nascent appreciation of the improvement in power availability to “Nigerian from all parts of the country” is also an overstretch that should be noted by the apolitical and patriotic citizen without the harsh imputation of falsehood reflected in the said hostile responses.
Unlike some of the reactions have made it seem, inaccurate information does not necessarily reflect falsehood, though this may not apply to cases where the information is interpreted in bad faith.
But the difference in the figure of the peak power generation – which I consider a mistake of fact – shows how those behind such fact need to verify it before putting it in the public domain through such an important speech to avoid embarrassment.
I made my first train journey in my 50 years of existence from Kubwa to Rigasa a few months ago. Besides courting the thrill or disappointment of a first timer, I was keen on verifying the claim of the functionality of the current railway system.
As I said in “Travelling by Rail”, a poem I later published in the Daily Trust of March 11, 2018 (link:https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/poetic-licence-travelling-by-rail–from-kubwa-to-rigasa.html), I did not find the state of the railway station at Kubwa quite satisfactory, with no electricity and running water.
But the train ride to Rigasa was safe and the train comfortable. Also, there was electricity at the railway station at the Rigasa end, symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel for me.
Should anyone with this experience accept the dismissal of a claim in the Democracy Day speech that there have been improvements in the railway system under the current Federal Government, if the person is interested in balance?
Oke is the winner of the 2017 Nigeria Prize for Literature and wrote from Abuja.