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The parable of the husband’s cane – by Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati writes on

One other outcome of our democratic experience since 1999 is how demanding and insatiable the Nigerian voter has become.

And because political office holders and the professional political class are yet to fully decipher and understand the implications of this, they continue to make similar mistakes and draw the same responses from the same public that voted them into power.     

I have no better illustration of this than the manner in which the critics of the incumbent administration at the centre are beginning to sound exactly the same way they sounded about two years ago under the Jonathan administration. 

Check the social media, some newspapers, and listen to the conversation on the streets. 

The personnel in power have changed, there is a new party in charge at the top, but public conversation has gone back to its old ways. 

Questions are being asked about the meaning of change and the dividends it has brought to the people.

Some commentators are openly apologizing for voting President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) out of power.  

Some fierce supporters of change and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are openly voicing their regrets. 

And as was the case under President Jonathan, there are hilarious skits online, mixing song, drama and dance, making fun of the new dispensation and its architects. 

More than one pro-change and anti-PDP newspapers have had cause to do scathing editorials, including the very newspaper that was the anchor-point for change in 2015!

Many of the affirmations are relatively the same: 

– The President is a good man but he is surrounded by incompetent people who have their own agenda, so they say, or that,

– The Ministers are not doing their job and right now, there is a loud protest against the ability of one Minister to manage something as simple as taking a sports delegation to the Olympics. 

The number of people calling for the man’s job is growing. Oftentimes, it is also said that communication is the problem.

I used to hear that a lot. And it was always as follows: 

The President’s team is not communicating his policies properly and in one year, while a lot has been achieved, nobody is show-casing those achievements (!), as if communication is a bullet. 

But these are the same stories that we used to hear. 

All kinds of experts are all over the airwaves voicing opinions about how best to run Nigeria, and promises that have not been fulfilled and an economy that is causing raw pain.  

Not even the President’s wife has been spared: her wrist-watch, her handbag, and even her grammar (!) – this formed the substance of a pedantic attack by a self-confessed Buharideen. 

It really looks as if there is now a formula for criticizing the Nigerian government.

Every excuse that is given by government is met with the riposte that the government is burning its goodwill with the people, or that someone should just help and change the narrative.  

Jonathan-bashing is fast becoming unfashionable, the critical mass, including those who marched for change, are asking for new tunes.  

And I am far from gloating. 

But certainly, this love-them-today-despise-them-tomorrow did not start with the Buhari government. 

I am actually trying to make what I hope will be considered an essential point about the burden that Nigerian politicians have to bear. 

In a number of public interviews and interactions recently, I have argued that it is not easy to rule Nigeria or any part of it.  

When President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office in 1999, he was the messiah who helped to stabilize the country after many years of abuse by military dictators, and in terms of policies, persona, focus and drive, he rescued the country. 

But the moment he picked up fights with his Vice President, and later got embroiled in the politics of third term self-succession, his support base began to grow apart, and he became the target of vitriolic criticism from even his most ardent supporters and benefactors. 

We dismissed President Umaru Yar’Adua who succeeded him very quickly as “Baba Go Slow” even if his failings were excused on the grounds of ill-health and the shenanigans of an Aso Rock cabal. 

President Goodluck Jonathan’s ascendancy in 2010 was driven by the activism of the civil society and both genuine and bathroom constitutional experts who insisted that the Constitutional rule on succession in the event of the death of the incumbent must be respected. 

Thus, he became Acting President and he later won an election, on his own steam in 2011, to become President of Nigeria. 

For many Nigerians, his coming to power helped to make one point: that Aso Villa is not the birthright of any ethnic group, that the rule of law is superior to the rule of men, and that the final decision about who rules this country at any particular period rests with the people.  

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