Last week Friday, Abdullahi Ganduje, the Governor of Kano state, said the following:
“I’m happy that it’s not Mr President who said he will continue; it is people that are saying he should continue. Mr President has not made up his mind yet, but when he came to Kano I told him any time he decides not to contest we will take him to court. Kano state government will take him to court anytime he decides not to contest. So we are waiting for him”
As 2019 draws closer, many things will best be replied by beginning with Lasisi Elenu’s signature enquiry: “Are you Mad?”, with exclamation points.
And it won’t just be an query for comic value. The answer will be important, for scholarly and practical purposes. There is a thin line between madness and sycophancy and every election cycle in Nigeria blurs it further. The politics of sycophancy in Nigeria is a reality so well documented it has become a subset of a strategy for swaying leaders into actions that are arguably in their worst interest under the guise of it being a “clamour by the people”.
That was what they told President Muhammadu Buhari over last weekend, so that before he departed the country for London on Monday morning, he declared his intention to seek a second term. There are plausible suggestions that the declaration was in fact a hastened reaction to a massive PDP rally in the president’s hometown in Daura while he was there. That said, it will be rude to not believe that it was actually a move to evade prosecution by the Kano state government. The good and considerate president would not bother burdened judges with some frivolous case now, would he?
It has not been too long in memory when the hourly breaking news across Nigerian media was that Goodluck Jonathan had no shoes. The Otuoke destiny child had, by mere good luck, risen from the obscurity of deputy governorship to become the most unlikely Commander-in-chief. Unprepared but with popular support, the discalced persona was an asset for becoming president in his own right in 2011. But even when his incompetence became glaring like melting butter under the sun, playing out in one ill-timed announcement after another, cheerleaders blind to reality ramped up the praise volume, aiming to pull strings that would reinforce in Nigerians the inevitability of the Jonathan destiny for Goodluck. He was re-christened and electroplated with every globally acclaimed gloss of integrity from Nelson Mandela to Lee Kuan Yew. He was cast and polished to give the sheen of one whose obsession was to do no harm but infinity of good. Fresh Air. Transformation. Young and Obama-ish. There were screaming embarrassments in the economy with several broken faucets channeling to storage drums owned by serving government officials. Internal security was on life-support. But what does that matter when the people love Goodluck, naming children after him all over the country?
The result was a humiliating loss against the run of play and on a platter of gold. However, that has not proven to be a teachable episode for the new administration. Like Siamese twins only separated, attributes continue to be shared, with sycophancy ranking just as high and performing as admirably.
The present-day composers of the symphony of sycophancy, by releasing a fifty-five minute ‘Buhari loves human beings’ collection-of-interviews last December amidst grueling fuel queues during the Yuletide, gave us the first major poster of their theatrical prowess. No one considered the sufferings of Nigerians at the time, or the catalogue of burning issues including the Maina scandal. The composers were adamant to show they were not here to face facts of the day and break a tradition that dates back to five million man for Abacha, through Ibrahim Mantu’s pants-down campaign for Obasanjo 3.0, to Jonathan Kuan Mandela. The only truth, sacred and self-evident, is that Muhammadu Buhari had been terribly missed for 104 days by Nigerians while on medical vacation in London, in the same way that there could be no possible wrong by a dad that finally returns from hospital to long-suffering wife and kids.
And if they have successfully propagated these truths for thirty months since 2015, is it the killings in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Zamfara and other parts of the country that will now cast dirt on their hardwork in 2018? Not even a copybook repetition of a terrorist abduction of school girls can separate Nigerians from the love of Buhari, they say. Besides, this charming man has responded better than Jonathan and Chibok in 2014. Swift has been the reaction to rescue all but one unflinching in the face of demand for religious conversion. Killings continue going on in parts of the country, but they are not yet as bad as 2014. Meanwhile, the killers are Libyans, not Nigerian herdsmen.
So that, in the final analysis, it is t-r-u-l-y the will of the people that Buhari continues, they say. Every negative vibe is only due to corruption fighting back. With Lai Mohammed dropping periodic looters lists, Nasir El-Rufai refuting Bill Gates and other damning international assessments, and Yahaya Bello being, by his own unique standard of disjointedness, a good distraction from regular Aso Rock scandals, there is just no way Nigerians do not see Buhari as anything but the man to continue next year.
Buried deep under all this is the idea once categorically stated by the President himself that he would not run for a second term if elected president. The reply to that, as specified in the manual of sycophancy for Nigerian elections, is pretty straightforward: I am a law-abiding citizen who lives by the Constitution and so will not deny Nigerians the privilege that comes with enjoying my fundamental right to run for a second term.
I am loved, therefore I will run.