Over the weekend, a storm in a teacup erupted amongst that troublesome group on the Internet called ‘Nigerian influencers’ – a person who campaigned vigorously for Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 came out to make clear what we all know: Buhari’s government in an ongoing failure.
As if on cue, and as cliché, supporters of the ousted Goodluck Jonathan pounced: not to discuss the issue on its merits, but to restate their endless wisdom in standing against Buhari. The people explaining their votes by expressing disappointment, they say, are either hypocrites or nitwits who should listened to their wise counsel.
The answer to this set of people should be silence. Sadly, the writer and others like him responded instead with outrage, unseemly defensiveness, prickly repudiation and a merry go round of return-disdain.
All of this is a profound waste of time.
Let’s try an experiment. Goodluck Jonathan was a weak and ineffectual president. Muhammadu Buhari has turned out to be a weak and ineffectual president. Both statements are not mutually exclusive, and only in the minds of the jaundiced can that even be a possibility.
The only person responsible for the failure of an elected leader is that elected leader. The only personal responsible for Dr Jonathan’s failure was Dr Jonathan. The only person responsible for Mr Buhari;’s failure, if he doesn’t change course, is Mr Buhari himself.
Not the voter who performed a patriotic duty of choosing between (bad) options. Not the thinker who resolved that Nigeria had no other choice. Not the man on the streets justifiably angry at a man who allowed corruption overrun his government and irresponsibly allowed Boko Haram overrun his security forces.
If Buhari repeats the same cycle of inanity, ah well – we can only make conclusions as to the characters of both disappointments.
Citizens have two simple jobs in a democracy – to vote and to hold their governments accountable. Until the nature of modern democracies fundamentally changes, their options in terms of governance outcomes are severely limited.
And in the face of such limitations, citizens have a right to keep changing their governments until they get good ones.
In doing this, citizens know they are taking a risk. Democracy is in essence a risk: a gamble that a politician will do what he says, that the next will be better than the present, that the man or woman asking your vote and laying a vision of the future, despite their imperfections, will have the character to fulfill their promises.
That was the choice that Nigerians made in 2015. Dr Jonathan was a terrible disaster of a president in his concluding two years – and it would have been a failure of judgement for Nigeria’s citizens to reward such ineptitude and arrogance with a repeat performance.
If the next option is no better than the last, it’s okay. Movement in that case was better than stasis.
It is on Dr Jonathan, and no him only, that he became such a opprobrious president that it would have been demonstrably more responsible to vote the thieving Tafa Balogun than to have voted him for a second term.
Like Trump, and like Brexit, the vote for Buhari was, beyond his ambition, a vote to demolish an existing dangerous system over – to drain the swamp, shake everything up, and dismantle the establishment.
In making that decision, many citizens were not assured that they would get it right. But they took a risk that was informed, proper and judicious – because nation building is not a matter only of four years; it is an arc that goes beyond one election cycle.
If we had returned Jonathan, we would have established an unshakeable hegemony that would utterly shatter the future of our nation. In voting Buhari, we are stuck only with a short-term miss that can be corrected in only two years.
Citizens have no need for regret, and no grounds to apologise for choosing the lesser of two evils.
In a free and fair democracy, the citizen is always right.
Creative mind. Enthusiast. Learner. Multipotentialite. And here, an assistant editor.