The President, His Critics and Sycophantic Defenders -By Tony Osborg

Filed under: Political Issues |
Tony Osborg

Tony Osborg


Politicians often harbour resentments over a people’s voting pattern, especially a few weeks after election, but to express this resentment in percentages and call up statistics about this on international television was a reckless and unnecessary display by President Buhari.

During a recent interview, the lady interviewer asked President Buhari how he intends to approach the Niger Delta issue. In her words, “tell us how you intend to approach (the Niger Delta) with particular reference to the amnesty, bunkering and inclusive development?” And our President began his response by saying, “hope you have a copy of the election result?” As if that was not irrelevant enough, he went further to mention issues like “voting” pattern, “97 percent”, “five percent”, etc.

In my opinion, Mr. President’s response was not only unnecessary but equally reckless and difficult to defend. Especially, when the answer given was not related to the question that was asked by the lady in the first place.

First, you cannot ignore the five percent of voters who did not vote for you but whose resources the country depends on (at least for now) to cater for the 97 percent who voted for you. This will be sending a wrong signal to the whole country. Second, you cannot state that Nigerians would not, in all honesty, be treated equally because of their unequal voting patterns, but that, however, you will treat them equally, not because they deserve this but because the constitution warrants it. These two assertions were totally off-point and are enough to question Mr. President’s sincerity about running an all inclusive government. The mention of “voting” pattern, “97 percent”, and “five percent” in that speech was unnecessary and is obviously difficult to defend, even by the best of public relations practice in the world.

However, what I am more bothered about is not the manner or response of Mr. President but the manner in which his supporters have come out to defend his numerous gaffes. This is a major source of worry. This new sort of sycophancy being displayed by the Buharists might be worse than what was common with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters. For example, President Buhari says “slow and steady wins the race” is the method he has adopted for his government, but we say, “Mr. President, that’s an archaic and redundant maxim, fast and innovative wins the race these days”. Some people who think they love the President more than we do pick offence with our assertions. They even have a title for those of us who criticise ‘their’ President, and call us ‘The Wailing Wailers’!

It seems like many present day supporters of political leaders cannot withstand their patrons being criticised, even in a constructive manner. This is a new kind of sycophancy and blind followership. Sycophancy is the greatest denominator of ruin of the political movement in Nigeria in the past sixteen years. Knowing one’s leader has failed or has made a mistake and telling him/her this to his/her face is the first step towards making him/her succeed; it is the foundation upon which true friendship and honesty is built. We must learn to constructively criticise those we choose to make patrons out of; it is not an act of opposition, but one of patriotism and a true sense of loyalty. Only those with a discerning mind understand the logic of this principle.

When you see a person who is in a leadership position as infallible, perfect, and should not be criticised, then you obviously have the illness which I describe as sycophantic megalomanic syndrome. This is the new form of blind followership, a new form of sycophancy in Nigeria.

As we move to the next stage of our democracy, we must learn from our past mistakes and build a Nigeria in which our leaders should be judged, not by their methods of prayer or accents, but by their sincere contribution and support for the development of the Nigerian project and dream. I strongly believe that we should all join hands in identifying the weaknesses of our various governments and public officials, as this is the best way to attain solutions to these weaknesses. We know better than the government, therefore we should all be true critics of the government’s effort. Constructive criticism is not a sign of opposition, it is a necessity in every genuine democracy. It is a sign of patriotism. We must all stand out as sincere and patriotic critics of the new government. And we must do this with the sole aim of making the country a better place. We have a moral obligation in this regard, as sycophancy has ruined the country for too long.

Nigeria is generally considered not just a bad joke but equally a failed state, and with the manner in which we do not engage our leaders but regard them as infallible, this state-of-affairs is not likely to change soon.

Sincerely, I am worried about the relationship between the Buharists, The Wailing Wailers and the Blind Followers in Nigeria.

For the time being, the best way President Buhari can reverse or clarify his statement about 97 percent of supporters and five percent of non-voters will be through his next political actions and inactions.

Tony Osborg writes from Port Harcourt.