It has been almost a year now that some of us, swept by the euphoria of the “Change Mantra”, went all out to support perhaps the most persecuted presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. We were told severally how the General intends to “Islamize Nigeria”; we were told he was a member of the Islamic State (or ISIS); we were equally told of how he once promised to make “Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan”. All these notwithstanding, we shunned every obvious temptation for ethnicity or religious bigotry to support and vote the most hated man in certain quarters as president.
Since he became president, Buhari seems to have gotten new supporters who seem to love him more than those who endured the worst conditions to support him during the election. These neo-Buharists, many of whom were never attended his campaign rally nor donated financially to his effort at the exalted office suddenly found their lost love.
After the election, traditional Buhari’s critics, also known as the Wailing Wailers, started several hash tags on Twitter, such as #BabaGoSlow, #100WastedDays, #BudgetOfYams, #TyrantBuhari and more recently and embarrassingly, #BringBackCorruption. To all these, Buhari’s supporters have responded well too. They have launched counter attacks like: #GoOnBuhari to counter the accusations of his critics that he is a dictator. Apart from this, noticing the loss of steam and the seeming defencelessness of Buharists on social media, neo-Buharists regrouped and decided to do “something unique.” They launched what they called, #iStandWithBuhari.
The group promoting the hash tag has been vocal on social media for a while now. On getting to see the group’s sponsored advert, I immediately put a call through to its secretariat sometimes last month. I was told the group intends to mobilise a whopping 9 million Nigerians to a rally in support of President Buhari. I asked if there was any election in sight which the President was participating. To this, the receiver of my call answered in the negative. He only told me of the president’s war against corruption and the commencement of operation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA). The question I asked myself after ending the call was: Why the rally?
Inasmuch as I have no personal issue with showing affections to one’s country leader, this effort suffers from two obvious deficiencies. First, the poor timing of the rally especially at a time when Nigerians are facing harsh economic realities is at best uncalculated. Second, is the fact that only exposes political opportunism and the insincerity of those behind the hash tag.
Calling Nigerians out for a rally at this time is obviously a bad Public Relations strategy. The people pushing these hash tag are obviously no experts in PR. If they are, they will see the futility of their efforts even before materialising. The message is shabby, just as its medium is tactless. It appears some idle political aides want to be seen to be working hard at their jobs. It may also be true some of those people who hate the president so much are behind this mess.
This leads me to my second issue with this poorly-thought-out rally. Where will the funding for the rally come from? Who is the overt and covert sponsor of the event? In this critical period, it will not be so difficult to mobilise unemployed people who now gather in groups at newspaper stands or other conspicuous places to attend such rallies. Let us assume each of those mobilised will be paid a stipend of N1000 or given a meal, this will cost (using conservative estimates) a whopping N90 billion. My God!
If this money can be channelled into building industries, these rally attendees will be gainfully employed.
There is nothing new in rallies of such nature. The fact that the same people who organised groups like: Daniel Kanu’s Youths Earnestly Yearn for Abacha (YEA); #BringBackGoodluck; Ifeanyi Uba’s Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN); Goodluck Initiative for Transformation (GIFT); Neighbour To Neighbour (N2N) and others too numerous to mention adds to my suspicions that these are nothing but professional praise singers, flatterers, charlatans and- to say the obvious- scammers.
Only recently did the true intentions of the group became manifest. Its National Coordinator Mr. Mustapha Ramalan resigned thanks to the schism within the group. Ramalan’s reason is that “…the nine million-man pro-Buhari march should be postponed because the government is still trying to pick up and hence should be given more time to justify the nine million-man march.” I dare ask, at what point did he recover his senses?
If I am in a position to advice President Buhari on this matter, I will suggest he considers taking Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice in his wonderful book, The Prince about dealing with these charlatans. The Italian philosopher writes: “…a wise prince ought to hold a third course by choosing the wise men in his state, and giving to them only the liberty of speaking the truth to him, and then only of those things of which he inquires, and of none others; but he ought to question them upon everything, and listen to their opinions, and afterwards form his own conclusions. With these councillors, separately and collectively, he ought to carry himself in such a way that each of them should know that, the more freely he shall speak, the more he shall be preferred; outside of these, he should listen to no one, pursue the thing resolved on, and be steadfast in his resolutions. He who does otherwise is either overthrown by flatterers, or is so often changed by varying opinions that he falls into contempt.” (The Prince, Chapter 23)
The Presidency needs to understand that it is not the time to keep mum in the face of these well-known political opportunists. The President’s media team must come down hard, issuing a strong “Caveat Emptor” on the matter. While we understand that the administration needs to public support, getting support from these ones whose intentions are purely to embarrass, malign and ridicule his modest achievements will further dampen, not construct, the administration’s image. There has to be limits to political opportunism!
Follow me on Twitter @adgorwell