26 September 2017
By Mich Nnanna
In some neighbourhoods, some children devote certain evenings to some kind of witty but uneasy jokes and play. They take turns in mocking each other, trading insults, and replying to jests, and then laughing as far and as uncontrollably as a given joke or jest sounds.
For instance, one can say to the other: a photographer let out his camera flash to take a shot of Jones, but Jones covered his head in ancestral prayer thinking it was lightning flash. And everyone will laugh and give Jones the opportunity to return the insult/jest for another corresponding laughter.
We all know how quarrelsome, discordant, and sometimes how unadvisable such plays are. Some parents caution their children not to engage in such jokes for its corrupting influences.
In Nigeria, APC is simply taking after this kind of jokes-by-moonlight. The party replies every nuance, every criticism, every sign of displeasure from any quarters, anything and everything with an appearance of anti-APC.
Interestingly or regrettably, many of these anti-APC tunes are played by people from within the APC fold. In the last three months, APC has fought feverishly and desperately to reply every type of opposition comment with verbal terrorism, linguistic assault and bombastic missiles flowing through the barrels of APC stakeholders of sorts.
Three major lessons from APC’s culture of tirade and counter-tirade: (1) many use it to show party loyalty. In fact, the names and portfolio of some hitherto obscure presidential aides have come to the fore simply by being in the news to reply to some attack on the president or his party. It seems that the only thing such presidential advisers have ever done since being appointed is to help the president answer to insults, in lieu of providing advice, which no one seems to be seeking from them in the presidency. (2) Many of the insults given to APC are coming from serving government functionaries and party stalwarts indicating a house in commotion or self-implosion.
(3) The signs are appearing early some of the decampments that will be, and what will be used as excuses to attack APC in a bid to wrestle power. The APC knows this, and that is why it does not spare anyone or any insult thrown at it. Remember that some of the people now trading the highest insults within APC were erstwhile PDP chiefs, who used the same tactics of attacking their own party before eventually cross carpeting to complete the damage. So, it is either APC is skilfully trading on familiar medicine or threading on familiar grounds or it is payback time.
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan; Chairman of PACAC, Itse Sagay, Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former VP and APC presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar were top ranking elements in the APC-led government who have taken the bile from the party for their comments.
IPOB, CAN, Rivers and Ekiti State Governors respectively, Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose, Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi are some of the outsiders who have taken the most venoms. These people have seen fire for fire from a party that is risking to portray itself as intolerant of opposition voices.
Make no mistakes, the right to freedom of speech and airing opinion must have a corresponding right to reply, especially when it is difficult to keep quiet in the face of needless insult. Believe it, some of the knocks that APC has received from its critics have been simply unwarranted and rather curious.
Ministers and directors that have been part of a government for more than two years suddenly coming out to lampoon the party while still serving as ministers? This is sabotage of painful proportions. Or some government officials declaring support for another (undeclared) presidential candidate, threatening to link other party faithful with some heinous crime and showing disdain for a party principal? Or some influential party stalwart, who willingly crossed over to the party, and even being a presidential aspirant almost abruptly emerging on the scene to say he has been side-lined. Or even someone dismissing a party he is serving at a high echelon as weak and lacking principles. These are hard-to-bear outbursts.
As far as APC is concerned, insurgency breeds counter insurgency; secession breeds counter-agitations, and insults will beget counter-insults. But the party seems to have done a bad job of replying critics. It has played discordant tunes, traded too much insult for insult, and seems to have too many spokespeople. Indeed, anyone that thinks they have a stake in APC makes bold to help the party to insult opponents.
In the ensuing cross-mudslinging, it is no longer easy to distinguish between the APC on the one hand and other sympathetic voices such as youth groups, socio cultural groups, various fora of elders, regional governors and individual voices on the other hand.
For instance, former Senator, Dr. Junaid Mohammed recently called Atiku “a scoundrel and bloody nonentity” because of Atiku’s comments on restructuring and for calling opponents of restructuring lazy. In the midst of many other APC voices also scolding Atiku in one news story, it was difficult to isolate Junaid’s voice.
Where is the maturity? Where is the fortitude? Where is the decorum? Where is the order?
Every person who complained about the president’s prolonged medical vacation in London for undisclosed ailment was accused of trying to overthrow Buhari or wishing him dead.
APC Senator, Abubakar Girei, called the Igbo politically naïve and the worst enemies of themselves for their agitations. This is a zone where APC hopes to campaign for votes in 2019, even if it thinks it can win without the zone.
All the people who criticized army operations in the Southeast or the proscription of IPOB were attacked by presidential aides and the information ministry either as sponsors of IPOB or as fraternising with the group. This included current Senate President Bukola Saraki, Former Minister of Education and organiser of #bringbackourgirls, Oby Ezekwesili, not to mention sworn APC enemies like Wike and Fayose.
Strong allies of the country (France, U.S., UK) were even unjustifiably and unfoundedly accused of lack of cooperation in the IPOB saga or being financial conduits for IPOB, because they did not recognise IPOB as terrorist.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, mid-September, identified what he called coalition of politically disgruntled and treasury looters as sponsors of the various activities carried out by the IPOB, stressing that such activities were aimed at destabilizing the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Presidential media aides Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina; Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; and APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi all have distinct, though similar roles. They should rejig their information tools towards more synergizing of information and responses to friends and foes. They should streamline the cacophony of APC voices and sympathisers who make it difficult to distinguish between their groups and APC.
Everyone and every group retains their right to make comments on national and party issues. But when a person’s or group’s interest perennially aligns with, and seems a follow up to every stand taken by APC, such a person or group tempts certain conclusions.
Some youth groups, Governors’ fora, regional elders and religious groups have not only sided the ruling party on all counts, but also either used APC’s own words or extended APC’s narratives and arguments on all national and party issues with IPOB, PDP, military operations, religious tolerance, name-calling of opponents and threats of decampments or perceived rebellion.
It is worth restating that APC has the ordinary right to reply, but not necessarily the leadership and moral right to re-insult insulters. The party has to caution its adherents in the area of answering APC opponents or acting as counsel to the party.
There are party and government mechanisms to reply critics and set the records straight each time there is apparent attempt at derailment by perceived destructive opponents. It will take some divine virtues to show restraint when sworn party opponents try endlessly to discredit a party. But when you argue with a mad man in his own terms and circumstances, people may no longer know who the actual mad man is.