Mr. President’s One Year in Office | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Mr. President’s One Year in Office

Posted: Jun 1, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sam Kargbo

According to Nicholas Epley, Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Business School, the average human being is“born with an extraordinary ability to understand what others think, feel, believe, want, and know. It’s a sixth sense you use every day, in every personal and professional relationship you have. At its best, this ability allows you to achieve the most important goal in almost any life: connecting, deeply and intimately and honestly, to other human beings. At its worst, it is a source of misunderstanding and unnecessary conflict, leading to damaged relationships and broken dreams.”

Epley’s mind reading model has universal application. For example, it is immensely helpful for a leader to sense what his people – including those not close to him – think of him. The ability to read the peoples’ mind, Epley suggests, will give the leader the wisdom to revolutionize how he thinks about his people –and himself.

Going by Epley’s mind wise theory, one can say that in writing his one-year anniversary speech, President Muhammadu Buhari had in mind what Nigerians “think, feel, believe, want, and know” about him. The speech was, therefore, his attempt to honestly connect with them. But did he succeed in connecting with them?

For his supporters, who have a rose-tinted view of him, the answer is an emphatic yes. This group of people, labeled Buharists by one critic, cannot see anything wrong with him. Even before he became president, this group, seeing him as courageous and incorruptible, believed that he held the salvation of Nigeria. Ever ready to explain away his obvious failings, this group idealises and magnifies his virtues. The speech was capable of bonding them further with Mr. President. Their arguments with their opponents have been structured and articulated in the speech, including what the group had christened the 75 landmark achievements of Mr. President’s one year in office – grouped under security, corruption, power, environment, judiciary and national image.

One may not question the celebrated achievements on security, despite the scandalous – if not treacherous– menace of the herdsmen; corruption, even though convictions are yet to be recorded; environment; judiciary – with shocking electoral decisions mostly going against the ruling party; and national and international image, the best one can say about the economy and power is that they have prospects which the government can actualize with focus and unbridled determination. The economy – indeed the nation – was clearly drifting to the abyss. The choice was therefore between coasting along, hoping the nation’s ship would not hit the rocks and sink, and taking proactive but painful measures to arrest the drift. Such measures which entail the scarification of the economy to remove decaying surface and relaying tracks for sustained growth and development have their collateral damages on the relationship between the government and the citizenry. Here, there is the need to maintain the delicate balance between walking the walk and the necessary political artistry, ingenuity and pragmatism in keeping the people’s faith in the government.

To anti-Buharists, the speech was hogwash, over sentimental and devoid of sound notes on critical issues like the marauding ‘Fulani’ herdsmen and looming catastrophe in the Niger Delta, where they wish the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) are digging the grave of Buhari’s Government. The hatred this group has for Buhari dates back to his days as Military Head of State. They hate his person, religion, and tribe. To them, he is pretentious and not as virtuous as he is being portrayed. His war on corruption is selective, for his failure to go after his party’s alleged corrupt bigwigs. They see the murderous instincts that they believe he is cleverly suppressing in the mindless herdsmen whom they deliberately term Fulani herdsmen to connect him to – and make him vicariously liable – for their acts. Some of them prefer thieving, infernally corrupt ex-Presidents to Mr. President whom they see as a holier-than-thou or fundamentalist Islamist.

Unable to embrace the reality that the President is the Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, this group demonstrates what Epley calls the “common failing of our sixth sense,” the consequence of which he says is like “closing your eyes and then concluding that nothing exists, failing to engage your ability to reason about the mind of another person not only leads to indifference about others, it can also lead to the sense that others are relatively mindless. Most extreme examples typically involve some kind of hatred or prejudice that distances people from one another. The Nazis, building on centuries of anti-Semitic stereotypes, depicted the Jews as greedy rats without conscience or as gluttonous pigs lacking self-control. The Hutus in Rwanda depicted the Tutsis as mindless cockroaches before killing them by the hundreds of thousands.”

The haters are too psychologically distant from Mr. President to have listened to his message. To them, nothing good can come from him. These closed-minded people are coalescing and inventing negative stories and propaganda to show Mr. President in a bad light. Unfortunately for their victims, their job is simple. They are not required to substantiate their stories. All they need is the ability to spread lies with oratory and conviction, saying, for instance, how the last administration brought the moon to the ocean for Nigerians, wailing about how this administration has refused to open the vaults of the Central Bank and splash money on the people. To them, Mr. President’s inability to meet campaign promises even when all oil-dependent countries are in their tethers amounts to lies.

The critics’ job is to promote enduring values by exposing failings. While I believe that the quality of democracy is defined by the quality of our opposition, I do not think that haters spreading embers of discord, distracting the people with infernal lies are doing themselves or their country any good. It is a shame that one year into the administration of this Government, we have no serious opposition to critically dissect and have a reality check on the administration’s policies.