By Donu Kogbara
I’VE spent the past few weeks in Nigeria, doing a lot of informal opinion-polling, as in randomly sounding all sorts of people out about their political views, their fears and their hopes for the future.
Many of us spend most of our time in bubbles that are full of like-minded folks who have identical or very similar socio-economic profiles, lifestyles, expectations, educational backgrounds and so on.
Often, we don’t even realise how limited our perspectives are. For example, a friend of mine told me, a couple of months ago, that she was very depressed because: “I’m so short of money right now that I cannot travel abroad on holiday this summer like everyone else.”
I reminded her that “everyone else” is a farcical exaggeration and that the average Nigerian doesn’t even classify certain months of the year as “summer” (summer being a totally foreign season and concept), never mind assume that he or she is entitled t1o take time off work in some far-flung location every June, July or August.
But despite my sanctimonious rebuke and awareness that it is not “normal” to traipse around the world in the summer (or at any other time of the year), I do understand where my friend was coming from because I feel equally aggrieved when I miss out on luxuries that privileged people regard as necessities and take for granted!
Long story short, if you want to get a proper feel for what is going on in the country as a whole, you have to get out of your bubble. And I’ve recently gone out of my way to approach complete strangers who don’t appear to have much or anything in common with me.
Because like many journalists, I’m interested in politics and have access to politicians who are interested in the media, which means that the majority of individuals with whom I regularly communicate are directly linked to the two main political parties.
Sure, I have friends, acquaintances and professional contacts who are not themselves members or direct beneficiaries of the APC or PDP; but most are still in the game – and have seats on the political gravy train – because they have close ties to people who are (often senior) members and (often high-level) beneficiaries of APC/PDP.
Anyway, realising that I was only hearing a very limited range of reactions to the status quo and the key players who are dominating the narrative, I decided to get out of my bubble and find out what ordinary Nigerians who are less personally involved in politics think about President Buhari and his rival, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
So for the past few weeks, I have talked to several taxi drivers, tailors, students, academics, medics, clerics and so many other voters who don’t know anyone in the corridors of power and are therefore not making judgements based on sentiment or vested interests.
And you know what?
Mr President is definitely hated in certain quarters. And I’d say that the main grudges his detractors have against him revolve around the herdsmen issue and a belief that he has inflicted poverty.
But most of the people I spoke to told me that they don’t hate him or wish him ill and are just tired of him.
“I just want him to go home to Katsina and rest and let another person take over and give us hope,” said a hotel employee I chatted to.
And I totally empathise with this viewpoint. I too am just tired, rather than hostile.
I don’t hate the old man. Indeed, I sometimes feel a pang of nostalgic goodwill when I see him on TV because I did, after all, campaign and vote for him in 2014 and 2015.
And one does not shed such emotional attachments easily. And my disappointment in his performance has not turned to hatred.
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I’m just tired of his administration’s failures and just tired of futilely wishing that he can become the type of firm, dynamic, nation-galvanizing, miscreant-disciplining leader I wanted him to be.
By the way, the reason a surprising number of people do not hate Buhari is because they do not blame him for Nigeria’s ills; and they are not blaming him for Nigeria’s ills because they do not believe that he is actually running the country at the moment.
He is widely perceived as a mere figurehead, a fragile pensioner who is going through the motions ceremonially, while being manipulated by shadowy, selfish, inept, unelected relatives and cronies.
Even if this theory is inaccurate, it is immensely unflattering. And it is difficult to imagine Buhari overcoming this humungous image problem before the polling stations open in February.
IMO State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, is determined to make his son in law, Uche Nwosu, his successor.
My mother is from Imo State and I have told my cousins that if Imolites allow the Okorocha clan to get away with such crude, dictatorial nepotism, I will totally lose respect for them!
Nwosu responded to his “inflicted victory” in the APC primaries by saying that he was extending the hand of fellowship to the aspirants he “defeated”.
I hope that the other aspirants bite his so-called hand of fellowship and gang up on him and ensure that his opponent wins the 2019 election!