When I started this piece, I thought about titling it “Muhammadu Buhari and how his government is good for Nigeria” but I thought better of it. Why should I give a clickbait headline to an article that is not even about Buhari per se? The Buhari angle to the piece comes from the fact that since he became President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria a year ago, Muhammadu Buhari and his policies have got everybody talking. The fact that the Naira is losing value to the dollar, the increase in the price of fuel, the fact that the economy is growing weaker, and the menace of armed extremist groups rising all over the country and the manner in the government has gone about trying to contain these brushfires have created lots of conversation, with the commensurate level of praise or criticism for Muhammadu Buhari depending on which side one is on.
Of course as it always happens when issues like this are being discussed tempers are bound to flare and one side is bound to to accuse the other of “talking nonsense” or “wailing” from time to time. Again the right to talk nonsense or to accuse someone else of talking nonsense is part of the citizen’s freedom of speech, which is not something this piece is concerned about, neither is it concerned with the which one of the for or against Buhari camp is talking said nonsense. What the piece is concerned (or shall I say happy), about is the fact that the conversations are happening in the first place.
Two incidents inspired this piece, and they both happened on Twitter. The first one was during the fuel scarcity that led to the price of petrol going from 87 naira to 146 naira, a writer friend of mine, an avowed “fencist”, came on Twitter to complain that he is unhappy with the Buhari government because he can’t get fuel for his car. That made me laugh, not because I was happy with his predicament, but because the fence he is sitting on is collapsing bit by bit. The second was recently during a heated twitter argument about the Niger Delta Avengers and a follower tweeted something along the lines of “everybody is now an authority on the Niger Delta.” These two incidents, confirmed a trend that I have started to notice over the last few years, that the change in government that brought Muhammadu Buhari to power has also created a change in attitude towards governance. People are now more willing to talk about issues they were previously apathetic about, and with social media now becoming increasingly popular, everybody now has an opinion on policy issues and the means to express it. I pointed out in this piece from last year that the Buhari government is not the one that will take Nigeria to the promised land, just the Moses that will begin the process, but whether the Buhari government succeeds in its aims or not, Nigerians and Nigeria will never be the same again.
In many ways, it is a good thing to have people talking about issues, about fuel scarcity, about Fulani herdsmen, about Niger Delta Avengers, even about Muhammadu Buhari’s ear infection. Even though a lot of people will complain that many words do not fill a basket and that most of the opinions on the aforementioned “rubbish talkers” are distracting people from the real issues. But people who constantly complain that other people are talking rubbish are the same kind of jerks who think telepathy is an awesome superpower, and not a gift that will drive the bearer insane, because they have watched X-men and think human thoughts are structured in grammatically correct sentences, and read, out by Morgan Freeman in a British accent, a fact that anyone who has ever been cold called by a lecturer in class or called to give an extempore speech knows is the biggest lie since Satan convinced Eve to eat the Apple in Eden. Even if you think they are just wailing, they are still contributing to the conversation on the issue nonetheless, and that is a good thing. Even if it is hate speech, if not for anything the fact that they get arrested and locked up is a pointer to the rest of us on what not to say.
The truth is “It is difficult to solve a problem you don’t even know you have” to quote the popular maxim. And the only way to realize that you have a problem is to talk about it. That is why every movement starts with a conversation. #BringBackOurGirls was (is still) a conversation that became a movement, “Change” was a conversation that became a movement that resulted in an unprecedented electoral defeat for an incumbent government. I could go on. Talk/conversation guides the boots on the field so that they know where they are going and what they intend to do there. Man, for example, has been talking about air travel ever since he developed his intellect, and he has come up with some frankly moronic ideas about what air travel should look like (old women wearing pointed hats flying on brooms anyone?) But it is the mixture of the great and the moronic ideas that gave the likes of the Wright brothers the great ideas that drove them to make the precursors of the planes we love to fly in today.
That said, I still think Muhammadu Buhari’s government, complete with the current ups and downs in Nigeria’s economy is still good for Nigeria, not because I think he will fulfill all of his campaign promises (my belief that he can make Nigeria better is unshaken though), but because all this nonsense “fencism” will stop and everybody will say what they really feel on government policies. The worst country in the world is not the country where its citizens are bitterly critical of its government, it is one where the people are apathetic. In other words, both hailers and wailers are good for the long term development of Nigeria. The All Progressives Congress may have appropriated the “Change” mantra, but even they themselves do not know how far this change is going, and that is thanks to the conversations that Social Media is at the forefront of. Many words might not fill a basket, but they can drive Nigeria’s democracy and its socio economic development.