Stop Insulting The President

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Insults are in vogue. Unfair and unwarranted criticism of President Obasanjo is now the order of the day. Willful insults and vilification is now the in-thing. Name-calling; hateful language; contempt; castigation and needless aspersions are now a standard lingo among Nigerian web-writers who do not see anything of substance in terms of political and economic achievements by this president. The daily and constant spewing of foul language is increasingly becoming the hallmark of these writers. Their fetid languages come in torrents. And the way I see it – this daily bombardment is not likely to abate or end anytime soon. Why? Well, that is because somebody let some “dogs out!”

It is a shame. It is a shame that some of us are incapable of critiquing the President’s policies without hauling personal insults at him. It is a shame that there is this frenzy, this hunger to thrash and assault (vocally and in print) our president. There seems to be a competition going on as to who can use more denigrating and gutter-language on the person of the president – than the rest of the pack instead of objectively disagreeing with, and critiquing the official policies and agenda of the president. Why some Nigerians, writing on-line, despise the president so much is beyond me. Really, it is beyond me.

Yes, I am very much aware of the economic, social and political condition our country is in. I am aware of the failures and shortcomings of our president. I am aware of the unbridled corruption that is fast becoming our nation’s ways of life. I am aware of all the ills that plague our country. I am aware of our county’s reputation abroad. I am aware of all the rotten deals that are going on in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and elsewhere. I am aware of Obasanjo’s track record. Some are good; some are bad; and some are great. Yes, I am aware of all the aforementioned. But, as I said in the beginning of the year:
We Nigerians are an unrealistic group of people. We expected in Obasanjo a magician; we expected him to cure all the country’s ailments in four short years; we expected him to right all the wrongs that had accumulated since the days of Shehu Shagari through the ignominious and inglorious regime of Sani Abacha….for much of that period a vast majority of the civilian population simply went along. And so it was that a country that was once considered the doyen of the black world found itself in the gutter.”

I did not absolve President Olusegun Obasanjo of blames. Indeed, I went on to say: “He wined and dined with the “devils,” and in the process became beholden to too many interest groups. What galls me is the hypocrisy, the duplicity and the chameleonic nature of all those that are calling for Obasanjo’s head. None of them can perform better; none of them has the courage, the strength of character, a sense of purpose and vision; none of them can save Nigeria from itself – except the likes of Chief Gani Fawehimi.” Click here

I said it then; and I will say it again: Obasanjo is a not a magician. Governance and leadership does not lend itself to magic, irrational expectations, and silly and fervent prayers. Therefore, all those calling for the president’s head should first offer their own heads. And to all those web-based writers with holier-than-thou attitude – my advice is simply this: pack your bags and head back to Nigeria and contribute your quota instead of blabbing your mouth and hauling invectives at the president. The use of profanity on our president will not and does not make us look smarter. Engaging in rabid writings will not solve the crisis we have at hand.

I agree that some of our president’s utterances and actions do not make sense (or always make sense). And some of the time, I am angry and bewildered by his policies. For instance, I am at a loss at his constant overseas travels. I am at a loss as to why our educational system and public services has broken down and has been unable to bring about noticeable improvements in those areas. The rate of unemployment and the frequency of armed robbery bother me. In fact, a whole lot of things bothers me; and I disagree with his decision vis-à-vis the oil pricing.

We should emulate writers like Mohammed Haruna, Femi Olawole, Obadiah Oghoerore Alegbe, Wada Nas, and a few others who criticize our president and our country and then proffer solutions or point to alternative line of actions. It is also okay to criticize and move on without personal attacks. Let’s criticize the president; but, not insult him. It is okay to disagree with his actions and policies without abusing him. He may be the president; but he also a human being. He may be the commander-in-chief; but he is also a father, a husband, a grandfather, brother, and an uncle. Because he is holding public office does not mean we have the right to rain trash on him!

For heavens sake, let’s stop this nonsense! Insulting our president will not make our nation better or greater, or make us look great in the eyes of the world; but instead, it will make us look like juveniles and vagabonds in the eyes of the world.

Quite frankly, I am more afraid of people who run wild with their pens or with their keyboards. I am more distrustful of people who encourage hate and are disrespectful of properly constituted institutions and authorities. I am miles away from Nigerians who foster ethnic and religious violence and all those Nigerians who commit 419 and other acts of thievery. Granted our president has committed some grave mistakes in some areas of our national life; still, ridicule and constant catcall is not the ways to move our nation forward. Engaging in such lowly behavior simply points to the fact that we are incapable of critical and rigorous thought; that we are incapable of proffering workable solutions; that we are not ready for civil society; and that we are incapable of rising above vulgarity.

Any writer who can not engage in rigorous and critical thought without constantly resorting to foul language is nothing but a loose canon: a plague that must be avoided.

Olusegun Obasanjo is the president. For heaven’s sake he is our president. He is not a common criminal. Leaders and managers do make mistakes. In the process of performing their constitutional duties, they sometimes commit blunders – only that some leaders are better managers than others. That’s the nature of governance. History will judge him and other presidents (we’ve had and are going to have) one way or another. And so, I caution restraint and civility.

This is not about censorship. I am all for free speech — especially political speeches. We have the right to speak and write and communicate in whatever manner we want – especially about our government and about our president. But let us tamper our constitutional rights with a doze of intelligence, common sense, decency, respect and dignity for ourselves, our country and for fellow Nigerians (and fellow human beings).

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, Norman-Oklahoma:

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