Wednesday, August 13, 2014

John Odigie-Oyegun and Politics of Blame

IT is plausible to suggest that July 22, 2014 marked a penultimate date of an untoward dramatisation in Nigeria, especially for General Muhammadu Buhari. Then it is also even more plausible to suggest that July 23, 2014 would figure as the day of the unpleasant dramatisation proper especially, again, for Buhari and then for Mr. John Odigie-Oyegun, the national chairman of All Progressive Congress (APC). It is necessary to quickly substantiate the apparent analogies of these dates to a fatal dramatisation.
It was after the Nation newspaper, and several news media, reported on July 22, 2014 about Buhari's dismay at the spate of impeachments in Nigeria that an ominous cloud started to gather. "The gathering of dangerous cloud" is actually Buhari's own words during a public outing on that July 22, 2014. Then on July 23, 2014, in what seemed like the real gathering of this dangerous cloud, Buhari was attacked in a gruesome suicide bomb that claimed so many lives. That same day, Oyegun addressed newsmen in reaction to Buhari's attempted murder and "called on President Jonathan to institute a high powered probe to unravel the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, which left more than 75 persons killed and many more injured." The sic was as reported by Daily Times newspaper of July 24, 2014.
Mr. Oyegun sounded audacious. He urged Buhari's supporters and members of his party nationwide to remain calm, in the face of what he (Oyegun) describes as "obvious provocation". Oyegun's media verbalisation consistently charged Mr. President to get to the root of the bomb blast and unmask the perpetrators, with a warning that the bomb blast will not be "treated as one of the usual Boko Haram atrocities as there seems to be more to it than meets the eye." Oyegun made more pronouncements that may elicit a tinge of scepticism from a critical reader.
While we may not be in a haste to read Oyegun's speech as an impassioned submission from a vulnerable reactionary, we still reserve the right to interpret it as a deliberate act of incitement. In doing so we need to ask the question of why Oyegun would urge 'only' Buhari's supporters and members of his party to remain calm in the face of obvious provocation. The facts of this statement assume that only Buhari's supporters and APC members possess the emotional susceptibility that needed pacification in the face of violent attacks on the rest of Nigerians. The speech also suggests that agonising sorrow inflicted by terrorists is something that is painfully expressed 'only' by Buhari's supporters. In the end, instead of troubleshooting the violent engagement of terrorists, Oyegun's speech rather reinforces its divisive and unfeeling catastrophe. It imposes a vague distinction between the savage perpetrator and the vulnerable victim. This is a speech to many; a speech that rather polarises than it unites.
The remote signification of Oyegun's speech is still not farfetched: determined to construct an interface between savage degeneration of the system and the current administration, the speech fails to deliver on the mere precept of patriotic statesmanship. The speech is highly detrimental to the deep wounds of thousands of terror victims and their families, including the efforts of the present government to contain the insurgency. The speech has the potentiality to undermine genuine nationalistic efforts of terror fighters. In the same vein other APC leaders have spoken strongly against the twin bomb blast in Kaduna. Although some other party members such as the Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu have also condemned the attack, one still needs to understand the reaction of APC leaders from a particular perspective of politics of blame.
In the politics of blame cheapest political points are scored at the expense of factuality; the frontiers of discontent are fructified rather than mitigated. The promising platforms that underpin compromise and negotiation are further punctured. In this politics, fault-finding knows no boundary and every little opportunity to smear the opposition is exploited to the fullest. This is exactly what happened when a group of APC governors vowed to hold President Goodluck Jonathan accountable for any further violent attack on Buhari. One therefore wonders whether this group is insinuating that the current attack on Buhari is masterminded by the President. One also wonders whether their speech is pointer to the fact that thousands of people slaughtered by Boko Haram over the past five years were less human than any one single individual in Nigeria.
If Buhari's attack must elicit such blemishes from a political party, why wouldn't other deadly attacks on innocent Nigerians elicit same reaction? Can we now say that terrorists have exceeded boundaries sanctioned by the opposition? Therefore politics of blame must be deployed to re-direct the misguided gaze of terrorists to the boundaries admissible by the opposition. My conclusion: Jonathan's name has suddenly become a major asset in APC's politics of blame. The deftness with which APC leaders apportion blame in the wake of most unwholesome happenings in Nigeria is probably one of the most unfortunate incidents in our political life, at least, over the past few years.
ThisDay 'Sunday Comment' July 27, 2014 describes the reaction of some APC leaders to the Buhari attack as "irresponsible and callous" and went further to argue that "finger-pointing and apportioning blames over terror attacks... have done as much to stoke the tension and feeling of insecurity in the country...." It seems blame-generating politicians now abound in APC and they seem to also believe that Jonathan must, and indeed deserves to, incur substantial political blame over untoward issues in Nigeria. Considering Oyegun's speech - and within the narrow discourse of APC's spurious blames - Jonathan's culpability is needlessly insinuated while his innocence is literally constructed as non-existent. This is unfortunate. It may not sound outrageous to conclude that in APC's politics of blame achieving compromise is as difficult as a Greek puzzle.
- Dr. Nwafor, a former Research Associate at ICGC, University of Minnesota, is a Senior Lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka