By John Ogunlela
I reacted almost like everyone else when I read about Buhari's speech. A little later, however, I read the whole story and that he spoke his native language in employing a well-understood figure of speech. O, that takes issues somewhere else, friends. I might tell you in Yoruba, "Oju aja n' ṣẹjẹ". Flip that over into English, what do you get, even with the best of intentions?
"The dog is shedding tears of blood", or "The dog is bleeding from the eyes".
But wait a minute and don't pack nerves, this gory expression should really be translated, with linguistic fidelity: "He's running quite a gauntlet" in the toughest form or, "He's taking some heat", (intermediate) or, "He's facing quite some difficulties" in the plainest form. But certainly, the expression NEVER has anything to do with both the animal and the body part mentioned. It NEVER has to mean I'm referring to the guy as a dog in the derogatory sense or that he needs an ophthalmologist to cure him of a strange ailment. But if the King at that period was hospitalized for an eye problem and I've been suspected of not being his fan, my words can morph into anything once it hits the thin air of the ears of English language speakers, especially the ones not my fans either.
I'm not afraid someone might accuse me of being academic now. The reason they sent us to school is precisely so we wont reason in the most ordinary manner. That we will reason with some skills and sophistication so that we will have better outcomes in our relationships. What the man said in a Hausa idiom did not mean bloodshed to the speaker and DID NOT CONVEY A CALL TO VIOLENCE TO HIS AUDIENCE.
2. The presidency is the most politically sacred institution in any country and it is a smooth link from the past into the future. The way the presidency handled this matter is woeful as it deliberately opened a former president up to public ridicule and divided the citizens so sharply along ethnic lines. And I am very crestfallen that the presidency will put petty party politics before nation building and leadership. I have read many opinions since the incident that read pretty much like what oozed out of the state house: off-handed, predictable, easy-going and without that conciliatory tone that must set a leader apart. I can't believe a former president will be cleaved up by the serving president to be railed at, vilified and washed down by the public. In dishonouring a former leader of the nation, this government dishonours itself and makes the presidency look trite. It is a presidency of very, very ordinary people, friends.
President Jonathan missed a leadership moment: an opportunity to be gracious, fatherly and to tower above common squabbles and ordinary perceptions. He should have made a staged but seemingly off-the-cuff comment to correspondents at the airport denouncing election rigging (affirming a former president) and then assuring on his commitment to a better and peaceful future for the country. He could use words to precise effects such that this debates would have been smothered before they began. But look at what a whole presidency was saying!
3. You get a better grasp of the situation if you reflect on the mood in the South West(SW) under the much regarded Obafemi Awolowo. Better still if you lived in the SW that period. Get the nuances? I think most of us underestimate Buhari's popularity in the north and the perception of his supporters, within the context of election rigging and that perception. It is costly error in political leadership to make that mistake and one that can cost the nation a great deal.
4. Buhari has not been linked to any of this violence by the security organs. That means something.
5. The atrocities of Boko Haram is being unconsciously connected to northern leaders in most southern minds. I can't blame the people for that one bit. Suicide bombing, opening of machine gun fire inside crowded churches is a very sordid thing indeed and you can only commend Christians for being restrained. But long as we are interested in keeping Nigeria united, we have to do a bit more. And we must start by trying to see through the fog of war(an idiom please, and one that does not mean I hint that we are at war for that matter!) and not allowing our judgement to be clouded by easy hate.
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