Mr President has returned home after being away on medical vacation for 104 days. His arrival and subsequent nationwide address have been a controversial subject of discourse between his staunch supporters and those who feel his extended stay away and state of health should have been handled a lot better; and possibly prodded him to resign on account of ill-health. It’s a debate that has been ongoing since the first time he was away for medical treatment. The whole controversy stems from a loss of faith by a section of the populace that the current administration has the capacity to lead Nigeria to the promise land.
It’s a familiar story on this side. Like we have seen before, an administration begins their journey by piggy-backing on plenty of goodwill. Expectations are high and there’s a renewed hope that maybe, just maybe the newly elected government will get things right. Well, since our democratic journey kick-started in 1999, we haven’t exactly had that eureka moment just yet. And so it’s not hard to imagine why many are clearly frustrated. Two years into the tenure of the Buhari-led administration there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel. On this backdrop, it is not unusual for different people to have varying views about the competence of those at the helm of affairs.
Nevertheless, what’s saddening is the way many are quick to be intolerant of the views of others. And this is not only with respect to politics or governance, rather it pervades all spheres of our existence. For the Buhari proponents, everyone who criticises the government must be anti-Buhari, and those who called for the president to resume or resign do not wish the president well. While I am not holding forth for the protesters as I am not privy to the motive behind their protest, I will not be quick to interpret their actions as a dislike or hatred for the president.
It was only natural that people grew increasingly worried about his protracted medical vacation, especially since the nature of his ailment was shrouded in secrecy. It’s expected that rumours and speculations become rife when categorical statements are not made about an issue. I am apolitical and have zero interest in participating in politics, and while I for one understood that the president did what the law required of him by handing power over to his vice-president while he was unavailable, I cannot deny that I would have felt respected and carried along as a citizen if I was addressed by my president while he was away. Something, anything at all to make me feel significant.
And so it makes no sense to make blanket statements like “All those who were calling for the president to resign or resume wish him dead,” or anyone complaining about the state of things is an enemy of Mr President. Are we saying it’s impossible to just desire good governance and demand it without having a personal grouse with people in authority? What exactly is our role as citizens if we cannot insist on accountability from the leaders we voted into power?
One of the hallmarks of maturity is the ability to respect other people’s views and the open mindedness to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinion regardless of how absurd it sounds to us. This is where many of us miss it, especially those of us on social media. An individual posts an opinion about something. They haven’t used any derogatory words or insulted anyone in their submission, it is simply how they see things from their unique perspective, but for some reason if that opinion is not in congruence with ours, we draw out our daggers and “slay” them with all the strength we can muster.
The situation has degenerated to the point where people now jostle to give the meanest response to a post they don’t agree with all for retweets or acknowledgements of “legendary savagery,” forgetting that the joke is actually on them. Making scathing remarks to another person’s innocuous opinion is indicative of an infantile, shallow-minded mentality. If you believe a dress is beautiful, and I opine that it looks like something the cat dragged in, it only suggests that we do not share the same taste in dresses. It shouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination call for any verbal wars, disrespect or loathing of any form.
I am aware that sometimes the arguments for and against a matter are not as simplistic as how a dress looks. The “Has Buhari performed well so far or not” or “Does ISIS or Boko Haram represent the typical Muslim or not” or even the unending Messi vs Ronaldo debate are examples of other bones of contention that have the propensity to snowball into something more sinister. All the same, regardless of which side of the divide we fall, and as much as we feel strongly about opinion, it behoves us to try to be more accommodating of others. And if we find ourselves getting worked up because someone can’t relate or vehemently disagrees with our views, then we can rest our case and simply walk away from such blood pressure raising arguments that lead nowhere.
The concept of democracy itself is all about different beliefs. It presupposes that everyone has a free will and everyone is entitled to freely express themselves as long as they aren’t making hate speeches or disrupting public peace. When we resort to name calling and foul language to drive home our point, it simply portrays us as being incapable of contributing or stating our case cerebrally. It means we are unintelligent and our verbal aggression is our only way to cover for our mental shortcomings.
One sure way to learn and stretch our mental capacity is to be more welcoming of opposing views. You don’t necessarily have to agree with a viewpoint, but more often than not you’ll be able to pick a thing or two from the other person if you will only take the time to hear them out.
If everyone agrees on every matter, it means we are no longer humans with thinking faculties, but zombies. We don’t have to agree. No, we don’t. Even Siamese twins don’t agree all the time.
But can we disagree in peace? Can we?