SINCE Muhammadu Buhari became president on May 29, 2015, two disparate groups of pro and anti have evolved – the one to wish him success, and the other to pray for his failure, first, at the March 2015 polls, and then in the subsequent administration that he ushered in.
Almost two years into governance, the pro-group has majorly stuck to its prayer for Buhari to succeed, while the anti-group has expanded its wish-list to include death to him.
Thus, it emerged last week that when the President embarked on a 10-day vacation and medical check-up in London, a pall of uncertainty and anxiety enveloped the pro-group, while the anti-group had an overdrive of doom and gloom, anticipating a piece of bad news that would be good news to it anyway.
And as the days rolled by, the anti-group became a purveyor of misinformation, fake news and utter falsehood: That the health condition of President Buhari had worsened, and was rushed from London to a German hospital where he went into a coma, and finally gave up the ghost.
The anti-group leveraged on the reach of the apparent one-way-traffic social media, and a docile conventional media to spread the news, dissing all contrary views and reports.
A photograph of the President, showing him watching a Channels Tv political programme in his apartment in London, was disputed as one taken in Germany or in Nigeria. Certainly not in London, argued the critics, who professed knowledge of the weather condition in England, such as would discourage Buhari from leaving bare his feet placed on a central table in the room. In their rush to judgment, they neglected the use of electric heater that can bring the room temperature to a desired level.
The Germany arm of the controversy encouraged the Presidency to distinguish between President Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose news of being “invited” to the inauguration of President Donald Trump was also trending at the time. The carriers of the news stressed that Trump bypassed Buhari for Jonathan for the invite.
According to the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari, not being ubiquitous, couldn’t be in Germany and London at the same time, “unlike a former President,” who was in Abeokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria, while he was touted to be at the Trump inaugural in Washington.
This analogy quickly took a life of its own, with critics alleging a deflection of attention from the issue at hand – the unsubstantiated, and patently false reports of death of the President, which they wanted Mallam Shehu to inadvertently substantiate.
So, to many in the anti-group, even some who, in their hearts, never believed the death-news but, nonetheless, went along with the false narrative, it would be a huge disappointment for President Buhari to return from abroad hale and hearty, and with a bounce in his step.
It would be disappointment that their death-wish, nurtured in silent prayers, propagated in group discussions and published in the media would not materialise after all. Disappointment that once again, their seers, masquerading in the form of pastors, imams and babalawos, would deceive them into believing that the final nail would be driven into the President’s coffin this early in the year 2017.
Disappointment that the political calculus of the past weeks and days would be upended by Buhari’s return, and the millions/billions poured into disinformation, fake news and outright falsehood about his health condition and eventual “death” would go down the drain just as they did prior to his election.
Disappointment that the war on corruption and other malfeasance in the polity, which they thought would be “interred” with Buhari, would continue, perhaps with renewed verve and determination. So many disappointments in the death-wishers’ camp!
But why do people hate President Buhari with such passion as to wish him dead? Is it because of the programmes and policies of his government, such as the anti-corruption crusade, fight against Boko Haram and other criminal enterprises or the economic situation in the country? Is it due to regional or resource control agitation? Is it because of the angling for positions within the ruling party, or posturing for the 2019 elections in the opposition camp? Or the hate a product of the past, when he was a military Head of State?
Well, any of these issues could induce hate in some people, and spur them to wish the President were dead. However, in doing so, they ignore the biblical injunction not to hate but love our enemies, and to pray for leaders and those in authority.
Apostle Paul, who was a persecutor of Christians before his conversion, exhorts in Matt. 5:43-45a (also, Luke 6:27-28) that:
“43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
Paul also enjoins in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
“1… first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Therefore, rather than wish President Buhari dead, we should continue to pray for his good health and that of Nigeria. Because, as Chief Tony Anenih, former Minister and Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) advised the other day, “At this time of economic recession, rather than wish President Buhari dead, Nigerians should fervently pray for him to enjoy good health to be able to take the country out of the woods.”
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.