Selective reasoning and infantile mind-sets
Not being able to write for some time gave me the chance to read more of what others are focusing on; what they find fascinating, and why? The impressions I came out with are surprising, sometimes shocking: there seems to be little correlation between the preoccupation of the self-appointed experts and the lived experience of most of us, nor is there a balance between objective journalism, fair commentary, civic responsibility and self-interest. We are right, others are always wrong. Even the Government seems more interested in digging into its trenches’ and refuses to listen to fair criticism. It even tried, for example, to dismiss concerns over illegal and opaque employments that we all knew actually took place.
Take most of the reviews of President Buhari’s one year in office, for example. I will start with a true story. A trader from a small town near Maiduguri came to Kantin Kwari, the biggest textiles market in Kano, with the hope of re-stocking her shop after years of lying low due to the insurgency that virtually crippled her business. She entered a shop, sat down and started selecting the merchandise she needed while admiring a portrait of president Buhari and generally talking business with the shop keeper. Her orders came to a little over N200,000.00 for which she paid cash and moved on. At the next shop she selected several items totalling about half a million Naira. Even though she did notice the presence of Buhari’s photograph in the shop she did not, according to what she later said, gave that any significance until they started negotiating for some discount. The man just could not stop himself. He complained about the falling Naira, the endless pressure on smugglers who find it increasingly difficult at our land borders, the rise in the price of rice and other commodities, kidnapping, power shortages and so on. When he finally paused she looked him straight in the face and simply said “You are an ingrate”. As people started gathering to hear what was going on she pointed out that she has lived in Maiduguri all her life, lost her husband to Boko Haram insurgents, had to hide her two boys in the overhead water tank for almost two years to keep them from being abducted, and had to close her shop for over five years, nor travel outside Maiduguri, the state capital. She had no patience, she said, for fools and ingrates who are now trying to claim that nothing has changed over the last one year. She collected her money, went back to the first shop and collected more supplies with the half million, promising to only shops that display the portrait of her hero.
While both may be accused of being selective in their reasoning, the one celebrating her freedom from Boko Haram clearly points to why most Nigerians, especially from areas devastated by the insurgency and Jonathan’s inept, corrupt, (and some would say opportunistic) handling of the fight against the murderous and mindless insurgents, have a more nuanced understanding and gave an appreciative nod to Buhari’s first year in office. Those religiously denying any progress at all fall back on armed- robbery, kidnapping, cattle-rustling, pipelines and oil installations sabotage in the Niger Delta, and even some fiction called Fulaniherdsmen’s “insurgency” sponsored, according to them, by Buhari to “Islamise” Nigeria. These they present as “proof” that nothing has been achieved on the security front. That some of these crimes have been around for some time, that Niger Delta is a different ball-game, that new uprisings are probably being sponsored by anti-Buhari elements under scrutiny for corruption and other crimes, or that the Fulani have been around for years herding their cattle with only sticks not AK47s, all these are ignored in the hysteria being whipped up. If you hate something you have to discredit it no matter the evidence, or so they reason. A non-selective mind-set could find concrete evidence of success in the fight against Boko Haram even as it concedes, and rightly so, that other security issues need to be addressed.
As is to be expected, the economy is where the discussion is least objective, and less informed. Jonathan left a trail of paper flaunting endless “achievements” and “transformations” even as the citizens suffered chronic unemployment, avoidable hunger, endless corruption and decrepit infrastructure. This was when oil was being pumped out at 0ver 2.2 million barrels per day, and selling at $110 to $130 per barrel. As the price of oil collapsed to around $30 a barrel, and production oscillates between 900,000 to 1.2 million barrels, and with an inherited import bills for food and refined petroleum products, everyone stated hoarding dollars leading Naira’s current near-collapse. Now the line is that a year is enough to have turned the economy around and therefore the Government has failed. The extent of the mess it inherited is underplayed and the fact that it is still succeeding in keeping us going is not appreciated, despite the disasters we are noticing in countries suffering from similar oil collapse. And it is not just the social media or the South-East elites for even people who ought to know better are into this game of Buhari bashing, with no regard for any inconvenient truths.
Nor is the Government itself helping matters. The economic management team believes it has all the answers, and require no inputs from anybody, except perhaps a few trusted friends and paid helps. What the policy directions are, and how they are supposed to work out and benefit the vast majority is left to us to guess. In the absence of any genuine communication regarding economic policy or direction we are left to watch the power struggle and regulatory takeover by interest groups. Even the professionals have reduced all news and comments to personal ambitions and motivations, not because they cannot see what is going on, but because each is picking pieces that interest their agenda and the dominant narratives they wish to spin. Perhaps if we all try to be more intellectually generous and consider even inconvenient facts and evidences we could end up analysing better, and proposing more workable solutions.
My third example of such biases and selective reasoning is the catch-all called “restructuring”. That all attempts at restructuring had been, at best, selfserving is conveniently ignored. The last one was so crude that even the hidden agenda was not well hidden. The representation was not only lop-sided, but even those to represent the North or Muslims were chosen with arrogant disdain and bad faith. And suddenly we are told it represents a basis for restructuring Nigeria? By all means let us see if we can improve our political architecture. By all means allow whosoever wants to go out of Nigeria to do so. But that fraudulent report, forced on people by political fiat, cannot be the basis of anything positive. Attempts to white-wash it by the media, and forced it down our throats will just not sell. The deep hatred and intemperate language, the lies and insults heaped on “the other” whenever some people want more appointments or more resources, cannot be justified as simply a negotiating strategy because the hatred exhibited and the methods adopted can never give rise to a united country because the basis of unity is being eroded by that chosen approach. One just hope people really understand the full impact of what they are clamouring for?
There are too many such issues being twisted by a very sectional and bigoted media that we really need to be more vigilant. The elites need to caution their youth to understand that some damages cannot be reversed. The media must seek to reinvent itself and move away from hysteria, unsubstantiated gossips, self-serving narratives in aid of ethnic or religious hegemony. Following the media should be enlightening and invigorating, not depressing and annoying.
A non-selective mind-set could find concrete evidence of success in the fight against Boko Haram even as it concedes, and rightly so, that other security issues need to be addressed