The Five Stages Of Political Grief
15 months after the elections and 12 after the swearing-in of the new administration, more than enough time has passed for everyone to move on from campaign rhetoric and be more forward looking. It doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon, though, as many on either side of the fence still seem somewhat upset, for various reasons. However, both sides are more alike than each would like to admit and have been going through the same emotional/grief cycle. How, you ask, given that one side’s candidate won and the other lost? I’ll try to explain it.
For the Jonathanians, there was a lot of hope in the power of his incumbency and while they did expect the elections to be close, they did not anticipate his loss at the polls. They tried to point out voting irregularities like extensive underage voting in some parts of the country and a blanket failure of card readers. But it was not to be. Jonathan had lost.
The Buharists on the other hand, could not believe that the candidate they had sold with so much gusto was not similarly embraced by the entire country. Newspapers, in succession, both local and foreign, pointed out that he was probably as problematic a candidate as Jonathan, with his own Achilles Heel. However, they sold the candidate they imagined and hoped Buhari would be. President Buhari went on to win the election, but only by 51% of the vote to Jonathan’s 46%.
The Jonathanians were aggrieved at their principal’s loss and nothing is more symbolic of that anger than former Minister Orubebe’s sit-in “We will not take it” protest while the results were being announced.
Meanwhile, between the elections and the President’s assumption of office, information began to filter through about the wanton excesses that had occurred in President Jonathan’s government and how some officials were keen to make restitution before the axe of Buhari was imbued with the power of office and came swinging down with a vengeance. The Buharists were angry that so many were willing to consider Jonathan for re-election, and that alleged looters thought they could plea-deal their way out of consequences for their actions.
Then came all the what-ifs and if-onlys. If only Jonathan had focused on the Niger Delta and on Power. If only he’d shown a steelier spine and not been such a Johnny-come-lately, allowing everyone and everything to sway him. And if only Buhari was a bit more communicative and empathetic and did not do things that lent credence to the pre-election suspicions of the Jonathanians. What if he’d actually hit the ground running and appointed a cabinet earlier? And if only when he spoke he didn’t actually say some of the things that he was being reported to have said.
This is the current stage in the cycle. Both camps are losing wind and are defending their principals with a little less enthusiasm now. The profligacy of the Jonathan administration has led to the alleged uncovering of swathes of cash buried away in septic tanks and false walls in people’s homes; revelations, almost new every morning, about the EFCC’s noose tightening around some former official or the other’s neck. President Buhari has also not shown too much dexterity outside the sphere of chasing down loot, with the economy reeling from his tentativeness in addressing its issues. More than a few of his supporters, even the most ardent ones have stopped just short of renouncing their followership.
This is where we urgently need everyone to get to, especially the President’s cabinet. Looking back so frequently and pointing accusatory fingers only opens the door for them to be measured against the same yardsticks, as they are all coming to find. The supporters also need to fully accept the flaws of their respective principals with equanimity. Both have huge chinks in their armour and anyone who sticks their neck too far out in their defence will probably end up with a lot of egg on their face. We need to accept that GEJ wasn’t all bad and Buhari isn’t all good. We need to also accept that our fate, at least for the immediate future, lies in Buhari’s hands & his failure has grave implications for all of us.
Hopefully, acceptance will mean that as supporters we can put away triumphalism, snark and I-told-you-so; and that the current administration is looking firmly forward. Let’s move on.
What about supporters of Kowa Party (and other “mushroom parties”) and those who remained on the fence in undeclared fealty?