By Ayo Akanji
Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines. — Paul Brunton
Nigeria’s political space has suffered an avalanche of mob action by the novel, neophyte, and somewhat organized Obidient movement — the ardent supporters of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi. This movement is healthy for Nigeria’s thriving democracy which is fast consolidating. It sometimes reminds me of the 44th American President’s community base, Organising For Action, a nonprofit organization that advocated the agenda of Barack Obama and aligned with the Democratic Party. But like it is noted, hysteria and chaos are the idols of the mob: they adore everything they don’t understand with a gusto that can either lead to victory or self-destruction. I hope the Obidient mob isn’t heading for the latter.
Conversely, democracy is a game of numbers, made up of real-time voters, not online supporters masquerading as opinion moulders in the cyber sphere. The forthcoming elections would be anchored and won by experienced ideologues with proven track records, not inexperienced leaders leaning on an online mob with a modus operandi of mudslinging those holding contrary opinions.
This campaign would be hinged on sound political and policy debates like has been enumerated by the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and by extension the New Nigeria People Party (NNPP), who have since released their blueprints, to serve as reference points in providing answers to difficult questions on climate change, terrorism, knowledge-based economy, blockchain… radical ideas that reflect the challenges posed by the new world order.
Nonetheless, the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been steadfast in its commitment towards creating the desired awareness of those affected by the constant shrinking of the Lake Chad Basin by over 90 per cent. The Lake Chad Basin has been identified as the most threatening spot in Africa and it is recalled that the German government, under the leadership of its former Chancellor, Angela Merkel, committed resources to the recharging of the lake. To that effect, an international conference on the prevention and stabilization of the basin was held in Maiduguri in early September 2018 with participants drawn from Niger, Chad and Nigeria.
Germany and Norway pledged over $150 million to the Lake Chad countries and where to allocate another $116 million in humanitarian assistance at a conference co-hosted by Germany, Nigeria, Norway and the United Nations which took place in Berlin. The German and Norwegian governments pledged a further $86 million to the region.
Furthermore, the Centre for China Studies also advised the federal government to key into the Chinese Government Belt and Road Initiative under the Belt and Road International Framework of Cooperation to reclaim Lake Chad which has been receding over the years and served as oxygen for terrorism in Nigeria and parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Indeed, the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, joined President Muhammadu Buhari for the flag-off of the drilling of oil at the Kolmani field straddled between Gombe and Bauchi states — a discovery that has attracted $3 billion or (N1.33 trillion) in investment.
While giving a goodwill message, Tinubu opined that he would “recharge Lake Chad Basin ”. This marked him as someone who understands the job ahead, not one who confessed publicly to not having any idea about the impact of climate change. The usual suspects, Obidients, took the dangerous path of nonconformity in hurling all kinds of names at Tinubu, displaying their crass ignorance that a simple Google search would have solved.
When it comes to international relations and politics, Tinubu is far ahead of others. He is not like Peter Obi who was asked about the Green Energy Initiative the current APC government signed Nigeria to and he quipped back that “I have read about that but not very versed about them but we would all consider it in all of what we are doing. I’m going to be aggressive in other areas than some of the things that are coming out on the issue of climate change… but these things are not as important as securing the people”.
The above is the indifferent response to a multi-dimensional issue of climate change which is the bane of national security and poses grave challenges to the Sahel Region. At the UN Climate Change Conference (Known as COP26), in Scotland, the current administration committed to achieving net zero by 2060, after already passing the Climate Change Act into law in 2021. All of these were downplayed with a wave of a hand and applauded by the mob. As some schools of thought noted, Obi is not the problem as he knows he has zero chance of leading this country but his supporters are the biggest issue.
However, they were gobbling at Jagaban’s comment, who understood these dynamics plus the game of the West, referencing President Buhari’s oped, titled ‘How not to talk with Africa about climate change’, and published in the influential Washington Post, which coincided with COP27 hosted by Egypt — the first time in Africa.
President Buhari observed that “many of my peers are frustrated with Western hypocrisy and its inability to take responsibility. Governments have repeatedly failed to meet their commitments to the $100 billion fund for climate adaptation and mitigation in the developing world – for the mess their industries caused. According to the UN, Africa is the continent worst affected by climate change despite contributing the least to it. Don’t tell Africa that the world cannot afford the climate cost of its hydrocarbons— and then fire up coal stations whenever Europe feels an energy pinch”.
Such a precise shot was fired at the desired audience and this online mob thinks statecraft is a game of hashtags and retweets?
*Akanji is a member of the Strategic Communications Directorate of Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council and writes from Abuja