By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
It was Sigmund Freud who first put forward a psychological concept called “projection.” It’s an ego defense mechanism, which disposes certain people to attribute to others the unconscious negative (and sometimes positive) traits and emotions that dwell in them.
So people who are compulsive liars always suspect that others are lying. People who have no capacity for altruism, who are self-serving narcissists, can’t understand that anyone can criticize an incompetent, clueless, bungling, unprepared, lying, propagandistic government without ulterior motives. They project their immorality, ethical deficiencies, ethno-regional and religious anxieties onto others.
They project all of their inadequacies onto others because they lack the internal moral resources to appreciate truth, justice, and fair play without the burden of their own moral frailty. They are victims of what psychoanalysts call “projection of a severe conscience,” which causes some people to, without evidence, make false accusations against others and to impute negative emotions to other people’s actions.
First, the morally bankrupt and psychologically insecure Buharist mob said I criticize Buhari because I’m pained that I didn’t get an appointment from him. I’ve denied this since 2015, but they never stop to repeat it.
I never desired a job with Buhari’s government. Not for a split second. I find complete fulfillment in what I do now, and want no other job. Nigerian elites’ ultimate goal in life is to visit the West for vacation, for medical tourism, and to send their children to school there. Our president is one great example. Well, I live there. At the risk of sounding arrogant, taking a job with a Nigerian government would represent a material demotion for me and my family.
In an April 14, 2015 column titled,“After the Euphoria, What President-Elect Buhari Needs to Know,” I wrote: “Columnists like me will excoriate [Buhari], not because we hate him, but because we care, and because we know that to perform well and be in touch with the masses of people who elected him, we need to help hold his feet to the fire.” No sane person who desired a job would put his prospective benefactor on notice that he would “excoriate” him.
Then they said my criticisms were inspired by an agenda to pave the way for a Bukola Saraki presidency in 2019. When I came down hard on Saraki in a recent column and called him the vilest anathema to afflict Kwara State, they were confused.
Then they said, “Oh, it is actually Atiku Abubakar who is sponsoring him.” That’s another classic projection. They are paid 250,000 monthly to slander government critics, and imagine that everyone else writes because they are paid to do so.
Well, let me say it here that Atiku, to me, is one of the most despicable politicians to ever walk the corridors of power in Nigeria. I would rather be dead than campaign for this barely literate man who delighted in mocking Nigeria’s public education that he helped to kill, and who is weighed down by numerous ponderous ethical burdens. An Atiku presidency would be like jumping out of the Buhari frying pan into the fire.
They also say I’m “sponsored” by the PDP. But which PDP? Makarfi’s PDP or Sherriff’s PDP? And did APC or its precursors also “sponsor” me when I consistently and brutally criticized PDP in my columns since 2005? It’s clear that severely low IQ and mind-numbing dimwittedness are qualifications to be a Buhari defender.
They also say I am a Shia who can’t forgive Buhari for countenancing the mass murder of Shia Muslims in Zaria. Again, that’s false. I’ve stated many times that I’m Sunni. I’m not Shia, although there is nothing wrong with being one. It’s a choice. No Shia Muslim I know denies being one. I condemned the barbarous mass slaughter of Shia Muslims because they are first of all human beings before they are anything else.
There is absolutely no ulterior motive behind my criticisms of Buhari’s inept, clannish, and directionless government. My only motives are truth, justice, fair play, the national interest, and the plight of weak, poor, vulnerable, voiceless, and defenseless Nigerians who are daily being crushed by the government. No more, no less.
No one in the world is rich enough to buy my conscience. None at all! It’s not because I am rich; it’s because I treasure my independence and cherish integrity.
What Buhari Should Learn from Osinbajo
In a tragic irony, it took Buhari’s sickness for Nigeria to get a chance at some health. It also took his absence for the country to feel some presence of leadership. Why did it take the ascendancy of Osinbajo to the acting presidency for this to happen? The answer is simple: symbolic presence.
Buhari lacked symbolic presence in the 20 months he was in charge. His presence was barely felt in the country. Nor was his voice heard. It took him six months to appoint ministers. Attahiru Jega notified him of the impending expiration of his tenure months in advance, but the president didn’t act, and caused a needless bureaucratic kerfuffle at INEC. A minister died in a car crash several months ago, and he hasn’t been replaced up to now. Another minister resigned to take up an international job. She hasn’t been replaced up to now. The Supreme Court had an acting Chief Justice for months. It took Osinbajo’s acting presidency to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation.
Boards of several government agencies haven’t been constituted up to now, meaning government agencies, which are the engine rooms of government, can’t take decisions since they can’t constitutionally bypass their boards in their decision making. I can go on, but the point is that the problem of Buhari’s government isn’t so much misgovernance as it is ungovernance. He simply isn’t there.
In online pedagogy, there’s a concept called social presence. It’s the idea that when you teach people with whom you don’t share physical co-presence you need to simulate some sort of presence through periodic electronic communication (such as an active online profile, comments, emails, instructor-learner interactions, etc.) to compensate for physical absence.
In government, leaders also need constant symbolic presence to reassure the people they govern that they are there, that they care, that they are working—in addition to actually working. Buhari visited more countries in the world than he visited states in Nigeria. He spoke to more foreign media outlets and journalists than he spoke to the Nigerian news media and journalists. He comes across as exceedingly contemptuous of Nigerians, the very people that put him in power, and obsequious to, even desperately desirous of the approval of, foreigners. That is why his presence in and absence from Nigeria are practically indistinguishable.
Osinbajo reversed this. He had social, symbolic, and political presence. I hope Buhari learns from this. It isn’t “16 years of PDP misrule” that is responsible for the stagnation, hopelessness, and worsening of living conditions in Nigeria now; it is largely Buhari’s lack of interest—or capacity— in governance, even symbolic governance. The needless drama of Magu’s confirmation as substantive head of the EFCC is the latest example.