In 2013, I concluded the article I wrote on the second year remembrance of Muhammadu Buhari’sgreat tears, with this poignant bon mot: “In the end, only time will tell if Buhari’s great cry and burning tears were in vain. Although the truth is some tears are not shed more than once!” (The Nation, 8th April 2013).
It happened sometime in April of 2011, during the heated closing stage of electioneering for the 2011 general elections. Presidential candidate retired General Muhammadu Buhari was giving a news conference as the standard-bearer of Congress for Progressive Change, when he choked with tears and publicly wept for Nigeria. I remember my neighbor then, Mr. Muyiwa coming out after watching the news on TV to taunt the supporters of Buhari’s party, CPC. He asked, “Are tears part of the change campaign?”
Fast-forward to April 2016, Buhari, now in the eleventh month of his presidency, is not fully mollified as he still sheds tears of despair for the good or bad excuses. Before you bless or curse his tearstains however, it is an open secret that in today’s model of political cosmetics, presidential crying is a global commonplace. Equanimous President Obama has just cried his latest public cry in January, following a deadly gun attack in San Bernardino, California. Postscript: according to Time magazine, Obama’s tearfulness was “much about the sadness of the deaths of innocents as they were a recognition of his powerlessness to change the situation.“
President Buhari has gone teary, as lately as early last month! It was the day he was said to be presented with a report that showed quantum of revenue funds siphoned out of the accruals from crude oil sales by the Nigerian federal government, which are currently the subject of intensive financial probes. Obviously he is no longer wiping tears of misgivings in the face of an uncertain polling pitch, or the ultimate failure to realize his grand political aspirations for his country. But he still cried, and if the puritan had successfully defended his 2011 tears as being over “how rich this country is and how God really blessed Nigeria,” by which he meant a patriotic lamentation of his incapability to help the dark reality of non-realization of economic destiny; why is he still crying for the same old regrets, when the dilemma was since resolved the day he took over the keys of Aso Rock?
Only a few weeks ago a minister in Buhari’s cabinet publicly lamented that he was no magician in the face of a problem he is being paid to conquer. Recall he is serving a president whose public speech is often laced with an accent of bitter lamentation, such that he hardly condemns a thing without losing temper or appearing to brush a tear. Although like the hero in William Golding’s political parody, ‘he is crying for the loss of innocence’ of Nigerian public trustees; in reality, when tears replace fear, there is no escape from the miasma of negative feelings about a certain ‘unchangeable’ ugly reality. Now who would blame the disillusioned masses if in one breath they appear panicky and in the next they become cynical?
A year ago, Nigerians were pretty aware ab ovo, when they entrusted Buhari with leadership at a very distressed moment in the country’s stability. Hence they did not break faith with him when he first launched his cycle of bewailing apparent misfortunes. It was widely reported that his favorite refrain since then has been to deplore the “empty treasury” he inherited. Ever since, Nigerians have been waking up to the news of more tragedies, all portraying the sorry reality that the president has discovered the bridge was washed off by floods of mismanagement and the gullies of financial corruption. How sad a report it is when Nigerians have had enough presidents in the past, with a mouth for lamentation. Today all they need is a savior who would open a fresh optimistic chapter in their story.
This explains why they could rightly accuse the regime of being inadvertently guilty of tear-mongering and excessive lamentation about virtually everything, from food importation to Chibok girls. Teary or not, the president’s constant expression of grief has mostly been a display of partisan despair at the “wasted sixteen years of the former ruling party, PDP.” Hence his coming to power on the beautiful promise of change ten months ago, has only managed to remove the despondency among Nigerians. Official melancholy, coupled with glaring everyday economic misery that pervades the land in full revolt are too excruciating to allow for any material optimism. Having a teary president does not bring about any relief on the minds of ordinary citizens. They too observe their own rounds of crying every blessed or fateful day, albeit silently. A teardrop is no nobler that another teardrop in this season of crying.
Aside the prolonged wahala of fuel scarcity that is biting hard and eating into personal income through price inflation, there are persistent mess of bad roads, poor electricity supply, kidnapping, armed banditry, bomb explosion, ethnic bloodshed, and tens of other personal sufferings beyond a common weeping.
Only recently I wiped my own latest tears of despair when I watched an interview recording of a divorcee patient of Vesicovaginal Fistula who travelled from Maiduguri to Zaria, seeking corrective surgery. Midway into the interview, this young mother of one burst into tears as she decried how delayed medical attention turned poor patients like her into hapless beggars. Looking at her misted eyes, I read different many unspoken burdens afflicting her soul, far beyond VVF and poverty in Gambo Sawaba Hospital, where she is recuperating.
As if to further play on peoples’ emotions in the thick of this theater of tears, today one could hardly distinguish the sincere cry of afflicted Nigerians from the crocodile wailing of yesterday’s men, unrewarded politicians, money-coughing looters and border-crossing fugitives. In this new art of tear-spilling, opposition elements will rather offer you pepper pray than a white handkerchief. Through partisan prodding they want to push Nigerians from shedding true tears into shedding onions, all for the sake of tears; these rains of tears, tears everywhere!