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The fading reds vs the critique-allergy in Nigeria

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Sir: I had written my essay in blue but the English Language tutor later returned it in such a pool of red that I could barely locate my own letters. Apart from the cancellations, he had labelled and annotated my blunders, penning corrections, suggestions and instructions. It was all a jumble that screamed at me at a first glance. It didn’t look nice at all, neither did the mean score I earned. Of course, it was not his intention to make me happy based on sentiments – he would rather satisfy my parents, who enrolled me in school. I got disillusioned that I was one of his favourites – he didn’t have any, as a matter of fact. Anyway, a closer look saw my mistakes stand out like a sore thumb. I however sought clarification on the grey areas – the old man gave me that space. Over time, with subsequent exercises, the web of reds progressively faded off while my scores and skills improved.

That was for me, but it only takes the replication of the above scenario for all students and disciplines, to imagine the blazing class of excellence that would have been produced!

On the flip side, the foregoing illustrates one of the cardinal problems that hamper the development of Nigeria’s politics and governance system. Often times, criticism is greeted with apprehension as politicians, political parties and leaders reach for each other’s jugular with vituperation that mostly isolates the subject matter. Their supporters who spare no abusive missiles against dissenting parties and contributors, are not left out in that verbal warfare. Even some media outfits whose watchword should be objectivity, adopt a partisan undertone in the discourse and reportage of issues. Various machineries and apparatuses are also unduly deployed to stifle criticism, advocacy and opposition, with extreme cases of clampdown resulting in violence.

But no amount of critique-allergy can diminish the high importance of criticism in the development of a political system, especially a democracy. It is a honing tool for shaping the system for good, which comes with abrasion. Criticism loses its smoothening properties to hypocrisy, sycophancy and political correctness when it is presented to massage its object. Like the tutor’s strikes of red, the words of the critic may be piercing to the ears or eyes but should be appreciated for its merits – or even otherwise. If otherwise, there is always civil room to offer clarifications or seek redress appropriately, especially where one perceives infringement on their rights and sensibilities. When served and received objectively, criticism not only informs and refines its object (or subject) but also offers space for the accommodation of sufficient views in the critical process of formulating, implementing and evaluating laws and policies – and making sound political choices. Cumulatively, the entire system comes out better for it!

Democracy as a civilised form of human interaction, requires rules, standards and expectations. These requirements in one way or the other, are constantly under review or scrutiny. This scrutiny does not exonerate the actors who operate and participate in the political system. Indeed, there is no section of democracy that offers immunity to criticism! It is therefore an indispensable tool for scanning the system, exposing it’s defects and improving it until the ‘reds fade off’ and a nation of excellence is achieved and sustained – one which is propelled by freedoms of expression, speech and the press; and the principle of opposition.

A democratic system that is characterised by critique-allergy is as doomed as one characterised by critique-apathy.
Emmanuel Ikechukwu Igbo.


In this article:
Emmanuel Ikechukwu Igbo
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