Any criticism of a constituted authority that is bereft of patriotism is an insult to the entire system. In other words, any criticism of the president of Nigeria that is done without love for the country is an insult to the presidency, the country and every single Nigerian. Maybe, it is high time Nigerians understand why most of their “criticisms” are wrong.
Recently, a Twitter influencer, Mohammed Tawhidi, popularly known as Imam of Peace, used his Twitter page to drag Nigerian Presidency into the mud. He called President Muhammadu Buhari all sorts of degrading names and many Nigerians cheered him on, as well as attacked any person that disagreed with him. Imam of Peace really had a field day throwing insult upon insult on our president, even though Buhari didn’t come out to reply to him.
It is unfortunate that a lot of Nigerians believed that this influencer was fighting their battles for them. They said that Imam of Peace spoke for Nigerians, who couldn’t come out to stand up and declare the “incompetency” of Nigerian leaders. They looked up to Imam of Peace as their promised messiah and encouraged him to say more. No one is refuting the beliefs of these Nigerians but they need to ask themselves if Tawhidi is criticising the actions of the President or insulting Nigerians. And why he, all of a sudden, considered Nigerian president his target.
Understanding the difference between criticism and insult may go a long way in helping one to analyse the actions of Tawhidi.
- Intention and Motivation
The difference between criticism and insult lies mainly on intents and motivations. Criticism comes into play when there is an intention to correct. It is a selfless act, which is used to analyse current actions that will have negative effects in the future. In other words, the reason behind every criticism is to correct or change what may affect the critic, the actor and other people around. It is motivated by the desire for positive change and development.
But insult is not meant to correct, but to inflict pain on the insulted. Insult mocks and intends to drag down the target and strip him off of his self-esteem. It is motivated by hatred, malice and the desire to harm and destroy. Besides, most insulters have ulterior motives, which most people fail to see until it is too late. These people never meant good for anyone; they are so selfish that they think of themselves alone. They don’t consider damages they are causing people around them.
The effect of criticism is improvement. It is constructive because it tells the subject what he did that may have an adverse effect, why it will have negative effect, and how that effect can be avoided or overcome. In other words, criticisms focus on actions and not on the subjects. Criticism also gives room for changes and critics are always quick to acknowledge positive changes in the person criticised.
Insults do not improve their targets; rather they make them worse off. The major problem with insults is that they target persons and not their actions. They bring up personal matters, some of which are embarrassing and will rather be kept private, and flag them off their targets’ faces. Insulters don’t tell their targets how to overcome their challenges but rather use them to taunt and threaten them, insisting that they (the insulted) are doomed already. Insulters never believe that a person will change. And even if the person changes, they will use his change to insult the person. That’s how pitiful it is.
Critics target intellectuals as their audience. They are not noise makers. They look out for the right kind of audience they know that may either be in the current criticised position or will soon be there. Because the intention is to correct and change, their audience cohorts are selective – those that need to learn from them.
But insulters are those that pull the crowd even though they (their audience) have nothing to offer. Among their audience bases are their sympathisers, their oppositions (enemies), the uninformed, and those who they can easily manipulate. They feed their large sympathetic audience with information that turns them against their targets. In the end, nothing good is achieved on either side.
People may debate on how democracy has granted them freedom of speech and expression; they also need to remember that the same democracy penalizes people heavily for character defamation. Self-expression does not encourage insults. If someone calls your father “a goat” before you, know it that you too are a goat because you are the son of a goat; it’s as simple as that. Like the Imam of Peace said, “A stupid president is always elected by stupid people”. And we elected our president, no amount of semantics can change that logic. So if we let him call our president dumb, we that elected him as dumboes.
Yet, the presidency must also show a good example. Below is a statement credited to Garba Shehu, aide to President Buhari, on Nobel winner Wole Soyinka after the professor criticized a recent government policy decision. Nigeria needs civility in our national conversation.
“Perhaps Wole Soyinka may write a play on the coronavirus pandemic, after this emergency is over. In the meantime, we ask the people of Nigeria to trust the words of our doctors and scientists – and not fiction writers – at this time of national crisis.’’