Buhari 2015: How Much ‘24 Karat’ Golden Is Silence In The Democracy Of Today?

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Whether this story is a very popular story or not, I'm uncertain but the lesson(s) to be learnt from the story is very certain and concrete; I was told of a young girl at a musical audition who when it was her turn to sing, kept silent -as if it were golden- but it wasn't in actuality. She was on the audition stage, just as General Buhari is on the 'political audition' stage of our federation- Nigeria. Who would have presumed her silence was or would be golden on stage? Or rather, what would her silence have spoken on her behave in front the judge or the spectator, golden? Her mother called her to one side and said to her; 'go and show them you can't sing.' In other words, open your mouth and speak (sing). She did.

After she did, the judges didn't bother being entertained by any other candidate on the audition list. She out-performed their imagination as her silence turned out to be no match, in gold, silver or whatever, for her eloquence. She quenched the fire of being misjudged, misinterpreted, disapproved and misunderstood by all of the people in the hall and even of herself. In the same way, Buhari's silence or little wordiness is, more or less, adding gasoline, instead of water or coolant, to fire.

The variety of opinions however of good or ill-intent that has greeted the silence or 'abstinence from speech' by the APC presidentially candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, has indeed taken an awkward and a confusing wave across the political climate of Nigeria which is presently heavily thick. Indeed, the silence of the APC presidential candidate has raised dust flowing like a river and stones, aggregated like a rock.

More often than not, silence is embellished as golden but how much of gold it is, in truth, is highly dependent on some intrinsic factors that is not clearly defined by any standard whatsoever. As thus, the unending misunderstanding and ignorance of most of these intrinsic factors has added salt, over time, to the injury or sore-point of a mis-concepted silence.

'Silence is golden:' Tough a famous quote, is part of a much older proverb in the mid 19th century, "Speech is silver and silence is golden” which draws a bottom line that; in some circumstances, it is thought that saying nothing is preferable and profitable to speaking or that sometimes, silence is more profitable rather than the abundance of speech.

The assumption is, it is not always necessary that we need to speak in order to express ourselves. It likewise posits that a person who is silent has less chances of speaking anything that is unnecessary or may hurt others- that is, needless problems can be easily obviated by silence. But, the question is, how timely true does the statement 'Silence is golden' holds - is silence timelessly golden?

Undoubtedly, Silence can be priceless and enriching to humanity. Silence, like speech, conveys emotions, shows respect, creates personal distance, avoids conflict and even neutralizes or negates the meaning of verbal messages because man is a slave of the words he utters while being a master of those he chooses not to speak. We ought to bear in our minds that silence still speaks volume on peoples' behave; loud or low, harsh or solemn. Hence, one ought to be very careful while speaking, as speech reflects one's personality.

Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher and historian, also one of the most important social commentators of his time- Victorian era- was the first to translate the phrase 'Silence is golden' from German to English in 1831 as was once observed in one of his works that "Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves " where he expounded at length on the virtues of silence.

Even more so, the potency of silence or little wordiness cannot be over emphasized; in Indian, the observance of staying silent for a full day, once in a while (mouna vratha) has been practiced with a view to change instinctive and impulsive habits. In the same way, the Japanese value silence as silence in everyday interaction is a vital form of non-verbal communication for them. Much more, silence is an intimate part of Zen Buddhism as it has been long associated with truthfulness.

However, how much of gold, in 24 karat, silence is worth is often balanced on the Libra scale of 'austerity of speech (or silence)' according to the religious belief of Hindus. Accordingly, it consists of speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, and beneficial and not agitating or harmful to others. However, these speech check-points do not hold anyplace among the reason(s) for General Buhari's silence. Rather a petty and fallacious reason that holds no water is what was given. Note-worthily, the validity and value of the silence, however golden, is very much considered under excuse(s) given on its behave.

Correspondingly, it is alleged that out of the 35 or more campaign rallies the ex-president has attended put together, he has spoken for only 57 minutes. It was further noted that the longest time the former Head of State spoke in any single rally was for 2 minutes and 13 seconds, while the shortest was one minute. Is this encouraging or otherwise?

Following a post on a Buhari's Facebook page, his silence was addressed or excused under a statement I find really empty which has prompted me to pen this article. What I have selflessly attempted doing by this article is to; with no iota of sentiment, stretch the truth to its full length (excuse why GMB won't attend a debate) by painting a bigger picture of the excuse given. It would be to the amazement of people, having zoomed his excuse to a larger pixel; one would appreciate better each and every little particle or fragment piece that have summed up into the roomy but empty excuse.

As such, we would further realize how much wide most of us have open our mouth in ignorance or close-mindedness in an attempt to give excuse that will only lead further to our self- entrapment and that of our government .

Consonantly, whether the overly ambitious elder-statesmen -a septuagenarian- is afraid of debates or not isn't by any chance the substance of issue to be dissected, but the very sentimental excuse given is quite provocative for a thinking person or Nigerian .The summary of what was is being said as the excuse is that ; 'The head of the debate organizing committee is an employee of Government - The Director General of the NTA and The moderator of the debate is the owner of the television station and so the debate cannot be adjudged fair or it debate trap organized by very employees of the Government. '

The thought pattern behind this excuse is sickening and the vector (disease carrying organism) in the thought should not be allowed to infest our fellow compatriots. Rather, it should arouse our righteous anger even when triggered by political finger. How do I mean?

Buhari is okay with the choice or decision not to attend a debate for whatsoever reason goes well him and his cohort because he has a right to or not to. But, the excuse of the host of the debate doesn't hold water because the bigger picture of the very 'silly' excuse will stretch to great heights and expose at length, the foolishness, ignorance or close-mindedness, heavily laced in the excuse.

Invariably speaking, If Buhari climbs on the throne of our federation; all the government employees will lose their jobs because it is assumed that they can't do anything on neutral or an unbiased ground as they all are GEJ's employees hither to, his political dogs and underdogs or dummies. Inferably speaking from the said statement, most of the National Television (NTA) employees would lose their jobs because they are on President Jonathan's side and would be replaced by the new president employees or workers. Without mincing words, this thinking is indeed erred to its embryo.

It further goes to say that, apparently, Buhari would not choose to attend or speak at any forum, however international and beneficial, because he is uncomfortable with the host. What a pity for Nigeria in his hands! It's quite unfortunate that both his political party and supporters don't even realize and press for the fact that , he owes a huge sum of ethical and social respect (duties) to them by not saying anything or not saying enough when he ought to.

How can a leader be orally uncommunicative to his fellows or followers and to-be followers or fellows? Ask yourself as a leader; in times when your silence or little wordiness is better-off equated to demagoguery- would you speak?

In times when your silence or man-of-few-words, even more so as a General, drives home the point that you have nothing to say, wouldn't you speak?

In times when your silence or short wordiness is tantamount to having what to say but not knowing how to vocalize it - dumbness, wouldn't you speak?

In times when you are seen not better off than a sick person, wouldn't you speak?

We ought to bear in our minds that there are different dimensions of silence which is evident by the positive and negative emotions associated with it most of the times. In short, silence may be judged unfavorably by one's fellow peer and supporter or a non supporter. Silence can be mis-communicated as an unwillingness to participate - even sometimes tainted with an ulterior or obscured motive. As such, it is based upon this polemics that historians, over time, have tried to find a balance (in time or situation) when one is to remain silent or speak of few words.

In a modern day context, there is a dimension of silence that is relevant in politics. More commonly today, politicians mostly in the Anglo-West countries are often judged by virtues of their oratory adeptness which is high necessitated by the demands of the 'newly-improved' working- model and structure of democracy particularly in the 21 century that the world is presently immersed in. By nature of democracy today, globally and in Nigeria, emphasis is placed on active verbal interaction in interpersonal relationships because leaders (politics) tend to only encode meaning in verbal utterances.

Likewise, giving due regard to democracy and IT movement of the 21st century, generations of our society have become more and more individualist than the older generations. This perhaps might be a signal of the growing influence of urban culture in our surroundings. More appropriately, this might reveal how we are accommodating Western (improved) concepts such as individualism in both their culture and communication.

Moreover, silence in the political atmosphere is inhaled as an anti-democratic show-off and it is considered a prelude for fascism- historically, this has often turned out to be true. Resonantly, in an individualist society, there is a need to be accepted by others which is often attained or earned by what we say. Good speech is considered as charity. It is also important to realize that there are cultural differences in how silence is utilized because it can lead to miscommunication between parties if silence is wrongly interpreted.

If the truth is to be frankly spoken, Buhari owes each and every one or group of the '2015 election stakeholder' an effective(oratory) communication system as it is common knowledge in management practices that ineffective and inefficient communication with the stakeholder(s) attached to a project is one of the fastest destroyer the project. Although the virtue of speaking well, rightly and effectively also includes the capacity to stay silent, when situation demands so- silence is ambiguous in nature which makes it easily misconstrued by outsiders hither to political stakeholders.

At this point in today's democracy, globally and particularly in Nigeria, It is necessitated that people- leaders especially -should be more progressive in their refinement and sensibility which should be clearly communicated. Silence has proven, even in politics, to be a boon but only in particular instances where restraint on needless actions or speech have gone a long way to obtain, for oneself, the needed benefits. Truly like gold, silence or being 'a man of few words', in its right place and time, lends charm and grandeur to life and living. In other words, the gargantuan efficacy in silence is lost cheaply when used wrongly or when uncalled-for.

Man has evolved as a human being and progressed gradually. Therefore, he should not go back to the pre-stone age. The question is; does this kind of leader only know how to communicate with the rod or herdsmen stick as in case of Buhari? We are not animals -cattle. Even sometimes, cattle get communicated to orally. Ex president, Olusegun Obasanjo was once a leader of few or words under this military tenure, he became more outspoken, of course as demanded by democracy of today, when he assumed the throne of our Nigeria federation during is democratic tenure from 1999-2007.

All over the world, a leader might be handicapped in any way even sometimes mentally or healthily but nowhere in the world would a leader be made one if he/she was dumb or acting dumb-like. Hence, the horrible silence of the APC presidential candidate is what has purported questions like; is he morally sound and mentally okay? Is he physically fit and socially (democratically) on point? Does he want to rule by stick and stick alone and not by words at all?

Real leaders have their word as their power, not their stick.

'Good manners and sweet language spread their fragrance everywhere and provide a solution to many problems prevailing in the society. The sweetness of tongue could melt even the cruel hearts and good speech can bring unity and prosperity in the society.' - Maimoona Yasmeen

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Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Adebiyi Adeyemi and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Adebiyi Adeyemi