Back in secondary school, one extra curricular activity I was always enthused about is the debate. Though I never participated in them because of my coyness, I was usually in the background providing points to the debaters. Something I learnt then was to always attack issues- the topic at hand. Attacking the personality of a fellow debater was a no-go area.
During the campaign for the 2015 elections, lots of events have occurred.
I watched Channels’ Politics Today on January 18 & the guest, a member of President Jonathan’s cabinet veered off the topic of discourse and went on a mudslinging spree. Instead of convincing me why I should vote for his principal by enumerating achievements, he was telling me why I shouldn’t vote for their opponent by painting the opponent bad. Without exaggerating, the man spent 85% of the allotted time slandering the opposition.
Some few days before, all the presidential candidates had signed a peace pact in Abuja. A part of the pact talks about engaging in issue-based campaigns. This shouldn’t have been rocket science as the myriad of problems confronting the nation really deserves explanations. The incumbent is supposed to outline its achievements- its successes after 5 years in office. Yet, it’s this incumbent that goes about attacking the opposition. It’s pertinent to note that this current government enjoyed a large dose of goodwill during the last election. How it squandered that goodwill is baffling to me. Or maybe we have different definitions of what an issue-based campaign entails. The campaign organisation of the PDP has been raising dust in the polity by going after irrelevances- from asking Gen Buhari why his wife isn’t seen in public with him, to them saying he doesn’t know his phone number and that he should jog round a stadium to prove his fitness- as if the rigours of campaigning all over the country isn’t enough stress. When Fashola was going for a second term in 2011, I told a friend that he needn’t spend much on his campaign. It was obvious that he was going to win because his first term was a reference point for good governance in other states. If after spending 5 years in office, what you have going for you is mudslinging, it can only mean one thing.
Another line in the peace pact emphasised the importance of all parties from refraining from inciting speeches capable of causing electoral violence.
Yet, while Gen Buhari keeps campaigning, I haven’t heard him or a member of APC giving inciting speeches. Sadly, same can’t be said for the PDP, the ruling party. On January 9, 2015, a PDP governor, Ayo Fayose sponsored a front page ad in a national newspaper where he vilified the North Western part of the country for producing leaders that ‘die in office’. General Buhari is from Katsina state, North Western Nigeria. Some days before, the PDP gubernatorial candidate for Lagos state, Jimi Agbaje had said that if Goodluck Jonathan isn’t reelected, the militants in the Niger Delta would cripple the economy. What Jimi meant is that whether Jonathan deserves a second term or not, he MUST return to Aso Rock so that the militants will be appeased. Such buffoonery! The Vice President, Namadi Sambo took this inciting and divisive acts further when he said in their campaign in Jigawa that the electorate shouldn’t vote for Gen Buhari because his running mate is a pastor. Is a pastor not qualified to contest for elections? Issue-based campaign indeed!
When I watched that, I was thoroughly ashamed to be a Nigerian. Divisive utterances have been the forte of the PDP in these campaigns.
Jigawa and Niger states are in the Northern part of Nigeria where majority of the inhabitants are Muslims. Down south, the PDP and their supporters claim that the APC is an Islamic party whose agenda is to islamize Nigeria. Are these folks confused?
When former Central Bank governor, Prof Charles Soludo published an article discussing the state of the nation’s economy under President Jonathan and how the economy had been pummeled, the president’s team chose to attack Soludo than respond to the issues he raised. Femi Fani-Kayode, the spokesman for President Jonathan campaign organisation said Soludo should not be taken serious because he has been associating with the opposition. Meanwhile, in that same article, Soludo had questioned the feasibility of APC’s manifesto. In a sharp contrast from FFK’s submission, the APC, through Dr Kayode Fayemi replied the professor in a courteous manner that the professor had to acknowledge the civility in a rejoinder.
Lastly, I think that while politics is being played during this campaign, decorum should be adhered to. The vituperative PDP-sponsored documentary on AIT about Buhari is capable of distorting history. While at it, the PDP mocked the death of Buhari’s daughter, as if it’s to a father’s joy to lose a child.