It is generally agreed that, more than in any previous elections, next month’s presidential and general elections have fairly identifiable issues to drive the campaigns. Some of them are: the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east; high unemployment as a result of a weakened national economy; rout in the education and power sectors; mass poverty. Sadly, the motley parties participating in the February polls either are deliberately avoiding them or where they offer suggestions they are tame and unspecific in detail. Still others have resorted to name calling and character assassination in place of a real road map to the promised El Dorado.
Take unemployment which, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS), affects 112 million Nigerians, that is, 71% of the nation’s population. President Goodluck Jonathan, in power since 2010, and is seeking a second term, promises to create 2 million new jobs each year if returned to power. How he would pull that off, he has not explained. If in 5 years he and his PDP government did not create a single new job, what miracle would they perform in a year?
On the other hand, the largest opposition party, APC and its presidential candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, campaigning on a platform of “Change”, have promised 20, 000 jobs each year in each state, meaning 720,000 in total. In a depressed economy needing 3 million new jobs annually, the APC projection is inadequate but definitely more realistic than PDP’s.
On insecurity, specifically the 5-year-old Boko Haram, President Jonathan has been saying the army is being modernised and re-kitted to take the fight to the insurgents who have almost overrun the North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. True, since his hastily arranged visit to Maiduguri last week, the military has retaken some towns lost to the sect but they haven’t yet seized the momentum in this unbalanced fight. More disturbing is that Jonathan while on a campaign whistle-stop went blank when told by journalists that the terror gang had taken Baga and massacred 2000 people there. “I’ll get the facts very soon”, he said hesitatingly.
As for the APC and its presidential candidate, though running a sleek campaign so far which the PDP is struggling to keep pace with, they have only managed to promise what commentators describe as “a magical Nigeria” without Boko Haram, corruption, poverty but one with infrastructure, jobs and power. Buhari on Monday said he would personally lead the pursuit of the insurgents if he becomes president.
In other words, what the parties and their candidates have offered voters so far have been straws, not the real lifelines they expect. However, surprisingly, Jonathan and his PDP have run the worst campaign yet in the build-up to the elections. They have not been able to leverage the few pluses of the government such as Jonathan’s refusal to take Nigeria into an economic partnership with the European Union that would have meant a new colonialism. Worse, desperation has forced them to take up propaganda of a worse type.
First, they put out the lie that Buhari was too old to be president of Nigeria. They even paid an advertorial that pronounced a death wish on Buhari. They were not at all refined about it, using a thug state governor to sign it. When it didn’t wash with the electorate, they alleged that Buhari didn’t have his WASC, a constitutional requirement to run for elective office in this country. When he produced one, obtained in 1961, the Jonathan Campaigned claimed it was a forgery.
Haba! These campaigns are not clean, they are not right. No wonder, there have been bouts of violence here and there. Both campaigns have been attacked, foul language used against opponents in spite of the candidates’ formal commitment to peaceful electioneering. We urge a return to decency, maturity and sportsmanship, not blind brinkmanship, as we go into the final lap of campaigning.