One noticeable feature since the 2019 general election campaigns began officially last month is the glaring lack of buzz on the streets, towns and the roads as was the case since democratic rule bounced back in 1999. Ordinarily, this should call for concern given the usual tradition but the reasons are not far-fetched.
The razzmatazz associated with political campaigns was occasioned by deliberate political indiscipline that enabled the display of financial impunity irrespective of laid down rules which outlined limits to spending. With the new dispensation’s policy against reckless spending as opposed to the use of state coffers for the prosecution of electoral objectives, parties and individuals running for offices have to organise expenditures according to needs. A paradigm shift indeed.
At this stage however, much of the campaigns are buoyed by social and conventional media with contents to say the least, frivolous. Oftentimes, they regale the electorate with details of how the grandparents of their opponents once stole a goat or how their opponent contracted gonorrhea and is a suspected HIV patient.
Rather than concentrate on the issues that concern the daily lives of Nigerians, the political gladiators are busy like two boxers, looking for soft spots on the opponent’s body, to knock themselves out. In doing this, the atmosphere is at the moment, charged with accusations and counter-allegations often supported with concocted facts we popularly call fake news.
The gory signs are even promoted with consistent expression of doubt by the opposition, of the fairness of the electoral umpire (INEC) in the conduct of the February polls. Let them be reminded that their ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. With the recent signing of the peace accord by the presidential candidates of the political parties, they should, more than ever before, show restraint, decorum and responsibility in their campaigns.
Nigerians are tired of hate speeches, accusations and counter-accusations that do not advance the national discourse in any way and do not take Nigeria anywhere. Nigerians want to know their plans in practically solving the problems of Nigeria. They should focus their campaigns on unpaid salaries and allowances of both public and private sector workers across the states; infrastructure, security, education, health and the general economy among others, and tell us ways of tackling them differently from what is obtained now. Nigerians are not interested in retrogressive speeches but in demonstrable solutions to the problems. They are tired of the politics of deceit.
What Nigerians expect are core values of decency, restraint, decorum and patriotism in word and deed. The gladiators must eschew violence because for far too long, the country has groaned under the weight of perverse politicians setting communities against each other with words designed to excite base emotions and enable horrendous crimes. Nigeria’s political history reeks of bloodshed, arson and disorder and it is time to chart a new path.
This time around, there must be no “do-or-die” rhetoric often caused by the objective of politicians to achieve goals by force.
We also urge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and the courts to carry out their responsibilities without fear or favour. The civil society and the media also owe the country the duty of ensuring objectivity, fairness and discipline as well as moderate political discourse in such a way that the best interests of the voting public are served.
Politicians must not be allowed to set the country on fire in the quest to realise their ambitions. As such, punishments for hate speech and other infractions and dangers to the Electoral Act must be swift and decisive.