Issues-based political campaign, driven-by ideas, properly-packaged programme of action, devoid of inflammatory, irresponsible, reckless rhetoric…
The day is fast approaching, indeed, feverishly close. It is just five days away. Effective on Sunday, November 18, our politicians will begin to hit the hustings. It is because, according to the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that’s the day candidates of all registered political parties will kick off their full campaigns for 2019 general elections in the country. If the prediction of political pundits is anything to go by, next year’s general elections will be like no other before it. It’s not for nothing. Nigeria has been sailing through rough seas in over three and a half years now. The issues to be addressed are, by all means, require leadership and a better vision for the future.
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Finding solutions to the problems start with political campaigns. It is because politics matters in the affairs of humankind. And it’s not really defined by the power and glamour of the politician, neither by the crowds that come to see the candidates on the campaign trail. Rather,national political campaigns are opportunities that come once in a while. It’s a season when candidates of political parties come to seek the voice, the vote and the mandate of the electorate. It’s a time for a good fight. As Franklin D. Roosevelt aptly put it, ”there’s nothing I love as much as a good fight”. He was referring to issues-based political campaign, driven-by ideas, properly-packaged programme of action, devoid of mealy-mouthed, inflammatory, irresponsible, reckless rhetoric and disrespect to one another’s viewpoint.
We believe that by now, all the political parties and their candidates have already devised their campaign strategies and themes that will capture the essence of their aspirations before the voters. The personnel decisions – who occupies what position, such as campaign director, spokesperson, research, etc are the easiest of the jobs. But, the theme is the umbrella where policies and programmes of the campaign are based. These are the realistic objectives for the next four years – what needs to be done, and how and where to allocate resources to secure the most votes for victory on election day.
But, make no mistakes about it: our political campaigns in time past had been cold and vacuous. They have not been issues-driven. The politicians are arrogant and egotistical. Many of them have played fast and loose with the facts. They often take unfair advantage of the voters. Because for them, every voter has a price,and victory at the poll,they believe, and strongly too, will depend mostly on which candidate has a bigger war chest than the other. Such financial muscle, and their ability to mobilise more thugs or security agents in their favour to manipulate the process to their advantage, are what matter most than any of the issues that the electorate are concerned about.
My point really is,that the campaigns for next year’s elections must take a totally different turn, away from money-politics, thuggery, vote-buying, personal attacks and other electoral malfeasance. What must take centre stage is well thought out and properly packaged programmes. Each candidate, especially the presidential candidates, must define his or her goals, the vision and purposes of his or her presidency in a way that gives coherence to his/her campaign and administration, if he/she wins. If a candidate cannot categorically say how he or she intends to address the myriad of challenges that confront the country right now, that candidate should drop out of the race.
No gimmickry, no sloganeering, no seat-of-the-pants politician with little tolerance for tedium should be allowed to deceive us again. It’s time for the candidates of the parties canvassing for votes to get serious about fashioning out solutions to cleaning up the mess in the country. Nigerians are ready in the next election for the truth,simply spoken, not distortion of facts. We want the politicians to stick to the high road and keep their campaigns on a high plane by drawing attention to the problems and how to fix them. Of course, this is where the media should keep the agenda-setting role in the front burner regarding the issues that the country is facing currently.
Since every campaign, every election, is primarily a referendum on the government in power at the centre, campaign issues must be whether the Buhari Presidency has accomplished what it promised in 2015. It’s, therefore, important to ask these baseline questions on the campaign trail: Are Nigerians better off today than they were four years ago? Are you better today than you were almost four years ago? Is the purchasing power of the average Nigerian better now or worse off than it was when the APC government came to power? Has the economy fared better? Is the country and the citizens safer now than four years ago? What about the state of our infrastructure? Has every part of the country felt properly treated or marginalised? Is our President truly the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where all feel they belong to one, indivisible country? Has this administration been open and forthright? Why is Buhari’s administration afraid of restructuring when the tempers of the time call for a transfer of authority and resources to the federating units? Call it devolution of powers if you want to calm the Northern irredentists?
Many questions to answer. In fact, this is the moment Nigerians should pause and reflect upon the qualities of the candidates soliciting for their votes. This is the time to make explicit what has been implicit in virtually all areas of our lives and every sector of our economy, and how our politicians have run our lives and back again, to ask for our votes.This is the appropriate time to go into specifics and hold our politicians to account. It’s not unkind to say that under this government, Nigeria has become a helpless “giant of Africa”. Never have we been polarised as one nation as we do now. That’s the sad reality of where we are today.
The reality is that Nigeria needs a new direction, a change of course which will put the unemployed back to work, a sense of unity among our diverse nation. It bears repeating that never before since after the Nigerian Civil war has our country, our people, feel so divided as we do today.” Difficulty is the excuse that history never accepts”, Edward R. Murrow, says. This quote has become necessary because, very often, we have become tired of APC telling us that it’s difficult to fix in four years the “damage that PDP has inflicted on the country in 16 years”.
Altogether, the pain of how we came this far, is centrally the challenge of leadership, the character of our country and the nature of our politics. But we have the chance again to demand the right kind of leadership and future that we want for the next four years. That process is gathering steam. It’s campaign time.
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