AS POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS BEGIN…
Candidates should speak to the issues that affect the ordinary Nigerians
Although electioneering season for the February 2023 general election begins officially on Wednesday, 28th September, politicians across board have already given indication of what to expect with their actions and utterances in recent weeks. Far from being a contest of ideas and issues, what the managers of the campaigns seem prepared for is how to throw mud at one another. It may therefore be important for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remind the gladiators and political parties of their obligation to run decent campaigns as stipulated in the code of conduct for the elections.
Although there are dozens of candidates and political parties in the contest for practically all the offices, including the presidency, the protagonists of these negative campaigns can be located mostly within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP). Abuses, name-calling, trading damaging allegations and releasing controversial video and audio messages, especially on social media, are quite disturbing. Yet, more than at any period in our history, Nigeria needs a clear direction on the way forward, especially in three critical areas that have proved difficult for succeeding administrations: restoration of security, prudent management of the economy and instilling transparency and accountability to the public space. Who will handle these issues better is a question the electorate should be able to answer before exercising their franchise in February next year.
For sure, the coming general election has thrown up some respected candidates who ordinarily come with brilliant ideas. But majority of them are disadvantaged by the lack of resources and weak political structures. Some of them are also inexperienced and command no name recognition. One can therefore conclude that for the presidential election, even when there are dozens of candidates, the choice before the electorate is basically between Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Peter Obi of LP and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP).
Meanwhile, the 2023 general election is very crucial for our country. Nigeria is today confronted by a myriad of problems: Our country is regarded as the poverty capital of the world; there is a serious crisis in the social sector like education and health. Despite repeated promises by succeeding governments, corruption is still pervasive, majority of our young people are jobless and losing hope while the security challenge is multiplying. How will the candidates deal with these challenges? How will they get the country out of the woods? How do we address the perennial Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strikes that have practically destroyed tertiary education in Nigeria? These are the issues of the day that Nigerians would want them to address.
To the extent that the essence of political campaigns is to help the electorate in making the right choice, that can only happen if there is a contestation of ideas on critical issues (not on religion, ethnicity, certificates or who is more corrupt than the other). Besides, this time around, Nigerians deserve more than the usual distribution of consumables and the procurement of musicians, comedians and dancers to entertain crowds in the name of political rallies.
Those who aspire for leadership must understand that when campaigns are vicious, chaotic, polarising and bloody, products of such outcome cannot deliver on public good. What is therefore paramount is to ensure that the rules and regulations governing the campaign season are binding on every participant and that all critical stakeholders play fair. Beginning from Wednesday, the candidates should speak to the issues that affect the ordinary Nigerians. And they should tell us how they will address those challenges.