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Political Campaigns And Citizens’ Responsibilities



Political Campaigns And Citizens' Responsibilities

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Nigeria and Nigerians have entered political campaign season, with the opening up by INEC timetable on 28th of September, the various parties’ unveiling of their Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) and the campaign flagoff by few political parties this week. So far, only PDP has inaugurated their PCC and effectively started their campaigns officially, with the massive campaign that took place in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, on Monday. That happens to be the state where the Director General (DG) of the Atiku-Okowa Presidential Campaigns comes from, in the person of Governor Emmanuel Udom.

Although, there was conspicuous absence of the five prominent governors who are still at loggerhead with the party over some unresolved issues concerning the presidential ticket and the party leadership. They belong to what is now popularly called “Wike Camp” of the PDP. They are the governors of Rivers, Oyo, Abia, Enugu, and Benue states. Others are some chieftains of PDP who support Wike’s position on the matter. Rumour has it that this has put a pause on further campaigns pending the outcome of another attempt at pacifying them to work with the party.

Few weeks ago, the ruling party, APC, went to town with a massive list of their PCC members containing 422 members. They were the first to do so at the time, on 24th of September. Shockingly, some disagreements arose from it, with the party leadership that felt left out. A letter purportedly written by the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was in circulation on social media, which he addressed to the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The tone of that letter was not conciliatory. It reflected subtle threat and a people spoiling for war, if their interests are not accommodated immediately. This has taken the wind off the sail of the APC PCC’s plan to hit the ground running as the campaign date came. Unfortunately, this has been drawing the candidate and the PCC back from flagging off their campaigns. It seems none of the major parties is immune to internal rancour.

The Labour Party (LP), the platform with the “rave of the moment” presidential candidate, Peter Obi, inaugurated their own Presidential Campaign Organisation, on Wednesday. It was reported that both the presidential candidate, Peter Obi and his vice presidential candidate, Senator Yusuf Datti, were absent. Many interpreted this to be bad omen and a sign that all is not well within the party. Earlier, in previous week, an allegation of financial diversion filled the social media. It was alleged that the presidential candidate, Peter Obi, created separate private account where he was diverting the campaign funds to, instead of the official account from the party.

Donors were asked to pay to the private account. If this is true, it could be a sign of bigger underlying troubles. However, Peter Obi dismissed any such and explained he was not at the PCC inauguration because he had to attend the ICAN Conference that took place the same day, where he was invited, along with some other presidential candidates. But, what about his vice? All will be clearer in due course.

ALSO READ: PDP Must Resolve Its Crisis To Win 2023 Election –Wike

Unfortunately, these are the three major parties that have caught the needed attention. The other few candidates and their parties are only making little impacts here and there. Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso of NNPP is one of them. After the first three above, he is the only candidate that can still be reckoned with and believed to command a motley crowd of loyalists. His red-capped “Kwakwansiya” movement is still alive and active. His party has also been mobilising with the recent show of strength in Kano.

Comrade Omoyele Sowore of AAC is the most visible among the rest of the candidates. This is based on his history. He was also a presidential candidate in 2019. Sadly, his influence has waned, unlike in the past, when he pulled crowd of youths who fell in love with his revolutionary posture and campaigns. They championed his cause and supported him reasonably then. However, most of them have abandoned his “revolution now” movement and become “Obidients”. This has eroded his political base substantially. How far he can go in the race remains to be seen.

As could be seen from what was described about the three major political parties with regards to the internal wrangling plaguing them, selfishness and self-interest are the foundation of these crisis. The political players, as always, are more concerned about themselves. They invest so much energy and resources into these political business, not because they love the people genuinely, or the country, for service or any of such altruistic ideals. Self preservation drives their interests, first and foremost, before anything else.

However, as they begin their campaigns, they will want us to believe that they are doing all that for us, the people. They will sweet-talk the people. They will be willing and ready to do anything, just to convince or should I say, “confuse”, the people, like eating “amala” in “buka” with them, chewing roasted corn on the road, frying “akara” by the roadside, and other similar showmanship. They will promise heaven on earth. They have started doing that already, as echoes from Uyo rhetorics of the PDP candidate and party leaders showed. More will come. This is just the beginning.

As the Yorubas will say; “àgbàrá ójó ko ni oun ko n’ile wo, onile ni ko ni gba fun” (rain flood does not care if the house collapses, it is the house owner who will prevent it). The politicians will do their things. It is the duty of the people to be discerning. The people must keep their eyes wide-open, to see through all the smokescreen. The people have responsibilities to themselves as citizens and to their country. It is for their own good. Unfortunately, this has never been so. Nigerians are people who can easily be deceived over and over again.

Otherwise, many politicians should have been dumped into the annals of history based on their past performances and actions, but this is not so. “Once bitten, twice shy”, as the saying goes. But here, citizens are bitten repeatedly without consequences. Politicians ride roughshod on the people, trample on them and their rights, make life hellish for the citizens while they occupy the exalted political offices, which the same citizens put them, only to come back to the people after four years to ask for the people to renew their mandates into the same offices or higher ones. Unbelievably too, the people often do it. It always seems the citizens are hypnotised or they have self-imposed, voluntary amnesia. They forget so easily.

It is a known fact that the politicians or their parties are nothing without the support of the people. If so, why then are they treated so shabbily oftentimes? It is because the citizens do not exercise their rights, use their powers or perform their duties, responsibly. What then should they do?

Before this stage, citizens are supposed to get involved in party affairs and politics. The truth of the matter is that, changes are better effected from within than without. Responsible citizens’ active involvement in internal affairs of political parties can make all the difference. They can influence positive changes in the running of the affairs of the parties. They can contest for party executive positions to be at the table. Our problems with the quality of political leadership that we get stemmed from party primaries.

After party primaries are done, the rest of the non-partisan citizens have no choice than to accept whatever the parties dump on them as the eventual candidates vying for different political offices, whether they like them or not. So, people should be part of the selection process by joining the parties and their executives. The next step is vying for political offices. “O si nibe, o ni bawo ni won se pin. Bawo ni won ki baa se pin” (you were not present but questions how things were done, what did you expect). Anyone who believes he or she has what it takes to serve the country genuinely should never shy away from throwing their hat in the ring.

These stages are no longer available for contest as far as 2023 general election is concerned. As at today, all the political parties have crossed this stage, with their candidates already submitted to INEC, presented to the public and ready for the elections.

Everyone of us is first a citizen before being a politician. So, we must all be responsible in all our actions going forward. As we go into the campaigns, politicians, who are also citizens, should make their campaigns issue-based. They should not engage in divisive and inciting rhetorics. Whatever they say has wider implications and long-term consequences, some of which can get outside their control if they become escalated. This goes to their supporters too. And we see such recklessness all the time.

The citizens should shun violence. Many politicians and candidates, sometimes, resort to violence, out of desperation to win their elections by hook or crook. Ironically, these same people will never involve their own blood relatives; children and family members, to perpetrate such dastardly acts. They engage outsiders; someone else’s children. That’s why the Yorubas say that “omo olomo la n ran nise de t’oru t’oru”. The citizens should never allow themselves to be used for violence. You will only be harming, maiming and killing other innocent citizens like you, not the big men and women; politicians or their family members.

Another role of the citizens is engagement. While candidates and their campaigners are prepared to say anything, promise anything, just to hoodwink the people for their votes, citizens must engage them and ask questions. When they make promises as to what they plan to do for us, we should first look at their pedigree, and find out their antecedents in making similar promises. Did they fulfill them? Or they are only saying so for the sake of it? Does the person making such promises have the capacity to deliver on them? How realistic and realisable are these promises? These are questions that the citizens must ask and demand answers, which are supposed to form the basis for casting their ballots for one candidate or another.

For those seeking re-election or who have previously occupied public offices, it is much easier to see their track records of performance. For new kids on the political block, their previous private engagements should be properly scrutinised to know who they truly are and what they are capable of doing. We should not be carried away by deceptive talks. Substance is key.

Most parties and candidates, if not all, already have their manifestos made public. Citizens must lay their hands on them, get to know the contents, so as to know what they can hold them unto since they should serve as written contract with Nigerians. Are the contents in sync with what the candidates are saying on the campaign ground? Politicians get carried away by the euphoria of the moment and tend to blab what they do not really mean. They can speak first and then think later, only to realise their folly.

Fortunately for them, Nigeria is a place politicians can go away with murder. If questioned about such promises are raised in future after winning the contest, they can simply deny them or claim to have been misquoted, quoted out of context or misunderstood. Oftentimes, there were no consequences for such lies and inconsistencies. Until politicians’ feet are put to the fire for their failed promises, such is bound to continue. This must stop.

Once each person has made their choices as to whom they prefer, they should support, campaign and work for them in decorous manner. This should not cause disaffection. People can disagree without being disagreeable. Every person is entitled to their choice, as granted by the constitution. No one can and should claim monopoly of better judgement, thereby castigating others for their different choices. This is not right. We have seen the best of men and women made bad and wrong judgements in the past. 2015 presidential election was one in which many people accepted they misjudged and were wrong on their choice at the time.

The height of civic responsibility of the citizens during any election period is to vote. Every citizen of voting age, who is expected to have registered with INEC, is expected to come out on election days and vote for their candidates. Such critical decision should be informed from all that have been discussed earlier. Any citizen in this category who refuses to come out to vote deliberately on election days, loses the moral right to complain about any government that emerges after such exercise. Such persons must live with the consequences of their actions with dignity.

All that have been highlighted above are common sense, but common sense often seems not to be common. What usually influence decisions of many voters on election days are pecuniary gains. This usually lead them to selling their votes. Voting becomes bazaar. It is sold to the highest bidder. If so, of what essence is all this sermon then?

Well, we must continue to speak up, educate and enlighten the people about all of these. Sadly, the government agency saddled with such responsibility is found wanting. It is either non-existent in many states or grossly incapacitated. I am talking about the National Orientation Agency (NOA). Many have forgotten they exist. This is such time to wake up from their slumber and rise to the occasion. But will they?

In all, our journey to another political dispensation has begun. We all must be active and participate in it, with the hope that the best candidates win in different positions, starting with the presidency, governorship and lawmakers at both national and state levels. We cannot be doing the same thing over and over again but expect different results. That’s insanity. We can only hope for the best for us and our country. This is the only country that some of us can call our own.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Whatsapp: +2348179512401


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