Disappointing presidential campaigns by Wale Sokunbi
The campaigns of the two leading presidential candidates in the coming February 14 polls have taken off in earnest, and what a huge disappointment they have been so far! From the campaigns, it seems both the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (CPC) are neither aware of the great despair of many Nigerians and their desperation for better times in the country, nor have a convincing and properly articulated template on how to move the nation to the next level.
In the main, the two parties and candidates appear irredeemably bound to the outdated campaign tactic of disproportionately focusing on their opponents’ real and cooked up shortcomings, instead of the country’s many problems and exactly how they hope to solve them. They are more interested in attacking their opponents and digging up what they perceive to be the “skeletons” in their cupboards, instead of the matters that are of the greatest importance to Nigerians and the future of the country.
This is why, for instance, the presidential campaign flag off of President Goodluck Jonathan focused more on debunking and deriding Buhari’s campaign promises, than the articulation of his own. The flag off, indeed, was a personal disappointment. The occasion offered the president a good opportunity to sincerely address Nigerians on the severe problems facing the country, his spirited efforts to address them, the challenge from a virulent opposition that had not given him a moment of respite since he got into office and the need for Nigerians to back him up in the best interest of our beloved country and give him the necessary support to do all that he has in mind to do for the country but which he had been severely constrained from doing. He should then have gone ahead to mention some concrete things he had done and intends to do, as well as appeal to the opposition leaders to let the campaigns be focused on real issues in the best interest of beleaguered Nigerians. He should have, in all sobriety, promised Nigerians that he would continue to do his best and retool his strategies to end insecurity and move the nation forward.
Had Jonathan spoken like this, (and I consider this a free advisory for the president and his media team!), he would probably have won the sympathy of many people like me who admit that he has, virtually throughout his tenure, been a victim of distractive attacks from Goliathic opposition leaders, whose debilitating potshots could almost make any weak leader forget his name!
Jonathan could have so easily turned the tables against the opposition leaders at his campaign flag off. He could have solemnly urged Nigerians to cooperate with the saintly but allegedly clueless “devil” that they know, rather than the “confam Devil” seeking to replace him in office. But, instead of an appeal for calm, patience and reason from the people, the president chose to ignore his own admonition on issues-based campaigns and lambasted Buhari no end.
I think it would be more expedient for the PDP to clean up its campaign and focus on issues. For example, the matter of Buhari’s military certificates, whatever they are, not being up to the level of an SSCE certificate, after studying in many military institutions across the world, is a no-header! It is, indeed, a disservice to the military in Nigeria and all over the country to say that all the certificates obtained in prestigious military schools all over the world are not the equivalent of Nigeria’s SSCE! Is that not what we used to call infra dignitete! Or, were we not all in this country when a certain top military officer told the nation that a sergeant in the Nigerian military is better than the graduate of any university? The PDP must be careful not draw the ire of the entire Nigerian military on this matter. This is even more so when it is considered that the matter of SSCE could not have been a qualification to join the military several decades ago when Buhari joined the institution.
But, that is not say that Buhari’s campaign flag off has, itself, been anything to write home about. He has, for instance, told us he would end the Boko Haram insurgency within two months in office. How? Is that to suggest that he knows, or has the ears, of the insurgency leaders, and has not stepped in to help solve the problem because he is not the current president? That would be very bad! It would mean that he is sitting on the fence while thousands of Nigerians are being killed because he does not want to help the president solve the problem, even though he knows what to do to solve it!
Secondly, his reference to jailing anyone found stealing Nigeria’s money may not be the best line for one who has been accused of unjustly jailing many politicians during his regime, (even though the jail sentences were handed out by military tribunals that tried the politicians at the time!) As they say, someone that his opponent’s campaign team is trying to portray as a maximum ruler who does not respect democratic ethos should not be talking of putting anyone in Kirikiri, on the campaign rostrum. In the same vein, any candidate who makes the jailing of the corrupt ruling class the arrowhead of his campaigns already has an array of sworn enemies among the country’s corrupt elite who will ensure that he realises his ambition only “over their dead bodies!”Again, having become a serial candidate, one would have expected a glaringly well thought out and clearly articulated programme of action to solve the nation’s most pressing problems from Buhari!
Some other free advice to both the PDP and APC: Let your campaigns be issues-based and pragmatic. Enough of generalisations from the two leading candidates. I believe any Nigerian can list the nation’s problems and promise to solve them. The cutting edge we expect from the two contenders is a credible and believable programme for resolving the problems. Give the electorate concrete ideas of what you want to do, not wild accusations and dimwitted rhetoric. These will not put food on Nigerians’ tables, or provide jobs for the unemployed graduates. Let the people know your vision for Nigeria and how you intend to take the nation to the Promised Land. Let the choice of a new president be different from that between six and half a dozen. Let us see evidence of careful research and diligent analyses of issues, not competitions on mud-raking and the use of foul language! Let the people see that the contestants clearly understand the nation’s challenges, and have a credible plan to resolve them.
The continuing unconscionable killings by Boko Haram in the North-East of the country should be enough to make any aspirant to the office of president sober and serious about how to tackle the problem. But, it is like the matter is just like another pawn on a chessboard that could be played with for political advantage by presidential candidates! The insecurity in the country is not something that should be toyed with, or glossed over, for any reason. The matter of the management of the economy is another serious issue that is not being properly articulated. Yet, the fall in the price of crude oil and the devaluation of the naira are serious challenges that the nation will be grappling with this year.
Please, an assignment for the two candidates: Read Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution on the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, and tell us how you intend to achieve them. Indeed, all Nigerians should strive to read this particular section of the Constitution. It will go a long way in educating the electorate on the reasons why governments exist, the responsibilities of our leaders and the need to elect persons who can bring them to reality. I wish the two candidates a rewarding campaign season. May the best candidate win.