GEJ: The Burden of Witless Campaign; By Wale Ajetunmobi

For many a Nigerian, the past year was trying period for the country. It was the period the humanity trapped in the space called Nigeria had a face-to-face encounter with horrors of politics, security and economy.

In the current year, 2015, people are faced with momentous options of either prolonging the term of the present order or change the status quo, which would usher in a new order. As this is an election year, Nigerians have another precious opportunity to change destiny of the country.

Already, electioneering has begun and the polity is entering a tempestuous moment when its peace and tranquility will be threatened by issues shaping political debates. Alas, the key political players have also applied heat, sending out notes of threat and accusations. The constitution of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign organisation brought excitement to a polity already in the furnace.

Femi Fani-Kayode, the voluble former Minister of Aviation on whose neck multi-million naira corruption charges still dangle, is the Director of Media and Publicity of PDP presidential campaign team. In his first speech after his appointment, Fani-Kayode left nobody in doubt as to the issues that will shape PDP’s campaign.

He enthused: personality of on the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the presidential election, General Muhammadu Buhari, will be the kernel of political discourse. Whatever the content of the PDP manifesto – that is, if there is one – is less important than the personality of Buhari.

Although APC has hinted that its campaign would be based on issue, but the electioneering, no doubt, will get messier as we approach the February 14 fixed for the election.

This missive is not an entreaty to the political matadors in the epic contest not to point poniards at one another. But, the method of campaign employed by main political party in this crucial plebiscite is nothing but an insult to the sensibilities of the long-suffering masses yearning for positive change.

While APC may have been projecting its programmes at the grassroots, the PDP has failed to understand the key issues and challenges militating against the progress of the nation as its campaigns progressed.

All politics is local, says former Speaker of the United States, Thomas O’Neill, but politics should not be so local to lose its essence and values. Ability to respond to the people’s wishes and service delivery are important aspects of political process in any country. Therefore, no matter how local politics might be, its soul and quintessence should not be lost on the people who occupy or aspire to lead in political entities.

It is rather strange that President Goodluck Jonathan, who has spent about six years in office, still could not get the message of contemporary politics vis-à-vis people’s yearning for change. For about 30 minutes he spoke at the PDP inaugural campaign at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos last Thursday, Jonathan’s uninspiring narrative shows has failed to gauge the public opinion to know the spirit of time.

Visibly excited by the crowd of freeloaders and sycophants that graced the event, the president would rather use the occasion to attack the personalities of opposition figures. He could not articulate his much-touted achievements and the ‘bounties’ his re-election would bring to the masses. Jonathan, sadly, bungled the opportunity of time and space to engage in inanities, name-calling and mudslinging.

The president said he is the most vilified leader in history of the country but which leader has had it so good in a participatory democracy? Oppositions will always look for lacunas in the incumbent’s policies and programmes but a dedicated leader focuses on service delivery to the people.

Chief Moshood Abiola of blessed memory said in his famous wisecrack: “You cannot be driving and still be looking back; you will crash with the vehicle.” If only Jonathan (the driver in this case) and his campaign managers could decipher the coded import of this witticism, perhaps they would have engaged in issue-based campaign rather than making their opponents popular with their witless vituperations.

Let them not be in doubt that Nigerians are yearning for change in every stratum of our national life. They are tired of the creeping genocide being perpetrated by a coven of faithless murderers garbed the cloak of religion.

In the 21st Century, Nigerians want to see their homes powered by affordable interrupted electricity; they want their lots improved in the fabled economic growth. They want an end to bare-faced stealing and corruption in public and private offices, and they demand public accountability in the management of country’s resources. They want many more…

However, Jonathan bungled the opportunity to intimate people of his plan to overhaul the current security template proving ineffective by the day. The president boasted his administration, more than any regime before it, has provided equipment to the security agencies to combat terror tearing the fabric of the nation apart. But, just two days before the PDP presidential campaign in Lagos, ragtag Boko Haram insurgents sacked Baga village in Borno State and overran the military formation in the neighbourhood.

How do the beleaguered villagers, who have been displaced after the incident, reconcile the president’s boast of improved security and the reality on ground?

If the military is equipped adequately, why has President Jonathan not rescued the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorists in Chibok, Borno State eight months after the pupils were marshaled into the Sambisa Forest? Yet, the sycophants at the PDP campaign in Lagos roared in praise of Jonathan like a misguided herd of lambs.

On the same rostrum, Jonathan elevated his lack of freshness and witlessness when he said the coming presidential election is about the youth. He urged the youth to reject the APC candidate who, Jonathan said, is coming to jail their fathers for 310 years for corruption and indiscipline. This is ridiculous, nay it is an indictment on a president under whose supervision millions of petro-dollar and the multi-billion naira subsidy vanished into thin air.

Jonathan’s lack of energy to fight corruption is evident in his inability to prosecute top officials of his government embroiled in controversies ranging from financial misdemeanour to money-for-job scam.

There are so many issues left out in Jonathan’s speech at his inaugural campaign, which this writer is doubtful the president would have the courage to mention in his subsequent campaigns.

It would be good to remind President Jonathan that Nigerians fervently want change through a leader that will show courage to tackle challenges they face. Having said that, it is apt to note that, President Jonathan can still be the anticipated change if he can coherently articulate his achievements in key areas of our national life, such as security, power and economy management, and tell us how he seeks to improve on them.

But, if Jonathan and his campaign managers did not desist from their present obsession of blaming opposition for their lack of energy, there is a way the masses would make the change through the personage, who Jonathan and his men are busy making popular through ill-conceived remarks.
Wale Ajetunmobi is a media practitioner based in Lagos. Contact him on twitter @Riddwane

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