When commentators say that the 2023 general elections hold a lot for Nigeria, it does not mean that the country would come to an end with the poll. Of course, the elections for the various positions would be conducted, won and lost. Winners – fraudulent and real – would celebrate and leave the losers to lick their wounds of defeat. Life will continue. On the surface, that is it. But the question is how the process and outcome of the poll will impact on the country.
This is one major consideration that Nigerians will have to live with as the elections draw near. You may liken it to what sociologists describe as the law of cause and effects. It means that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, what you send out, comes back. It’s one of the simplest laws of the universe with profound results.
For Nigeria of today, the optics are not clear. The statistics are not encouraging on all indexes of development. With the economy in doldrums, low investment drive, debilitating corruption, deplorable infrastructure base and rising tide in criminality among the youths, the future looks bleak. Nigerians just have two options – to move forward or remain stagnant.
The people seem set to make a clean break in 2023. But they need to be properly guided to make informed decisions. They need to understand the philosophies and ideologies of the competing political parties, the candidates, their capacities and their antecedents. This is one exercise that should be devoid of falsehood, embellishment and indeed, any form of cover-up.
That is where campaign spokesmen matter. Their duty is straight, strategic but quite complex. They market their parties, advertise the candidates and go further to convince the electorate on why they should give them their votes. By whatever stretch of imagination, the task is not simple and certainly not for fleeting minds.
It requires men and women of ideas, tall in character, deep in content and coherent in delivery.
Nigeria had such men in the Second Republic. In the then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the likes of Melie Chukelu Kafundu (MCK) Ajuluchukwu, accomplished journalist and Ebenezer Babatope profound activist, played key roles in managing the research and publicity arm of the party, especially in promoting its free education for all, free medical treatment, full employment, integrated rural development and other programmes that were encapsulate in its welfarist package. Give it also to the leader of the UPN, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who ensured that the party vigorously pursued the ideals of a social democracy on which it was founded.
In the rival Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), drawing from the liberal philosophy of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the presidential candidate and Adeniran Ogunsanya, the national chairman, the likes of Kola Balogun, Omo Omoruyi, Paul Unongo, Antonio Fernandez and other brilliant minds seized available opportunities to advertise the key points of the party’s desire for social justice and social change.
The National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which relatively appeared conservative, counted on the vibrancy of its intellectuals as Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Ibrahim Tahir and others to market Green Revolution as one of its agricultural policies.
Though the spokesmen threw jabs at opponents and often engaged in encounters that seemed outlandish, they conveyed their message and left Nigerians to make their choices. This is clearly lacking in the 2023 campaigns where some media managers seem utterly confused on what their roles entail.
Without clear cut understanding of what is required of them, they easily resort to name calling, casting aspersions and throwing innuendoes at opponents of their principals.
You would understand the level presidential campaigns have been brought low if you take time to follow the comments and appearances of the spokesmen for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his counterpart, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Neither Dino Melaye former senator of the Federal Republic, one of Atiku’s handlers nor Femi-Fani Kayode, erstwhile Aviation Minister, who also speaks for Tinubu, understands what the issues are and how to present them to Nigerians. Their interpretation of media management is deployment of uncouth language at opponents and making light of the challenges facing the nation.
Other loose cannons like a certain Reno Omokiri who switches loyalty to politicians depending on where his bread is buttered at any moment, Deji Adeyanju, who has an exaggerated opinion of himself and Bayo Onanuga, who had sold the impression of an investigative reporter before unraveling as a hatchet man, equally feature in this sordid league. For them anything goes, including throwing up issues that further widen the existing fault lines in the country.
The other day, Onanuga, raked up pictures of vehicles and buildings destroyed in the 2020 #EndSARS protests in Lagos, and accused Labour Party (LP) Presidential candidate, Peter Obi and his Igbo kinsmen of being behind the mayhem. He further insinuated that Obi’s 2023 aspiration is to further the hideous agenda of destroying Lagos. That was wickedness taken too far. He has engaged in other odious outings, ostensibly to cause disaffection between Igbo and Yoruba voters in the South West and across the country.
But if you overlook the puerile tantrums from Onanuga and other paid agents, how do you situate the allegation by Director of Media and Public Affairs and official spokesperson for the APC Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, that Peter Obi, was planning to fake an assassination attempt on himself and hire some supporters dressed in the APC caps and T-shirts to attack some of his party offices? This is taking politicking beyond the limits of reason. Coming on the day Ifeanyi Ubah, a senator, was attacked by gunmen and many lives lost in his convoy, makes the remarks more ridiculous and suspicious. In it, Keyamo was simply being petty and playing to the gallery, to borrow a cliché. That was not what Nigerians wanted to hear.
Nigerians want to be told by the campaign spokesmen how the candidates intended to reinvent the country. They wanted to know how the focus should be shifted from consumption to production. They needed to be told how the comatose power sector could be resuscitated, how the acute hunger in the land would be tackled, the solution to the menace of terrorism and insurgency in the component parts of the country.
The citizens desire to know the agenda by the contestants at arresting the pervasive brain drain and daily migration of compatriots to other climes due to hardship. They want to know the programmes for addressing youth unemployment, the continued closure of the universities due to strikes by the lecturers, the poor state of the economy and collapsed infrastructure.
These are issues that should bother Keyamo, Onanuga, Melaye, Fani-Kayode and other campaign managers not engaging in unnecessary distractions. Beyond being the APC campaign spokesman, Keyamo is a minister of the Federal Republic and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest professional rank in legal practice in the country. These are positions that should make him sober and measured in utterances.
Duru, is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos