Editor's note: As politicians continue to align and realign ahead of the 2023 general election, Emmanuel Ogbeche, the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists has urged citizens to ensure they ask pertinent questions rather than get involved in political wars that would do more harm than good to Nigeria.
In the run-up to the 2015 elections, Nigerians were in a desperate clamour for change owing to the lacklustre administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Jonathan era was a moment of a national debacle. For some, Jonathan had tried his best, and his best was bad enough.
Based on the seeming populist view and backed by some politicians disgruntled with the president and the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a coalition of strange bedfellows was birthed. Then began the dizzying, and rotten idea that there should be no interrogation of the candidate that was to headline the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC).
As questions swirled around candidate Muhammadu Buhari and his pedigree to be president, a well-oiled, greased and brutal army of keyboard warriors went to work. Politicians of no mean repute will broker not even the thought of the unworthiness of their populist prince; the Mai Gaskiya (the Truthful One.)
It was in this frenzy that the infamous and haunting phrase “even a NEPA bill will do,” came to life. During that sad period, friendships were sacrificed, alliances broken, and attrition waged without let. It was a disconcerting hour. Caution was thrown overboard. It was WAR, so all was fair. No decorum. No holding back.
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Years after the elections, a whole lot of people tried to repair the damage of that insane period. For some, it was healing and reuniting. For a whole lot of others, it had gone beyond repair. Such was the intensity of the campaigns.
Sadly, those on whose behalf battles were fought, reputations savaged, went on with their lives as if nothing happened. They attended each other’s festivities; naming ceremonies, weddings, book launches and such mundane things that bring politicians together.
One will imagine that after the lessons of 2015 and 2019 some experiences will have been gained. But on the evidence of the ongoing rhetoric and acerbic exchanges, it is our nature to repeat history. Already, trenches are being dug. Stoic positions are being taken. No side is ready for a proper discussion on the weightier matter of statecraft. Every step must give an advantage, however, puerile and comic.
The febrile optics especially of the populist nature is not new to Nigeria. Donald Trump was the populist totem of America. Brexit to the UK as well as Netherlands’ Geert Wilders on the far right and France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the far left.
Every objective question is magnified by club-wielding supporters to skew, negatively interpret and colour. They know the motive of one even when they cannot deconstruct themselves. They run in circles and everyone that is not in their enchanted field is Sauron of the Lord of the Rings fame. They see themselves as Bearers of Light and their acclamation is holy, undefiled, a sort of worship.
The beauty of democracy is in the opportunities it offers; the right to hold an opinion, interrogate an idea and make informed choices. In Nigeria’s political sphere, it is an anathema.
The way of politicking brings to fore Marlow’s deep deconstruction of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”
“They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence.”
Stop the wandering. Drop your long staves (trolling, abuses). Even if you are bewitched, ask yourself what faith you practice and be accommodating.
Even God has given every man the choice of salvation or damnation, and you are not God.
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