2023 Campaigns: Time To Shelve Dangerous Rhetoric

IS it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up – Mahatma Gandhi

I wrote this on 22/10/2018. The only change is in the headline where I changed 2019 to 2023.

Now that the primaries are over with about 99% of the registered political parties having concluded their primary elections and names of candidates that emerged finding their way to the Independent National Electoral Commission, all eyes are on the two major parties – the ruling All peoples Congress (APC) and hitherto ruling but now opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The way and manner they conduct themselves and prosecute their campaigns to secure elective offices for their candidates matters a lot and would go a long way in determining how the Nigerian nation will fair post-elections.

However, from the way it is panning out, dagger words that are meant to serve as daggers thrust into the soft underbellies of opponents are spewing forth from the poisoned tongues of party officials while social media “warlords” have turned precious data into the venomous forked tongue of a serpent.

Campaigns have not started, at least not officially, but with social media, there can be no control. And they are aided by a legion of party men fighting tooth and nail for their meals.

Last week’s meeting of the National Security Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari raised security concerns regarding possible post-election violence, with desperate politicians across the country said to be stockpiling weapons.

But who is the desperate politician?

Any politician who wants to get into office, by all means, is as desperate as the politician who intends to remain in office by all means. We have them aplenty.

This desperation by our politicians has rubbed off on the followers who have appropriated the politician’s desire and turned it into theirs.

This trend, if unchecked, will not augur well for us even before the elections are conducted.

The best way out is sincerity and fairness, but most importantly, embracing issues-based discourses rather than disparaging the reputation of individuals.

Nigerians must be made to know, understand and accept the fact that everyone has the right to choice in a democracy. Democracy is not and cannot be about what’s good for the goose must be good for the gander.

If you believe in a particular candidate, there is nothing heretic in another believing in someone else. God, the creator of the heavens and earth and all within and in between, could have made us all the same race or programme us to be glorifying his name the same way.

But no, he didn’t; he made us each unique in his way, gave us the faculty to think, and the free will to act, and made us into different peoples speaking different languages.

He sent His Messengers to tell us the truth and left us to choose what our minds tell us is the truth. When we meet Him, He will then tell us He is Lord.

It is quite in order for one to sell one’s candidate by broadcasting his strong points, but it is all wrong to go on a wild offensive against the opponent by using unsubstantiated allegations.

A situation where a politician and his followers will praise anybody, saintly or devilish, once he supports and associates with them and vilify the same person and even call him a hypocrite if he chose to follow a different person does not speak well of that politician and his followers.

It is quite wrong and dishonest to ascribe erroneous and defaming attributes to an individual or party just because they are seen as a handy political arsenal. Both Islam and Christianity enjoin their adherents not to say what is false against another person, even if that person is an enemy. And we can conveniently say all our leaders and almost all followers ascribe to one of the two religions.

In Islam, there is what is called qazaf (ascribing what is false to another) and as long as a sin/crime is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it becomes qazaf. Muslims know this even in the case of adultery, yet a Muslim will barefacedly accuse someone without proof just because he wants his hero to win an election. It is either he loves his hero more than he fears his God or he is taking his religion for granted. In his theological ignorance, does he think he is doing it for God? Does he think his hero will save him from Allah’s wrath on the Day of judgement?

Democracy thrives on freedom of association and the right of the individual to choose who he wants to entrust certain representative responsibilities to. It is an exercise of choice, but this set of people wants to force their own choices on others.

Leaders must speak to their followers the way President Goodluck Jonathan called on his followers to eschew violence in the run-up to the 2015 elections. He specifically told them that his re-election was not worth the blood of a single Nigerian.

The fact that he chose a church programme to say so speaks volumes because those promising fire and brimstone if he was not re-elected, were predominantly those who share the same faith with him. But it was a clear message which served as a disclaimer on those who were warming up to spill blood on his behalf.

The signs are portentous; that is unless political leaders on both divides begin to espouse the virtues of tolerance, peace and unity in their supporters. We should be seen as a nation that has passed the era of having leadership imposed on it.

Leaders must understand that history will record all their actions and inactions and one day they will be judged by what they said, what they did, or what their silence and body language implied in the course of Nigeria’s political development.

Followers must understand that living in peace is better than having their candidate in power and that Nigeria will remain even after their heroes are long gone. While they eke out a living, surviving by the day, they should know that leaders and their families are taken care of by the system: they do not think about their next meal.

They get free medical care in the best health facilities the world can offer and a hefty severance pay awaits them after their tour of duty.

As it is now, Nigeria is sorely divided along lines that hitherto never pitched us one against the other. We were at least managing to be one despite our multitude of tribes and at least two major religions – Islam and Christianity.

We should all endeavour to stem the ugly tide; nobody invites ingredients known as catalysts to apocalypse to their homes. The earlier we retrace our steps, the better for us as a nation.

Dr Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime. His syndicated column appears on News Point Nigeria Medium on Mondays.

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