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Language of Public Discourse

IN a country of more than 160 million people, it is impossible to agree totally on anything, even if it is posted as being beneficial to all. Countries with smaller populations – and families of smaller numbers – also disagree raucously to decisions that oppose their individual interests.

Nowhere is individual interest more pronounced than in Nigerian politics, where the interests of leaders are positioned as the interest of the majority, better still national interests. The belligerent language in which these interests are expressed is purposely coined to create rooms for interpretations that would suit audiences.

Party enthusiasts could see the bitter exchanges as calls to bellicosity. Once they are sufficiently incited, it is more difficult to return the crowd to peace.

The caustic language of leaders of the All Progressive Congress, APC, as they charge their followers to offer “stiff resistance” to government policies and threats of unseen resistance can cause violent disagreements.

“The APC has resolved that henceforth, every act of impunity of the PDP and the Presidency will be met with stiff resistance in the form of a vociferous telegraphing of people power, the likes of which have not been witnessed in these parts,” Lai Mohammed, its spokesman, said.

APC sounds as if it wants to be lawless, the same accusation it mostly heaps on PDP and the Presidency. Who would determine impunity for APC to unleash “stiff resistance”? What type of resistance is APC planning that is alien to these parts?

The Presidency tactlessly replied in similar measures. It has promised treason for anyone who causes trouble. “The presidency warns that the APC and any persons who make themselves its willing tools for the breach of public order and safety will be made to face the full sanctions of the law. Those who are threatening fire and brimstone should be ready for consequences of treasonable action,” it said in a Reuben Abati statement.

Both positions are miserably below the standards for decorous public discourse of issues of grave importance. Discourse is important to generation of more ideas, better perspectives and more importantly options. Nigeria is in dire need of these to manage its challenges. Neither the ruling PDP nor APC, the opposition, appears to appreciate the enormity of the country’s challenges or have answers to them.

PDP refuses to be drawn into discussions about how it is managing Nigeria. APC, on the other hand, devotes itself to opposing everything, without a clear message of its plans to lead Nigeria to the lofty expectations it is building.

Politicians can disagree without threatening each other. They can make their points without inciting the public, bearing in mind that “widespread repercussions” of disorder can affect anyone.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.