By Babajide Alabi
In recent times and especially as months turn to weeks and weeks to days in the run up to this month’s general elections a new trend has been noticed among Nigerian politicians and their followers. Observers have reported the “charged up” political atmosphere. The situation has changed from what it was a few months ago. It seems the tag “casual” that was initially placed on the nature of campaigns has now been replaced.
The tone and “texture” of everything has changed. What started as a “cruise control” for some of the candidates seem to have been too early to call. They have realised this and to forestall a defeat, they are exhibiting acts that can only be described as desperate.
The rallies are changing too. The politicians and their supporters are desperate now. They are not hiding this. The slogans shouting at the rallies say it all. They are becoming more of “cries” of war than the usual party slogans. And as the D-Day is fast approaching, there is no more room for Nollywood actors and actresses on the podium. The time for drama is gone. But for a few “tired legs” footballers there is little room on the podium to remind Nigerians why they were no longer household names.
The battle line is now clearly drawn. It is a battle for the soul of Nigeria. And the two major political parties are putting themselves up as saviours of the country. In one corner is the opposition party, which throughout its 4th Republic existence keeps changing in “nomenclature” while gathering (it seems) steam to “chase out” the incumbent. The cornerstone of the party’s manifesto is “change”. While on the other side is the self styled “biggest” political party in Africa. The longest reigning political party in Nigeria’s democratic history. The unique selling word for the party is “continuity” – that no need to “rock the boat”. The other ‘minor’ political parties are merely waiting for miracle that will take their candidates to Aso Rock.
As we journey towards February 14, some backers of the candidates are showing how desperate they are. They are gradually shedding the “gentlemanly” toga they had “pretentiously” adorned themselves with before. It is as if they had retreated to their “bunkers” to re-evaluate their strategies and came out with propaganda as the tool for winning.
They therefore have carefully and systematically replaced the word “campaign” with “propaganda”. In rallies, traditional media and social media networks, the political parties are trying to outdo each other. They definitely are strictly keeping to the Oxford Dictionary definition of propaganda, which is “ideas or statements that may be false or exaggerated and that are used in order to gain support for a political leader, party, etc.”
Have we not noticed of recent that there are many lies, rumours and half truths that are paraded in the media, social media networks? These are handiworks of politicians and supporters who would go any length to win elections. The trend is same. Facts are distorted and shared daily as truth. Pictures are manipulated and shared as originals. Everybody has turned to video producers, as we make and share video clips that are either full of lies or half truths. Some hitherto reputable broadcast stations have thrown professionalism to the dogs, as they join in the “show of shame.”
Although this election will not be the first in the country’s history to be won or lost based on propaganda, it is, however, going down in history as the most fought based on lies and half truths. What we are witnessing right now is not descent campaign but “high volume” propaganda. Political leaders descending so low to “encourage” lies as truths, trying to hoodwink the populace. We, the masses, seem not to mind though, as we also have our own share of the blame.
There are “citizen” reporters all over the places, sharing lies and half truths in their blogs. Nigerian bloggers are born every minute trying to “fill the gaps” for mainstream journalism. However, the danger is that these “citizen” journalists, because they are not regulated, are doing more damage to the art of reporting or writing than any other group. They have become dangerous mouthpieces for “senseless” politicians who seem not to care for anything apart from their ascendancy to power.
How long shall we go before majority of Nigerian politicians realise that elections into public offices is not a matter of do or die? If only we can change the psyche of these politicians, that it is all about service and not the luxury of the post or office, may be there would be sanity. However, with what is being witnessed in the country among the incubents and their opponents, it is glaring that service is not the motivating factor for contesting.
The concern is not with the politicians though. It is the followership. Nigerian political supporters are known to be die hard fanatics, who only see the good in their leaders and are ready to “violently” defend anything negative said about them. When properly “tuned” and “wired” they can go to any length. They are very “inflamable” at any slight prompting. We are witnesses to the aftermath of unguided statements by some politicians before, during and after elections in the past. What happened during the Second Republic in some states of Nigeria is still fresh in our ‘history’, We could not have hastily forgotten what happened in some of the Northern states after the 2011 Presidential Elections.
Let us appeal to the politicians to calm down. And to the supporters, they should realise that the country is bigger than an individual, group of individuals or a political party. To observers, what happens before, during and after the February 14, 2014 will determine the future of this country. We are seeing what is happening now, we do not know what would happen on or after the Election Day. But one thing is glaring, Nigerian politicians still have so much to learn and to tAke in on elections process.