With less than two months to the September 28 date for the commencement of the open soapbox campaigns towards the 2023 general elections, it is time to caution politicians, their supporters, jobbers and hacks to walk away from hatred.
This clarion call is timely and auspicious. Nigerian politics is bitter and hate-filled. This sad culture has been there long before independence. It has been transferred from one generation to another.
It came to a head in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election. While one candidate told Nigerians that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian, his opponent swore that if he was “rigged out” again, the blood of dogs and baboons would flow. If not for the civilised handling of the outcome of that election, an outbreak of open conflict might have been the result.
A self-fulfilling prophecy is playing out because Nigeria has been bleeding from all pores due to terrorism and insecurity. An adage says: “Be careful of what you wish for; it might come true”.
We are at it again. The same hateful words we deployed against one another in 2013 to 2015 are rearing their ugly heads in the public space. Words and epithets that are beneath the dignity of this newspaper are being used to describe candidates, especially in the social media. Ethnic, religious and regional sentiments are being bandied to hurt the feelings of opposing camps and create divisions.
We must call ourselves to order because this is the first time since our return to democracy in 1999 that our frontline ethnic groups – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and Fulani – have produced strong presidential candidates. These are: Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress, APC; Peter Obi, Labour Party, LP; Rabiu Kwankwaso, New Nigerian People’s Party, NNPP; and Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
If we keep charging up the political atmosphere with bile and venom, we may unwittingly draw ethnic battle lines that could haunt us before, during and after the elections. Indeed, hatred could abort the elections altogether. We saw what happened in Rwanda. Let that, and our previous experience that led to the civil war over 50 years ago, teach us useful lessons.
Let us be reminded that at the end of the elections, we will still come back together to rebuild our country from the ruins of incompetent and nepotistic rule that have engulfed it. We will look forward to our new leaders working hard to rally and unite us to achieve the Nigeria of our collective dreams.
We call on politicians, opinion writers and the youth to face the issues that confront us as a nation. We want to hear solutions to our problems, not noisy sabre-rattling. Those who dwell on name-calling, lies, propaganda and insults have nothing to offer.
Shun them! Stop the hate!