By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Reports of the serial defacement of the campaign billboards of the All Progressives Congress (APC) senatorial candidate in Edo South, Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon, aka Igodomigodo, are symptomatic of politics of bitterness, which should not be promoted by conscionable political leaders, particularly in a local election that is undergirded by communal interests.
The fact that Edo south senatorial election affords the people the opportunity to choose among different parties’ candidates from the zone, who would best give them the obligatory senatorial representation in Abuja, should serve to moderate the tenor of electioneering and politicking such that they do not become deleterious to good relations and collective wellbeing.
Camaraderie, harmony and the common interests of the zone should be paramount going into the 2019 general election. This is the best approach to the forthcoming election. But the attacks on Obahigabon’s billboards point in the opposite direction. They negate the imperativeness of self-restraint, politesse and good manners in electioneering for the forthcoming poll.
Beyond the primordial shenanigans deployed in recent elections, Nigerians have got to an intersection where candidates and their programmes should be subjected to critical interrogation. Political campaigns by candidates should, therefore, be a medium for appraising the possibilities and/or potentialities of candidates in comparative terms.
Anyone who indulges in the pastime of unleashing direct attacks on the person or symbolic representations of the other in order to intimidate, harass and discount the electoral base of the other, shows how desperate s/he has become in the task of securing undue advantage over the other. That does not accord with the spirit of a free and fair election.
Elevating electioneering from the pedestal level of personality attacks helps to purify the political and electoral processes. It helps to predispose candidates and their parties to the preservation of the principles of common good and national interest over and above personal interests. The deliberate purification of the process is doable.
The 2015 exertion by the General Abdusalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee that helped to bring the presidential candidates to the table to sign up for a peace deal in the presidential election was salutary to the decision by former President Goodluck Jonathan to admit defeat and congratulate the winner, President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Committee has also weighed in by committing all the candidates in the scheduled February 16 presidential poll to sign a peace deal. Since it worked in the 2015 with Jonathan’s uncommon sacrifice, it behoves President Buhari to assist the process to succeed by creating the necessary conditions.
In order to create an environment that would make it easy for winners and losers to embrace one another, the political elite and their followership in the various political parties should focus on issue-based campaigns in the presidential through governorship to legislative elections for it to work this time round.
In any case, many voters are now conscious and much more enlightened about the electoral process. They know what they want and who they want, in the context of plurality of candidates, to provide them with the required leadership. Therefore, it will be in the interests of the candidates to focus on propagating or selling their programmes to the people and registered electorate rather than promoting hate campaigns.
Doing violence to opponents’ characters, defacing opponents’ campaign billboards, destroying posters and attacking vehicles or offices of opponents are misnomers in the emerging political culture that aims at the “high mark” of decency and purity in the process that births legitimacy of political sovereigns.
Any candidate who encourages his supporters either directly by verbal instructions or indirectly by body language to unleash destruction on the campaign infrastructure of his or her opponent(s) should be scorned by the electorate. Such rascally disposition should lead to the discounting of whatever support s/he should have ordinarily enjoyed at the poll.
Voter cards should be deployed to sanction candidates who undermine the regime of decent campaign. Whoever takes steps to contaminate the transparency of the electoral process should be rejected at the poll. This is because such irresponsible acts, as political violence, defacement of campaign billboards and other vices, have the potentialities to diminish the majesty and sanctity of the electoral process.
It is time we ensured that our political and electoral processes enjoy legitimacy ab-intio, through the imprimatur of people’s acceptability, without obligatory judicial intervention. Processes that are compromised or rigged, one way or the other, cannot escape essential indictment. They are flawed and it becomes difficult for the people to accept their outcomes.
The nexus between the process and the outcome is quite significant in that the process is the substructure on which the superstructure of the outcome rests. Attacking the billboards of any candidate by the other camp, as in the instant case of Obahiagbon in Edo south, is evidently attacking the process, apart from being a sign of desperation by the other camp over the prospects of looming defeat.
The people and registered electorate in Edo south have an idea of those who are responsible for the defacement of the billboards of the vocal politician. But it is sad that the resort to this kind of destructive strategy is not only counter-productive to the real perpetrator but also capable of inflicting a collateral damage to all other candidates except Obahiagbon who stands to benefit from popular sympathy.
But to be sure, Obahiagbon is not necessarily at home with the populism of sympathy votes, which the act of the other camp may have created. He is surely running a robust electioneering that appeals to the community of political elite and latching on the magnitude of his programmes and, as they say in the political parlance, campaign promises, to secure critical support.
Remarkably, as part of a systematic campaign of attrition, the other camp(s) has (have) attempted in recent times to dismiss Obahiagbon’s pedigree in the House of Assembly and the House of Representatives, where he spent a total of 12 years, as comical representation. But Obahiagbon’s counter narratives have been quite succinct in proving otherwise.
A lucid television jingle produced by the Obahiagbon Campaign Organisation, which is being repeatedly aired on some local stations in Edo state, has put paid to the claims that the flamboyant politician did not achieve anything beyond his celebrated involvements in legislative debates while in the State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives.
The message in the jingle is very clear: “Beyond the grammar, in the short period that Obahiagbon was in the House of Representatives, he executed so many constituency projects, to wit: provisions of five blocks of classrooms and furniture for Obakhavbaye, Owina, Oza, Ezomo, Ohuoba, Payne and Oba Ewuare Primary Schools; connecting electricity from Ogba to Umegbe, Iguike, Evborhun, Okpebor, Evbovbioba and transformer for Umegbe and three villages.”
Delivered in impeccable Pidgin English, the jingle continues: “The list is endless: boreholes at Umegbe, Irhirhi, Obakhavbaye and Evbinyomanru and other areas. He facilitated the construction of roads and streetlights, award of scholarship and women empowerment and assisting constituents for placement in the civil service.”
These are the issues that have been put on the table for validation and/or rebuttal. The candidates are to convince the people to invest their trust in their respective ability and track records to deliver. Resort to defacement of campaign billboards or destruction of posters as the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, has just complained of, should not be indulged. Such political rascality is odious, despicable and reprehensible.
▪Ojeifo, Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatch magazine, contributed this piece via email@example.com