Politi­cians should dwell on is­sues and how to har­ness the huge nat­u­ral and hu­man re­sources to boost de­vel­op­ment


The ten­ure of of­fice un­der the cur­rent pres­i­den­tial sys­tem of gov­ern­ment is just four years with the last of those years of­ten con­sumed by po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns and suc­ces­sion drama. That leaves three years of ef­fec­tive gov­er­nance to tackle a myr­iad of prob­lems: poverty, fuel scarcity, unem­ploy­ment, kid­nap­ping, Boko Haram, sys­temic and en­demic cor­rup­tion, mu­tual spe­cial in­ter­est black­mail, di­lap­i­dated in­fra­struc­ture, etc. While the jury is still out as to whether the ex­pec­ta­tions of the Nige­rian elec­torate who cast their bal­lots four years ago have been met, the chal­lenge of the mo­ment is the absence of any mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment on the prob­lems that ail the na­tion barely three months to the next elec­tion. Go­ing by the timetable of the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion ( INEC), the cam­paigns for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion should be in full swing this week. On Fri­day, the com­mis­sion started re­leas­ing the names of the can­di­dates nom­i­nated by the po­lit­i­cal par­ties for dif­fer­ent of­fices. But in mount­ing the ros­trums, it is im­por­tant for these can­di­dates and their sup­port­ers to be well aware that, more than at any point in our his­tory, Nige­ri­ans de­serve more than the usual dis­tri­bu­tion of con­sum­ables and the pro­cure­ment of mu­si­cians, co­me­di­ans and dancers to en­ter­tain crowds in the name of po­lit­i­cal ral­lies. As things stand to­day, what we need are rig­or­ous de­bates about the fu­ture of our coun­try as we seek to har­ness the huge nat­u­ral and hu­man re­sources for mean­ing­ful de­vel­op­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, avail­able ev­i­dence sug­gests that all is not well in the polity go­ing by some of the re­cent ver­bal ex­changes, es­pe­cially be­tween the camps of the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Congress ( APC) and that of the main op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party ( PDP). Aside the dan­ger of such rhetoric in a po­larised en­vi­ron­ment, trad­ing in­sults and de­mon­is­ing op­po­nents do not in any way ad­vance demo­cratic choice. There­fore, we en­join all the stake­hold­ers to cau­tion their sup­port­ers from the use of in­tem­per­ate lan­guage and in­dis­creet pub­lic com­men­tary that could in­flame pas­sions and sow the seed for vi­o­lence be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the elec­tions.

Specif­i­cally, we urge those who man­age the me­dia and pub­lic re­la­tions in the po­lit­i­cal par­ties to be more cir­cum­spect in their ut­ter­ances and the state­ments they push out. We know that they have a job to do to mar­ket their can­di­dates, but they must not cre­ate the im­pres­sion that name call­ing and in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage are ac­cept­able be­haviour. In their in­ter­ven­tions in the pub­lic space, they must de­lib­er­ately and con­sciously weigh ev­ery­thing they say. It is also im­por­tant that the po­lice and other se­cu­rity agen­cies be neu­tral in their ac­tiv­i­ties at this pe­riod, dur­ing the elec­tion and in the days af­ter.

What the politi­cians should un­der­stand is that elec­tions will al­ways come and go but the ideals of re­spon­si­ble ci­ti­zen­ship will suf­fer if Nige­ri­ans are made to be­lieve that there are no rules of en­gage­ment in the mat­ter of com­pe­ti­tion for pub­lic of­fices. The des­per­a­tion that leads to vi­o­lence and the cor­rup­tion of cash dis­tri­bu­tion that we wit­ness in the name of cam­paigns, as well as the un­nec­es­sary bit­ter­ness and hate that usu­ally arise and linger long af­ter the votes have been counted, do not bode well for our coun­try. We hope those who seek the votes of the peo­ple, at all lev­els, will be mind­ful of this and cam­paign for votes with a mea­sure of de­cency.

As we have had oc­ca­sions to ad­mon­ish on this page sev­eral times in the past, what should not be lost on crit­i­cal stake­hold­ers is that there is a thin line be­tween the use of in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage in the run up to an elec­tion and the use of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence dur­ing the ac­tual elec­tion. The forth­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion there­fore presents an op­por­tu­nity for the na­tion to demon­strate to what ex­tent the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of demo­cratic en­gage­ment have been in­ter­nalised in the past two decades. Lack of deco­rum and po­lit­i­cal in­tol­er­ance will be proof that not much has been learnt since 1999. And that would be un­for­tu­nate in­deed.

The forth­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion presents an op­por­tu­nity for the na­tion to demon­strate to what ex­tent the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of demo­cratic en­gage­ment have been in­ter­nalised in the past two decades

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