Nigeria Hunted by the April 2007 Elections!

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

There is a creeping sense of disbelief among Nigerians at home and abroad about the turn of events almost two months into the impending general elections that appears to make Nigeria weaker. In campaigns that mark how values are falling, immaturity ascending, and insanity is gripping Nigeria a la impunity, the campaign utterances of politicians and a good section of Nigerians are marked by insults, threats, war mongering, inflammatory talks, tribal hatred, smear campaigns, wildly unsubstantiated allegations of extreme corruption, and other diatribes. This is creating fear and sense of uncertainty, and some thoughtful politicians of all stripes, traditional rulers, and opinion leaders are sounding the alarm bell. Some commentators have termed this unreasonable climate “democrazy.” Those who want to use the political platform to create unnecessary tension and plunge Nigeria into darkness should re-think their strategy, because even if they succeed in winning the elections, their victories could turn out to be a hollow…victory.”

In his two-and-half years as president of Nigerians, Umaru M. Yar’Adua, a quiet, patient and thoughtful man, is not known to talk strongly and threateningly, like ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, who appears not to have sense of peace and whose “boom” speeches, spiced with wild allegations, threats and generally near seditious, are disturbing to a nation with infant democracy and dangerous in a region which security is still very fragile. The security situation in Niger Delta and Nigerian politicians inability to draw heavily from their country’s tortuous history (of coups, invasions, tribalism, violence, chronic lies, economic hardship, disunity, poor sanitation, diseases and poverty) to guide them in their electioneering campaigns reveal politicians out of touch with their core elements, gone wild and directionless, mindless and increasingly weak in driving home the development process and entrenching democratic roots.

Since the dawn of multi-partyism in Nigeria 10 years ago, acrimonious and atrocious statements have been the order, unfortunately, more so with a country that has been under military rule for a good part of its almost 49 years existence. The only exception where there were civilian administrations is the years 1957-1966, 1969-72, 1979-81, and 1993 to present. to the long-running Obasanjo military regimes (that took from slain Murtala Mohammed regimes in 1979 ), the on-going do-and-die politics may be Nigerians way of releasing intense stress and anger after decades of brutal military rules that suppressed their freedom and choices, violated their human rights, and put their economies in disarray, despite sometimes its dangerous streaks.

All these extremely negative campaigns demonstrate that Nigerian politicians are not connecting with Nigerians healthily for the fuller development of the nation and what some experts have observed that the extremely negative campaign in a country which democratic roots are shallow undermines the ability of politicians and the state to connect to the average Nigerian for healthy stability and progress. In Dag Olav Hogvold’s Government by the People (1999), which looks at the patterns of Nigerian politicians connection with Nigerians for stability and development, he cites Crook (1991)?that one of the main reasons for the political instability during these years is the way in which the government interacted with the civil society. It was not able to create a strong basis of power, which could secure legitimacy and capacity for its rule. The variety of tribes did not give the basis for a strong government, but for strong local communities. Hence, the relationship between state and society was not in balance, and the state was unable to legitimize its rule within the local communities. The result was inefficiency and lack of legitimacy at all levels of the Nigerians society?

While some section of the Nigerians politicians have been talking about strong issues to drive home the development process and entrench democracy, a good number of them have not, rather entrapped in the West African Oedipus Complex of civil wars, “dark” spiritual practices (newspapers leaning toward both PDP among others accuse each of the parties of importing powerful juju and other spiritual mediums from other parts of West Africa to help them in the elections), inflammatory statements, unsubstantiated allegations, smear campaigns, twisted facts, chronic lies, hate mongering, tribalism, and general stupidity. If anything, the impact of the various recent party conventions in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos, aimed at sending home values, issues, and programs, are been undermined by the deadly negative politics, with some personalities from mainly the ruling PDP and the main opposition ANPP threatening hell, fires and death. Like elsewhere in the world, this may be the nasty truth that going negative is more effective than going positive, but while going negative, as we are witnessing in the American presidential elections between mainly President Barack Obama of the Democratic Party and Senator John McCain, the Republican Party presidential candidate, may come in the form such as smear campaign, Big Lie, exaggerations, and twisting facts, to threaten life and property and war mongering not only smack of a modern black arts but moves beyond partisan party politics and into insanity, immaturity, juvenility, madness, and stupidity.

How do you measure the barometre of unnecessarily inflammatory remarks, and other awfully negative politics in the hot Nigerian political climate today? One is from President Yar’Adua himself and the other from spokesperson of the ANPP youth wing. Said an angry Yar’Adua in an address at the Aso Rock to chiefs and top personalities from the Northern Nigeria, viewed as ANPP’s turf, which section of citizens bowed and insulted him in last week’s electioneering campaigns there, Chiefs and opinion leaders continued to appeal to the government to restrain itself and ensure a peaceful, free and fair elections but failed to appeal to those in opposition to also restrain themselves. Tell those subverting peaceful, free and fair elections to stop their activities? The government had been self-restraining, otherwise some of the abuses and insults going-on would have been tackled with all the force at its disposal but the Government had not reacted.”

As the Nigerians general elections legal battles close up no one expected it to be clean campaign for tactical and historical reasons in the long-running dirty war that rages just beneath the surface of Nigerian politics. The two main parties, PDP and ANPP, are fighting not only across wide ideological divide (the ANPP’s foundation is rooted in capitalism and the PDP’s social democracy; and both have violent past) but as voters feelers indicate the margin in the polls is not widening, as the PDP increasingly closes in, extreme negative campaign is at the center of the action. So come to think of the hot acrimonious climate leading into the 2011 general elections, Nigerians can draw from the practical wisdom that, ?politics is not war. It is about choosing the best person to serve your needs, to work with you to improve your welfare and develop your community. So you must listen to all the competitors and question them on their track record and ability to be able to choose well,” as Nigeria’s vice president, the Goodluck Jonathan, told some villagers in Kano recently.

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