ONGOING ELECTIONEERING CAMPAIGNS: MATTERS ARISING

The 2015 Electioneering campaigns are in full bloom. There is excitement in the air but there is also palpable apprehension. The campaign machines are rolling across the Nations, to and fro, leaving behind plenty of dust, a lot of shouts, plenty of sense and a lot of nonsense. The Nigerian physical space is filled with Banners and posters and the air waves are reverberating with plenty of music, dance and drama. In all of this, a lot of people are doing brisk business and money is changing hands with great velocity. I must say that I am really enjoying the general festive atmosphere, as serious work has been suspended till after February 28th.

Taking a critical look at how the campaigns are going, some matters have arisen and somethings do not add up . Indeed some are of grave concern, because no matter what Party or what candidate we support, Nigeria belongs to all of us, and every Nigerian is an equal stakeholder. It is therefore important that Nothing is done or said that will imperil the Nation. It is also critical that every speech or action of the Candidates and Party Leaders must be scrutinized by the electorate. Nigerians must avoid getting too emotional or too fanatical to abandon decency or basic ethos of what is good and what is bad. We must not sacrifice basic truths on the altar of political expediency. Some of the developments and activities that do not add up and that can not stand objective and righteous scrutiny include the following:

.Governor Ayo Fayose's Distasteful Advert

To be sincere, in all my life, I have never seen a more distasteful advert than the one Governor Ayo Fayose put on the Sun Newspaper some days ago. I am yet to come to terms with why he put such demeaning advert on the front page of a National Newspaper. How can he reduce the campaign to the issue of State burials and suggesting who will die before another. How can that be a valid campaign issue? Many 30 -year old people have died while many 80-year old people are alive and healthy. I do not know how many votes that morbid advert will win.

I am also wondering how that advert passed the scrutiny of the Sun Newspaper leadership. That advert greatly lowered the esteem of that Newspaper. Is there no advert Policy? Is there no limit we can go for the sake of money?. It is good that the President Goodluck's campaign team dissociated the campaign organization and the President from the advert but I was disappointed with the Campaign Media officer who said Governor Fayose had his right to say what he liked or advertise what ever seemed right to him. What is worse, Ayo Fayose himself, said he had no apology to offer. Perhaps I can offer an apology on behalf of all decent Nigerians to General Muhammad Buhari. While I agree that there is freedom of speech or belief but that must not stop us from saying that what is bad is bad. That advert is bad and we must insist that no body in the name of free speech should assault our sense of decency as Nigerians and Africans who respect and revere old age.

. General Muhammad Buhari's West African Certificate Brouhaha

I am terribly troubled by the ongoing debate concerning General Buhari's educational qualification. He said he passed the West African School Certificate Examination and was required to produce his certificate. He did not produce one but rather referred INEC to the Army. INEC as it had done in the last three election cycles( 2003, 2007 & 2011) apparently did not go to the Army to get a copy of the certificate. They just believed him! Perhaps out of respect for him as past Military Head of State. I wish that INEC had complied with the Constitution in 2003 and that will have prevented this current National embarrassment. Why did they not insist that the General should go and get his certificate like the other candidates? Why did they not go to WAEC, which is the Examinations body? Will they not have the record of all who passed their exams? When the PDP campaign team insisted and kept pushing, they forced the Army to come out and say that they do not have the General's WASCE certificate( no original, no photocopy, no certified true copy). What they have is only a claim by General Buhari( in the form he filled ) and a recommendation from the Principal of the Secondary School that he would pass the Exam. Something does not add up here! Many questions now arise. Did he really take the exams? Did he actually pass the exams?Was the Certificate stolen? Has a hidden lie come to the fore? Too many questions. Even the late effort of the Secondary School to provide evidence is being challenged. And all this really challenges the foundation of the 'Integrity' platform on which General Muhammad Buhari's campaign is anchored. How I wish this unfortunate situation did not arise, because it takes me back to 1999 when we faced similar embarrassing educational scandals involving another Buhari who was made Speaker of the House of Representatives and others who claimed they were graduates of University of Toronto and University of Chicago! What will happen to the promise of a revolutionary anti-corruption campaign being promised? Let us get the West African Examinations Council( WASC) come to the rescue and tell us the truth, hoping that INEC will not allow us pass through this again. They must investigate all educational claims, that is an integral part of their work.

.Condemnable Violent Activities

We have read of reports of some misguided Violent and barbaric activities of some political thugs, apparently motivated by desperate politicians . We heard of the bombing of APC secretariat some where in Rivers State and the ambush of some supporters who were going to the APC rally. This is condemnable. This kind of attitude can not improve the chances of anybody winning elections. Instead it may even attract sympathy for the victim Party or candidate. We have also read of the burning of PDP vehicles in Plateau State and the recent stoning of the President's campaign convoy in Katsina and in Bauchi. These are despicable actions which must not be allowed to repeat. They are foreboding signs of what lies ahead. I strongly insist that our Security forces must search out and punish the perpetrators of these and other misdemeanors. The Police should not just bark but must ensure that they bite. They need to send the right signals that they will not allow the type of Post-election violence that consumed so many innocent Nigerians and their property in 2011. When these miscreants and their sponsors get away with the above reported crimes, they will be emboldened to do worse. That was how Boko haram grew wings. A stitch in time saves nine. Nigerians can no longer accept stories, they expect the State to protect them.

. Dumb Campaign messages

Many People are wondering how many People will vote, based on what the Candidates are saying and promising at the campaign rallies or even on their posters and bill boards. We are largely being regaled with the different colored pictures of the candidates and then with plenty of Music, dancing and drama and huge doses of ' yabis'.

The rest is empty slogans: PDP.....Power! ; APC....Change! sai Buhari, sai Nigeria!

What power? Electric power or ikam power? Power to do what?. Change for what?, Change for worse or change for better? Half a dozen is the same as Six! Let us have real debates where we can interrogate all the bogus claims. Candidates should be made to show us evidence of their ability to deliver their promises. Otherwise, we may just be feeding on hype and getting entertained but the story will be different afterwards and we begin to complain and sigh. But from all indications, that does not seem an attractive proposal to many of the candidates. But that is the only way we can test their seriousness , even if not their sincerity. We must insist on this, now that the power is in our hands.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

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