The elections are only a short month away and as expected the candidates have hit the campaign trails. The two leading candidates, All Progressive Congress candidate General Muhammad Buhari and the People’s Democratic Party Candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan trying to get the electorate to vote for them. However having followed the campaigns of the two candidates, ( more closely I must admit, than I normally do,) I have a real fear that the election is going to be more about voting for the more popular and more attractive candidate, rather than the person that is likelier to perform, that the political process will become a beauty contest, where the candidates smile nicely for the cameras, and make themselves more attractive to the voters (Chief Omisore of the two corncobs I am looking at you) and if necessary, sling some mud at the other side to make the other side look less attractive, rather than a spelling bee where the candidates (usually with large glasses and teeth with braces) are put under the spotlight and made to spell the difficult words, and make the difficult decisions that come with trying to spell those words right.
God knows that whoever wins the election out of the two stalwarts, have very difficult words to spell and difficult decisions to make. The unemployment statistics, are particularly grim, power supply is far below what is needed to power the largest economy in Africa, (rebased or not), the refineries are working at far below the capacity required for an oil rich, industrialized nation, Insurgents are eating deep into the sovereign territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and not least of all, the price of oil dropping like a stone down a well, and the resulting game of chicken, that the naira is currently playing with and losing to the dollar. These are difficult words and numbers that our political candidates have to spell. Leading Nigeria is going to be a lot more than just posing for pictures in front of laptops while eating milk and cornflakes (or is it Garri and groundnuts?).
You may say what you want about President Goodluck Jonathan, You cannot argue the fact that he has a fear (or maybe it is dislike) of figures and numbers. Okay, maybe we cannot all be math geeks, and he has a Finance Minister/ Coordinating Minister of the Economy to worry about such details, but one would believe that as a president (a zoologist at that) he should have figures and percentages at his fingertips, at least for interviews if for nothing else. We don’t expect him to know everything to the decimal point, but Jonathan is so averse to numbers and figures that he will generally avoid them unless they are absolutely compulsory; anybody who has watched his media chats would quickly notice this. This might be good for a blogger writing about politics and beauty paegents , it is not good for a president who wants to prove that he is on top of the country’s affairs, it only makes him look like a schoolboy president who does not know what is going on, and nowhere is this more evident than on his various places he has been to, to campaign in the last few days. Having watched a few of his rallies, I expected that a sitting president he would have a more robust manifesto, rather what he is doing is reacting to Buhari’s image (or one perpetuated by his supporters at least) as a disciplined, anti corruption crusader. Even if he does not have Buhari’s discipline, he should have facts and figures to trash Buhari and show him that an institution can thrive in spite of corruption (China, Brazil and FIFA, I am looking at you), that he (Jonathan) chooses to go on the defensive instead is a poor reflection on his personality and that of his administration. It is the beauty contest versus spelling bee syndrome I am talking about, instead of quoting the difficult words and numbers to show that he is in control, he is allowing himself to succumb to the mind games of his challenger.
As far as I am concerned, he is trying to look clean and attractive by force, and that is the kind of thing that leads to gaffes like: “We are going to fight corruption with modern technology” (if you have the faintest idea about how he is going to do that, kindly enlighten me) or “Buhari jailed Jim Nwobodo for stealing money, not up to the price of a Peugeot…” (What is he even trying to say here?). Okay maybe not everybody can be Barrack Obama, but at least, Mr President should respect us and stop dumbing him down as if he is gurgling baby talk to bored toddlers. We know that he is trying all his possible best to win a second term, but He should realize that he is still Nigeria’s president until May 29 at least, and his utterances are reflecting poorly on us as a nation. He should realize that lamenting about the people who are trying to bring his government down, smacks of a leader who is trying to look spotless and attractive, rather than one who is trying to do the right thing. Barrack Obama certainly has a lot to worry about as an African American president in a country that is by and large controlled by white people, not in the least a legislative house that is controlled by the opposition, but has he ever come on television to whinge about the opposition trying to bring down his government? Again, we can’t all be Obama. Let me just take the advice of our fathers “if you compare two children, you will beat one to death,” and not rant about this any more than is necessary.
The Buhari camp is not any less guilty of the same sin, granted that a challenger is allowed to capitalize on the defending champion’s glaring weakness, which in Jonathan’s case happens to be corruption. But if your candidate does not have any other selling points beyond that he is a disciplined anti corruption crusader, then he is a really unsellable candidate indeed. It looks a lot like the opposition is simply smiling a bigger smile in front of the camera and the judges while pointing out that the other contestant has a big zit at the end of her nose. It is not enough to say you will solve all the problems that your opponent failed to solve; you must make sure you tell us the difficult decisions you are going to make, and facts and figures that show that your decision is worthwhile. It is not just to say you will provide jobs, how will you do it with the current state of the economy? It is not enough to say you are going to improve the economy, Even the Euro zone, comprising of some of the most advanced economies in the world is struggling, what are the proofs that you will do differently?
That way you would be presenting your campaign like the debates we used to do back then in secondary school, our teacher would tell us “always make sure you have your own points outlined. If your opponent makes a mistake, then you can counter him, but countering your opponents mistake should not be the core of your argument.” it is about what you know and how you are going to show that you know it , regardless of your opponent, rather than smiling nicely and mudslinging so that the judges can find you more attractive than your opponent
As we go to the polls, we should be wary of those who come to us with messages like “I had no shoes” or its variants, or messages like “I have less than a million naira in my account” or however they may be phrased, because allowing us to be swayed by them, is tantamount to what the famous author Chinua Achebe describes as “A man chasing rats while his roof is on fire”. While it is true that “the way you appear is the way you are addressed” we must be careful to see what a candidate has to offer rather than how attractive he is, so that we don’t end up dumbing down our own political process and look like idiots for it. So help us God.