Barren Campaigns: APC, PDP Not Addressing Issues

JONA-IN-OGUN•How The Major Parties Are Vending Crassness

AN electoral system that provides just a little over one month for electioneering campaigns does not help matters. Even the head start that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) enjoyed through the zonal rallies by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) seems to have diminished so easily. 

    There is desperation by both the ruling and opposition parties. To a large extent the All Progressives Congress (APC), in its successful effort to de-market the PDP, succeeded in foisting a state of hopelessness and helplessness on the polity. This way, it succeeded in making PDP bear the burden of a failing economy, a frustrating political system and a befuddled citizenry.   What the situation has produced so far by the way of electioneering campaigns by both the ruling party and its main challenger are barren campaigns that are long on platitudes but short on precepts or grandiose visions! Instead of ‘How’, the political campaigns remain at the level of ‘What.’

    The two frontline political parties have not been able to formulate issues and proffer solutions. Should we blame it on the lack of analytical powers by our present day politicians on the fallen standard of education or prolonged military interregnums? However, one looks at it, it could be this inability to condense the myriads of problems facing the country and articulate possible solutions that has left the campaign trails as vain shows.     There are veritable options open to both the ruling and opposition wings, but there is rather, a lack of discernible strategies. While it is easy to see that the ruling PDP seems to lose traction by falling to the bait of the opposition, it is even more obvious that, in its haste to grab the reins of power, the opposition failed to remain in the driving seat. Apart from parroting fight against corruption and determination to wipe out insurgency, the opposition has not advanced a credible pathway for national recovery since it has succeeded in creating the perception that the ruling party has frittered away the national wealth.

    Nigerians looked forward to the kick-off of the presidential campaigns by the two frontline parties. In Port Harcourt, the APC and its standard bearer had opportunity to take what looked like a spot kick, but ended up shooting the penalty into the flank for a throw-in. The major take-away from that rally was the promise to jail corrupt officials and stop insurgency. Nobody, not even the party answered the questions on the minds of the citizens as to how those could be achieved.

    There in Port Harcourt, General Muhammadu Buhari told his audience that the level of insecurity in the nation has become deplorable and unbearable, explaining “those who could not see anything wrong with the present situation in the country are blind.” While insisting that his interest is for the nation to be free from all terrible things that have been causing tension in the country, Buhari promised to assemble a team of professionals to fashion out means of job creation, wealth creation and security for the betterment of the country.

   The next day in Lagos, Nigerians saw a President that has gained confidence declaring that “I will address you on three issues… the first is the issue of insecurity. I am also going to address whether this administration is fighting or encouraging corruption. I am going to address the issue of weak government and unfocused government that has no plans. Yours is to listen and compare with everything that has been done before in this country and take a decision.

    “They talk about insecurity; that they will fight insecurity. And you will ask, are our armed forces weak? Are the Nigerians in the Armed Forces weak? If we have problems, what is the cause — equipment? And somebody who wakes up and tells young people of 23 years old that he wants to fight insecurity, ask him when he was the head of government, did he buy one rifle for a Nigerian soldier.”  

    Many of those who listened to the campaign flag-offs could not help observe with pain that the two front line candidates of the PDP and APC are not addressing issues. And because the start of electioneering campaigns usually give an inkling as to what package a political party and their candidate have to offer, the obvious conclusion was that nothing was on the minds of the two presidential candidates about their blueprints for foreign relations, the economy, education, youth, women, environment, immigration, taxes among others. 

   The campaigns revealed a gross misreading of the issues boggling the nation as well as a misunderstanding of deliverables on policies. For instance, none of the parties cared to question the idea of the Federal Government allocating various sums of money in the annual budgets on agriculture when it has no territory to practice agriculture. Suddenly, the issue of fiscal federalism became lost on even the opposition party as a strategy to introduce healthy competition among the states and zones. Again, the campaigns showed that the political parties are ignorant of the realities of the federal system of government. Some electorate actually thought that the vexed issues of local government autonomy and state police would have been part of the party’s approach in their search for voters’ preference.

    However, perhaps in answer to the outcry by the citizens on the barrenness of the campaigns, the two political parties used the opportunity offered by the debate organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development in conjunction with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), to attempt a review. The matter at issue was what policy approach the parties could enunciate to address the challenges posed by the country’s over-dependence on oil as the major source of income.

 PDP argued that it is already implementing policies that would lead to diversification through the privatisation and liberalisation of critical sectors of the economy. On its part, the APC promised to target investments in agriculture and related industries as well as revive the textile industry as a basis for creating jobs for the unemployed. 

   As happens in most debate situations, it was clear that each of the contenders was merely trying to grandstand. Their answers were after thoughts, as none of their presidential standard bearers outlined such strategies at the opening of their arguments. Could it be that the parties are only interested in how to clinch political power, or that the interest of the people do not matter much to them? 

    The barrenness of the campaign could also be attributed to the quality of functionaries in the various political parties. If not, the department of research and documentation would have, before now, produced a veritable direction for the candidates on the burning issues.

     One thing is clear from the campaigns; and that is that the choice before Nigerians is between an accidental leader and unwilling one. If not that Nigerians behave like conquered slaves, the voters should demand direct answers from those who want to lead them. It could also be deduced that those who make prodigious claims about how many jobs they would create if elected are scared of being unemployed that they chase public office with all vehemence and trickery.

     Fact is, much choleric humour has dominated the campaigns and that explains why violence seems to be the common agenda. The saying that confrontation reduces options holds true in the present circumstances of the forthcoming Nigeria’s election. There are no options before the voters, because finger pointing and name-calling have taken over campaign rally grounds.

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