By Carl Umegboro
AS campaigns for Presidential and National Assembly elections kicked off on November 18 ahead of the February polls, it is requisite that all participants must play the game by the rules of the electoral umpire. To serve the people shouldn’t be by might. If not, it is no longer for service-delivery but selfish interests. The overall essence of politicking is to sell ideas and dreams to the people for evaluation. And whatever decision the people opted is within their powers and should be respected. In democracy, the majority will always have their way and nobody is accorded powers to make the right choices for the people. This accounts for the definition of democracy as ‘government of, for and by the people’. Unequivocally, the crux of democracy is allowing the people to freely choose their leaders and representatives without any form of intimidations or molestations irrespective of soundness of their decisions.
Remarkably, President Muhammadu Buhari while launching the ‘Next-Level’ a moment ago at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa charged all the seated guests to consciously enthrone altruism, decorum and civility while going about with campaigns, and particularly jogged everyone’s memory that Nigeria is our only country, and therefore to play politics with sense of responsibilities and patriotism instead of setting the nation ablaze. That is outstandingly leadership and statesmanship. Immediately President Buhari made the statement, I instantaneously recalled some years back when the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in a similar gathering ahead of his second term bid audaciously declared ‘do-or-die’ politics with the justification of consolidating his purported achievements in the first term for the masses. That is a blunder and anti-democratic. No leader chooses to lead the people by force. If a mandate is not freely given, it is nothing else but a junta.
Interestingly, the Buhari administration fashioned the event to showcase the journey so far since 2015 the government was inaugurated vis-à-vis achievements. As the administration’s major area of concentrations are on economy, infrastructural development, security and fight against corruption, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) rendered his stewardship on significant attainments of the tripartite ministry under his control. His counterpart in the Ministry of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi followed suit and acquainted the guests with actions his ministry embarked upon as approved by the President and Federal Executive Council including completion of numerous abandoned projects; some abandoned as far back as 30 years ago. Ditto on the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais that stringently used few minutes to highlight on the achievements of her section.
Others shortlisted to speak including Minister of Agriculture were unable due to time constraints. Undeniably, despite the fact it was APC government’s event, no speaker chanted the usual party’s salutation ’APC – Change’. Again, neither did Comrade Adams Oshiomhole nor Festus Keyamo (SAN) as APC-National Chairman and official spokesperson of MBCO respectively, addressed the guests.
Then, the service chiefs in attendance probably to render account on the security situation in the country in President Buhari’s three-and-half year’s administration left the venue prior to the commencement of the event. As some believed, the sudden exodus of the service chiefs from the event was to prevent allusions from some quarters over partisanship by their presence. Incidentally, as envisaged, the insinuations came from the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar questioning presence of service chiefs at such event at State House.
But holistically, could that be reasonably suitable for the polity at this point in time that the people earnestly look forward to issues-based campaigns? By virtue of the position of the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, any serving president is covered to have the presence of service chiefs at any gathering he attends. That is a privilege a ruling party has over oppositions. If the service chiefs will compromise their oaths of office, not attending a function organized by Mr. President is no remedy. Again, during campaigns, it is always difficult to separate activities of the government from the ruling party, and that’s a conventional norm that replicates down to the states.
Irrefutably, politics and government have a thin line during campaigns, and therefore, it would always be difficult to separate the party from the government. The hullabaloo over the presence of the service chiefs at the event is uncalled for. What is important is that the people are entitled to a free-and-fair election to choose by ballot their desired leaders. Besides, from the invite card, it was clear that the event tagged “Next-Level” was organized by the presidency for the presentation of the achievements and projections of the Buhari administration through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and not from APC secretariat.
Without a doubt, the event has political ingredients; nonetheless, it was equally, competently a government programme for appraisals and stewardship for accountability. To sum, let’s focus on issues and policies that can move the nation forward. Anything inconsistent is bunkum. Former US-President Barack Obama’s once said, “I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me – so am I”.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United-Kingdom). 07057101974-SMS-only.
By Carl Umegboro