by Abigail Anaba
A lot has been said about the quality of conversation or lack of in the final run to the presidential elections in 2015. While this is totally surprising given how short a time both candidates have to sell their candidature, it is not surprising given the issues that 2015 have been ultimately reduced to: Do you want a Northern president or a Southern one?
No matter how long we choose to dodge the issues, they keep rearing their head. Some would have hoped things will be different this time but both parties (APC and PDP) had already shown from their selection of candidates and the issues that were thrown up before the selection (I should say especially on the part of the APC). For the APC, it is all about wresting power from the hands of Goodluck Jonathan. Meanwhile the PDP has effectively knocked it into the consciousness of most Nigerians that Jonathan represents the South.
Yet, in a bid to sell candidates, even the intellectuals have been forced to begin to play the ethnic card. While the PDP attempts to discredit General Muhammadu Buhari’s (GMB) candidacy by throwing all they have on him, the APC have gone on the defensive. There is something wrong with this picture and the supporters of GMB on Twitter need to do something about it.
I have watched with disgust as the issues being thrown up has gone on a downward spiral. I do not see how the conversation as to whether Goodluck Jonathan has a PhD or what his thesis was about or whether GMB submitted his certificate to INEC or not will determine how people will vote in 2015. Except these issues will lead to INEC withdrawing the candidature of either individual it is really not worth the investment in time and energy.
Now, we are aware that GMB is running on an anti corruption stance. One would have thought that at this point his handlers will inundate us with information showing how he handled corruption in his short tenure in the 80s. One would have expected at this point to be seeing specific examples, facts and figures of what he has done over the years to buttress his stand. Instead, Buhari’s camp have been forced to go on the defensive as their opponents flood our TL with evidence that perhaps his stance is at best superficial. I dare say that there is more evidence that Buhari will not fight corruption if he is voted into power than there is to the contrary. The question is why?
The facts remains that Buhari’s campaign cannot be fueled by the anger of his supporters. Turning every conversation into an opportunity to haul insults at people with opposing views only presses home the point PDP supporters are making that ‘Buharists’ are by nature, violent. I have seen an entire line of campaign casting supporters of Buhari as as violent intolerant extremists with no counter campaign to contradict it. This needs to change.
I make reference at this point to how Atiku ran his campaign and won hearts, including mine. The issue of him being a corrupt man became secondary to the fact that he was selling a new person, a person with ideas and policies. He became the social media darling because he was saying what people wanted to hear. After all, who wants to be governed by perfect people?
One would have expected that GMBs Supporters will borrow a leaf out of Atiku’s books and sell the Buhari candidacy in such a way that any sordid past he has will become inconsequential. In fact, a visit to his past should have been made once for all time and any subsequent reference to that should be met with the same response: This is what happened, this is the circumstance that prevailed that time, this is what he was forced to do given the prevailing circumstance but this is who he is now.
Buhari’s supporters should also bear in mind that they cannot win every argument. Some arguments should just be left alone because in the overall scheme of things it does not contribute to improving the chances of the candidate. For instance, Osinbajo has taken to riding buses and taking his campaign to the grassroots. He has been shown taking photographs with people on the street. Any politician will know this is a strategic move but because Twitter Intellectuals have already shot themselves in the foot when other candidates followed this route it becomes difficult for them to swallow their pride and see clearly. No, you cannot let your pride get in the way. Sometimes it is best to say: I see how this is a better option, you were right.
Talking about shooting themselves in the foot. I often talk about arguments and the need for every argument to be based on the right premise. In fact, without the right premise, you might as well not start the engagement at all
So @MrFixNigeria puts out a series of tweets yesterday trying to rubbish Buhari’s anti-corruption stand. One of the tweets he made was to say that Buhari had said that Abacha did not steal. Now, I have heard many repeat this comment, one would have thought at this point that there would be a standard response to this accusation.
The response one would expect to fall under any of these categories
1. Evidence showing Buhari never said this
2. Evidence expatiating on the context of use given his anti corruption stand
3. Evidence pointing to the fact Buhari only spoke based on the facts before him at the time the statement was made.
I was slightly disappointed when the one response I saw was an article pointing to the fact that Abacha was given a national award by GEJ. I could not help asking myself: Is this not more of supporting evidence that should Buhari be elected he will just maintain status quo? Is it not like saying, yes Buhari did not believe Abacha stole but oh look GEJ gave him an award so we are even?
Supporters of GMB need to go on the offensive by steering away the direction of the conversation. They need to push the spotlight off the weaknesses of their candidates by emphasizing his strengths. Why not do 100 tweets on what GMB will do different when he gets into power and keep expanding on this. Of course you must have a machinery to diffuse any attempts at tarnishing the image of your candidate but this should not be the focus of the entire campaign… Except of course you are telling us he has nothing to offer.
I’m sorry but repeating ‘I will fight corruption’ a million times does not really say anything. Like someone said to one holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It is time to tell us how given that he is not going to decree corruption out of existence. Is there a reason he does not want to expand on how? Then shift the conversation to things he is willing to discuss. But by all means, never forget that what is needed is change.