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Political animals and the Myths of Democracy

Political animals tell mythic tales, full of hyperboles and fables. Winning is the only truth they all know. So it seems. Of the 28 registered political parties( according to INEC website), there are two serious contenders for the highest seat in government-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari. Different perspectives have formed and informed active and passive participants among the populace-the percent who take up the so-called middle ground of being neutral, ‘apolitical’. I have stayed numb in the silence that becomes the word, preferring to stand as moderator. This essay strives to find a clear voice. Apolitical as a word should be the most abhorred aberration formed since the inception of democracy. Being apolitical is one of those careless, unconscionable myths. In Australia, all eligible citizens must vote at election time. President Barrack Obama of the US recently commented that ‘maybe it is time to make voting mandatory’. A few days to the presidential elections in Nigeria, and the fervor of political theatrics and campaigning has never been higher pitched in the history of our recent democracy. Suddenly, the masses are being engaged in the race for power. Individual votes are being canvased and interest groups are being integrated. It is an ideologies-based campaign for Aso Rock. True, the mudslinging is overmuch. From both camps, there have been slanders, defamation of character, misrepresentation of facts, and what not. They are slow to realize that the truth lies a few clicks, online. There is a blur between what each of the two big parties APC and PDP are stating as facts for voting for their candidates. One would think that it is easier to judge President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari based on their past records as leaders of this nation at different times, but it is not so. A supporter of the General told me, that in politics the guiding rule is to win by any means necessary, at all costs. On the other hand, a friend of President Jonathan’s will point at my lack of information about the president’s achievements. Thick is the cloud covering from the campaigning antics of both parties, were lies and truth are spewed and twirled wantonly. Both parties are quickly doing everything to correct the errors of their past politicking, especially since the 6 weeks extension of the voting date to March 28th. One of the political parties has transformed so much by acting on public criticism. It has sent out strong signals of being responsive, a listening party. The postponement may well have swayed the balance. The Jonathan administration has achieved milestones in various aspects of the live of the nation. The biggest plus for the government is the allowance and creation of a fair playing ground for all to thrive, to join in the discussion of nation-building (not particularly the gathering of the elders for the National Confab). Having made high and lofty promises prior to election into office in 2012, the Jonathan government has not delivered 100 percent. As military dictator, General Buhari prides itself on its record of fighting corruptions. The opposition attacks him for high-handedness and being biased in his fight against corruption. Some are of the opinion that it was his second-in-command Brigadier General Idiagbon who was the driving force in the fight against corruption. Two parties are at war. One screams the message of change as mantra to utopia using the vehicle of anti-corruption to get there. The other party speaks of engaging different aspects of life in government to cause development-cliché transformations. One asks whether those that will fight corruption are coming in good company, how unscathed can a general remain when camped with rogue politicians? On the other hand, there is a question about the overall effects of a transformation agenda and its benefits to the generality of the populace. Definitely, the strengthened democratic framework has helped the present administration. Some of the indecisiveness of leadership being seen in the actions or inactions of President Jonathan has undermined his performance. The slower, all-inclusive workings of a democratic process comes as a shock to a nation that is getting used to the process. A certain research showed that over 95 million people in Nigeria use the internet. The electronic media grows in strength, from the time of the Arab spring when the power of the internet was fully unleashed to bring down governments, to the cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities, etc. There is a virtual frontier without borders, with no rules of engagement. The immediacy, fluidity, and ability to share information across borders has allowed all sorts of connections and noise. We speak, and literally thousands hear us. Our words therefore, must be few, rare, precise and without ambiguity. The two parties APC and PDP know these things. They have met with bloggers and social networking gurus of Nigeria’s cyber-sphere. Religious leaders and groups have been brought in. One cannot escape the noise of politicking booming today. The campaign is at frenzied pitch, and in your face. Sadly, social networking courtesies and etiquette is being sacrificed in the noise to be heard, to get the last words in. The future of Nigeria (and who rules us for the next 4 years) is here for us to determine. We have been handed out gifts and audiences with the southern and northern princes vying for our votes. Conscience and votes must remain speck clean. The future is in our hands to mold. That brings another point-the poor PR job done by the president’s publicists prior to February 14th, before the date of elections were shifted to March 28th. Poor publicity would have ruined President Jonathan’s second term bid. It seemed the government of the day stayed intoxicated by the overwhelming victory it enjoyed in the last presidential elections. No thought was given to improving its record, for the second coming. Many things were done hogwash, without finesse, nor eyes for the future. Recently in Imo State, the seat of the Catholic Church in Owerri invited the gubernatorial candidates from all the political parties to a public debate. This open act called everyone out to get involved in the political process, to join in the conversation. So it should be. Without being partisan, religious leaders should give politicians the podium to speak. There is another point. What again, please tell, are the reasons that General Buhari has refused to have an open debate with President Goodluck Jonathan? Barring that, both parties have gone their separate ways, dialoguing with different interest groups in private. Opinions can easily be swayed when one gets invited to meet either of the candidates-he sees it first as an honor and appreciation of the importance of his place in the scheme of things. Worse still, the invitee may form a negative mindset against the other candidate who has not invited him. Who advised General Muhammadu Buhari not to go into a head to head debate with President Goodluck Jonathan, where opinion molders and representative members of the polity would have been invited? Some suggest that the organizers of such a debate had compromised their neutrality by allowing paid advertorials that tarnished the image of General Buhari to be aired by their stations. By and large, these are the same stations that APC is using to campaign, and whiplash the PDP-led government. Something is not quite right here. Much has changed in the 6 weeks extension for the election. President Jonathan seems to be all over the stratosphere campaigning, canvasing every square meter of the country. After almost four years, the Nigerian military with its African allies are gaining grounds fast in the fight against Boko Haram. People have had time to research the stories of both candidates. INEC is more prepared than they were 6 weeks ago, albeit with some nagging issues about the process of voters’ registration and the collection of PVC (permanent voter’s card). Some claim that the same Jega who oversaw the 2011 election is biased, compromised to act in a partisan manner. In some quarters, the cry is for the man to step down as INEC chairman before the March 28th election. The stage is set, come what may. The fight for Aso Rock is on. The masses are more aware of their power, the power of their voice, their votes. Nigeria’s democratic process has developed in leaps. Whoever wins is well aware of this. He will listen. Personally, I have chosen who my vote will go to. I see a brighter Nigeria where the voice of the masses will be heard. The world waits to see us get it right this time. We are all involved in building of a new Nigeria. The Nigeria of our dreams. The place to call home.

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