In a matter of days, campaigns for the presidential election will formally begin. The lndependent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has the constitutional mandate to flag off campaigns, has fixed September 28 for soapbox activities to take full flight.
Not that vote soliciting hadn’t started as we have seen numerous activities, comments and innuendos which smack of partisan vote canvassing by parties and their candidates even before the party primaries were held.
But since the law is specific about a time-frame for when parties and candidates can embark on campaigns, its intention cannot be faulted, especially as early campaigns can distract any administration from providing governance, never mind that such reason is hardly real as most governments are already in themselves distracted.
Still, the essence of campaigns cannot be lost on us. Much more, the place of issues-based campaigns cannot be overemphasized. Interestingly, this issue has been topical since the start of the electioneering activities.
Sadly, it would seem like the more such calls are made, the more they are disregarded by most parties, candidates and their spokespersons.
In a country with crippling security crisis, rising unemployment, unprecedented inflation, high poverty index, revenue and debt management crisis, the urgency for real robust thinking is stark.
What’s more, at a time the rawness of the nation’s ethno-religious diversity seems to be on trial, the expectation is that parties would be conscious of the times, candidates more statesmanly, deliberate and reflective with the narratives that bind rather than divide.
Sadly, the quality of engagements in the buildup to and outcome of party primaries seemed to have set the tone for the 2023 elections.
Although these were intra-party engagements, many had expected that much thought would have been given to the aforementioned challenges the country was facing.
On the contrary and which is unfortunate in our opinion, the political behavior during the course of primaries didn’t reflect the dire state the country was in, with aspirants posturing ethnic sentiments and delegates selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Clearly, it would seem like the key candidates were more interested in fulfilling a life ambition than the call to serve. But it was not surprising. A system where political parties are not driven by any ideology, the narratives and behaviour that defined the primaries are inevitable.
Following the emergence of candidates, the political space was further polluted by debates of another sort.
While the debates about the priority of the same faith ticket as well as the age and health status of the candidates were expected to be touchy, the discussions were not constructive enough as to help for proper reflection. They were more flimsy than introspective.
However, the more worrying dimension to this disregard for issue – driven engagements in the build up to the general election, was the recent puerile exchange between two supporters of the two top presidential contenders which dragged for days on social media.
At a time the social media have been abuzz with, most times, vitriolic engagements by opposing camps, these two key supporters, displayed an amazingly ridiculous insensitivity to the times as they resorted to childish skits to insult each other.
That they once held top political offices is quite instructive. As much as we wouldn’t know if their principals cautioned them against polluting the political space with their antics, the action of the two supporters is enough to make many wonder about the quality of campaign to expect as it commences in the coming days.
As a newspaper, we believe the quality of engagements so far have been uninspiring for a country that is in a hurry to get its act together.
There is no gainsaying that the times we are in require a different kind of political behavior and by extension campaign.
Thankfully, unlike the past, the campaign season is much longer.
So, we expect the candidates have ample time to clearly tell Nigerians the practical solutions they have to solving the myriad of problems facing the country and also explain why they want to assume leadership at this critical time.
The days when bland, vague, simplistic and general comments on key issues held sway should be over. The task before the candidates is to provide in concrete terms their plans on how to solve unity challenge in the country, arrest the decade-long insurgency crisis, plug financial leakages and halt wastages, proactively tackle corruption, provide jobs and manage the debt crisis.
Also the candidates need to rein in any of their supporters or spokespersons from becoming distractions. Nigeria cannot afford such distractions at this time. Robust and bold solutions to real the problems are needed urgently, not the antics of overrated cheerleaders.