• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Political campaigns: No to religious and ethnic sentiments

Party leaders, rein in your supporters whipping up ethnic divisions

The Holy Bible, a compendium of Christians’ code of conduct and precepts, says there is a season for everything — a season to be born and a season to die.

Besides dying and being born, there is also season for other things including aspiring, campaigning and getting elected into elective positions. This is a norm in most parts of the world.

In Nigeria today, the country and its citizens are in a season of political campaigns preparatory to the general elections scheduled for February 2023. Expectedly, politicians are up and out, selling themselves to the people.

Maybe, too early in the day, but we are sad to note that so far, there have been records of violent clashes among the supporters of contenders to the coveted positions. Although we have also seen and heard verbal attacks which, we dare say, are normal in political contestations, even in advanced democracies, but not physically violent.

We are, therefore, worried that instead of issue-based campaigns which define politicking in civilised societies, Nigerian politicians are talking to the electorate – hitting at their weakest points which are religion and ethnicity.

We are for issue-based campaigns and issues. For us, we are about the economy, fiscal responsibility, focused, progressive and purposeful leadership that can face frontally all the things that have held us down as a nation in the last two decades

The Nigerian politicians are not only self-seeking and greedy, they are also cunny and slippery. They can sacrifice anything in their journey to political office which, today, is judged the most lucrative business in the country.

As a large country, the most populous in Africa, Nigeria is well endowed with both human and material resources. But, unfortunately, it is largely and irredeemably divided along ethnic and religious lines.

On their own, Nigerians have nothing against one another on issues of religion or tribe. But at any given opportunity such as this campaign season, politicians exploit these two factors, whipping up sentiments with the intention of creating disaffection and ill-feeling.

We take exception to this and say unequivocal NO to either religion or ethnicity or both as a basis for political campaign. For us, it is divisive, diversionary and inflammatory. It is a cheap and deceitful road to leadership, easily employed by demagogues who are out for selfish gains or interests.

Barely one month into the campaign season, presidential candidates of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have gone to town, whipping ethnic sentiments.

At the recently concluded Kaduna State investment forum where the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, painted a gloomy picture of the Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, said the North as an ethnic bloc, did not need Yoruba or Igbo to lead Nigeria as president. Rather, he said, they need a pan-Nigerian, which he claimed to be.

In the same vein, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, told the Yorubas who gathered for the inauguration of the new governor of Ekiti State, Biodun Oyebanji, that they should disregard Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) since these are not their kinsmen.

Read also: INEC expresses worry over violence at campaigns

We feel uncomfortable with these developments because they are not the right routes to a leadership that will engender economic growth and development. Moreover, they are undemocratic.

We are for issue-based campaigns and issues. For us, we are about the economy, fiscal responsibility, focused, progressive and purposeful leadership that can face all the things that have held us down as a nation in the last two decades.

Nigeria is today faced with the worst economic conditions. Inflation rate is above 20 percent and still climbing; food prices and energy costs are at levels where the poor have become puns in the hands of hunger and starvation.

Exchange rate of the local currency against other currencies of the world, notably the dollar, is mind-boggling just as corruption has become a native, and insecurity manifesting in banditry, kidnapping, ritual killing, and insurgency or terrorist activities have become the norm rather than the exception.

We are waiting to hear from the candidates of the various political parties how they are going to address the country’s economic and political problems. It smacks of a grave propensity to further destroy the unity of the country for any candidate to continue to whip ethnic or religious sentiments as campaign strategy.

It is our firm belief that Nigerians are looking forward to a Nigerian president, no matter the ethnic origin, who will redirect the country from its present route to perdition, not an ethnic jingoist or a bigot that will come to promote ethnic agenda intent on continuing the present locust invasion.

Nigeria needs re-engineering and that, in our view, does not need those who come with promises that they know, abinitio, would not be fulfilled. By now, Nigerians do not need promises on naira-dollar exchange rate parity; taking one million Nigerians out of poverty; building one million houses yearly, etc.

We, therefore, urge our politicians to address issues that bother on shared prosperity and humanity; eschew ethnic sentiments and make promises that are overtly possible and realisable. We think that using religion and ethnicity to canvas for votes is to play on our intelligence and cheapen the electoral process. In our opinion, all that does not make for democratic growth and development.