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Ó tó gé and the effectiveness of hard-hitting political slogans

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[FILES] Senate President Bukola Saraki PHOTO: TWITTER/ BUKOLASARAKI

When the results trickled in and it became apparent that the Senate President of Nigeria, Dr Bukola Saraki, was not going to return to the Senate, there was a tidal wave of satisfaction that flooded Ilorin, Kwara State. Triumph to the defaulters and opponents of the senator perceived as a part of a dynasty that has stifled the North-central state was the reward of their collective revolt.

It was a moment when the dreams of many who wanted to see the back of the Saraki dynasty became a reality. That reality rode on the back of a viral slogan which was and still is the rallying cry for the All Progressives Congress in the state.

Ó tó gé went from mere words birthed by Alhaji LAK Jimoh in 2010 to an enchanted movement that swore to stop at nothing to uproot the stranglehold of Saraki on Kwara. It caught on like wildfire and the chants of Ó tó gé loosely translated as “Enough is Enough” filled the air.

The opposition All Progressives Congress in Kwara State latched into the frosty resentment for the dynasty, created an avenue for a release of the pent-up rage against Kwara’s overlords. It was pretty much, “Hate the Sarakis? Then stick your thumb beside the broom.”

It bore fruits in hundreds of thousands of votes as APC had a clean sweep of the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.

Before Saraki’s loss in the National Assembly elections, he was Kwara’s most influential politician, taking over from his biological father who he had a falling out with in 2011. Kwara politics had only served under the wiles of a Saraki.

A lecturer at the Kwara State Polytechnic, who voted during February 23 elections, claims the word effective was probably an understatement while reacting to the success of the political slogan Ó tó gé.

He says the profound and inspiring slogan has permeated the entire state and he believes it is still at play for the governorship election on Saturday, March 9.

Ó tó gé was printed on shirts, tooted by cabbies and motorcyclists, debated on radio programmes, trumpeted and sung in local bars.

“People feel very strongly that anyone can be replaced when the generality of the populace decides that is what they want to do,” the lecturer said.

He decried how the Saraki’s have held sway for almost 20 years in the state and how no other person has been allowed to make any meaningful contribution to the political happenings in that state.

Ó tó gé had a bit of fightback from Saraki’s camp, a counter-chant, but it did not catch on. Ó tún yá was a limp attempt that failed to match the fiery revolt against the establishment.

APC chieftain in Kwara and minister of information, Lai Mohammed, said in an event that the slogan was a masterstroke.

“A simple slogan, O To Ge (Enough is Enough), captured the determination of the people to vote out those who have held them down for decades. And that is precisely what they did.”

“The victory in Kwara was achieved in the sweetest way.”

Ó tó gé was a doozy in the manner which APC’s “Change” in the 2015 election was. The perfect one-liner that captured the yearnings of the populace. There was wide scale, deeply entrenched corruption. The fight against insurgents wasn’t advancing.

The gospel of change swept across the country. For some parts in the north, progressing the cult of Muhammadu Buhari was enough – “Sai Buhari, Sai Baba” was spellbinding enough.

And it produced the first democratic election in Nigeria where the incumbent lost.

The People’s Democratic Party, major opposition in the 2019 presidential elections, adopted the Get Nigeria Working Again (GNWA) similar to the United States’ nationalist slogan Make America Great Again (MAGA) championed by US President Donald Trump.

It was not as successful as the ubiquitous “Change” or say APC’s ‘Next Level’. Perhaps it was too much of a mouthful, perhaps it didn’t truly represent the wishes of the masses.

Admittedly, elections are convoluted, especially in Nigeria, where violence, vote-rigging, stomach infrastructure and outright vote-buying could determine the winner. Well-crafted one-liners obviously do not win elections on their own. But they can be the tools that set the wheels in motion.


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