Culture of empiricism in political marketing
Ever since the halcyon days of issue-based politicking and of empirical presentations made popular by Chief Obafemi Awolowo respecting the sage’s offerings at his political campaign rallies or at discussions of his socio-political programmes has the bar been set for reasoned political marketing.
Sadly, the Nigerian political turf is today witnessing a surfeit of political campaigns without a road map or without the aid of science, statistics or knowledge of fundamental assumptions.
The display of knowledge earned through experience, observation and experimentation has been sorely replaced with the bigoted mouthing of inanities, abusive vituperations, and unreasonable censure of opposing views.
Attendance of political rallies is no longer an opportunity to learn first-hand the programmes or policy position of a party or of its candidate. Rather, they are venues for dishing out falsehood, hate, bigotry and jaundiced opinion. The vilification of opponents, the unabashed promotion of ethnic jingoism and an immoral or unconscionable defence of irridentism have become popular.
What ought to be reasonably expected as a follow-up to the legacy of Awo’s age is a continuing tradition which should persist even though with some reasoned modifications.
Even with the passage of time, the treasures of that age are still rich and worth seeking. We who are living today are supposed to be the proud inheritors of a legacy which has come down to us in the form of presentations that are of interest and beauty in themselves because they bear the stamp of our spectacular ancestors.
One wonders if there is a lack of a sense of historical perspective even as we are seasonally confronted with engaging contemporary characters. An edifying heritage respecting some of our past heroes has been strangely altered and broken away from or has become far removed from the civilising trend of our illustrious past.
Awo and his conduct of politics have remained the sourcebook for political campaign values respecting suavity, diligence, ardour, truthful enunciation of intention and of solid social welfare programmes. Awo provided a canon of correct political language even as he avoided the verbal extravagances of his bombastic adversaries which truly were unworthy of him considering his own precision and refinement.
Emerging in the mould of Awo’s political marketing trajectory – though many distant miles away therefrom – is Peter Obi’s blitzkrieg statistics-suffused campaign delivery. Obi appears to be the nearest approach we have to the Awo political marketing model.
Reeling out comparative facts and figures about countries he has been opportune to visit and study; extrapolating them with the sorry dearth of extant information in Nigeria, Obi has been able to awaken the consciousness of his public to the dire circumstances at home.
In the light-hearted but deeply insightful delivery of his message, Obi has not only been able to unearth the enormity of the work at hand for all to see but has brandished before his audience the requisite relationship of mind and matter that is ideal for the work. Enamoured of the statistical references that are fact-checkable or verifiable, the Nigerian political scene is reliving the days of the enunciation of party-driven manifestoes in the hands of a candidate.
Thankfully, the idea is catching on or is becoming infectious among many of the candidates even though it was earlier on poohed or dismissed as pedantic or unnecessarily fastidious.
Waziri Shettima, the Vice Presidential candidate of the APC has joined the affray as he displayed his oratorical prowess at the just-concluded Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference in Lagos spewing out figures to support his assertions.
The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will not be outdone. Adewole Adebayo is an engaging personality who in spite of his relatively young age has demonstrated a vast knowledge of affairs and events respecting Nigeria and the world. His genius or extraordinary mental capacity is amazing and deserves to be encouraged. He too reels out statistical data off-handedly and with relish.
A powerful influence on the course of electioneering in this forthcoming presidential election will be technological immediacy in terms of video coverage, photos and graphic representation of a candidate’s performance at his campaign rallies or television appearances.
Promising to be totally different from what was obtained in 2015 and 2019, candidates this time will swim or sink with their pronouncements. It will therefore be inelegant for any candidate not to have at his finger ends answers to questions of grave importance or to offer bland or insipid responses to inquiries. There is noticeable uneasiness in the camps of a number of the candidates.
A feeling of inadequacy, a gnawing inability to see the present or the future in their proper perspective, and a reluctance to utilise thoughts and efforts for achieving our common social purpose have all combined to dog the pre-campaign appearances of the candidates so far.
What will stand the candidates out individually is an attitude which is both challenging and heavy with foreboding respecting their individual destinies and the hope they may exude for assuaging taut nerves.
There is a requirement for a personal re-creation of the episodes in our history of political campaigns which have had a firm hold on our imagination from Obafemi Awolowo to the present day. Campaign outings should be about laying bare the programmes and policy of a party of which the candidate is a flag bearer.
The UPN of which Awolowo was its presidential candidate was widely recognised and applauded for the enunciation of a 5-point programme of action. Key areas of governance like Education, Health, Housing, Rural Integration and the Economy were the party’s irreducible minimum desiderata.
The intended programme’s thrust of the party, couched in simple language, spread like wildfire so much so the items became recitable as memorable songs. Women and children, workmen and artisans, plebeians and patricians all sang and danced excitedly to the rendition in the music of a party’s cardinal programmes.
Even as the agenda for the impending 2023 elections appear tailor-made, circumstantially determined or pre-ordained, the required nimbleness of mind for sincerely declaiming the nation’s sorry plight has been curiously absent in the discourse of a number of the presidential candidates. However, the chances of the candidates for Nigeria’s most coveted political prize are inextricably bound up in the Nigerian question. An unsatisfactory measure or none at all would damn the chances not only of the candidates but the future of the country.
Going by the pervasive paralysis of governance in Nigeria, particularly under this government, it is proper to scientifically locate the true reason for the emergence of the state of anomie; and explore the panacea for its immediate termination.
Straightforwardly, all candidates in this election must offer their considered approval or their views on the propriety to continue with our curious understanding or inappropriate application of the principles of federalism. The resolve to frontal confronts the Nigerian question with a view to proffering solutions to its convoluted manifestations to the benefit of the people must be shared by all patriots.
A reasoned recourse to the practice of true federalism is sure to have an immediate effect on a sorely distraught landscape and on an utterly worried populace. This magic moment is on the horizon if only requisite recognition can be accorded to the practice of the universally-acknowledged model of federalism. Candidates of the various parties for the position of the president must begin to see their assignment as onerous and not continue to remain ambivalent, insensitive, irrelevant or odious with respect to the propagation of the practice of federalism.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, wrote vide email@example.com