Election cycles and desecration of our shared humanity
Since the re-establishment of democratic governance in the country in 1999, our election cycle, every four years, has availed us the opportunity to either renew the mandates of our elected leaders, or replace them from time to time. I was too young to participate in the elections held in the first republic.
The details of how electioneering campaigns of that era were marked with violence, hate and intolerance are well documented in history. Indeed, it was the inability of the politicians, of that era, to play the game of politics, according to established rules, that invariably led to the collapse of the republic when opportunistic soldiers shot themselves into power in 1966.
The politics of the second republic was acrimonious too. The electioneering campaigns were laden with abuse, disinformation, lies, thuggery, and sporadic violence across the country. The five political parties that contested the 1979 and 1983 elections were a bit differentiated in both ideology and programming. One of the leading figures of the era, late Ibrahim Waziri, the Presidential candidate of Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), however, added a bit of colour, moderation, caution and finesse to the way politics was played by being an advocate of politics without bitterness. It was a message that largely resonated with politicians of that era. To this end, in spite of occasional deviations from the norms of decency, the electioneering campaigns were generally decent, enlightening and carnival-like.
The third Republic was a marked improvement over the second republic in terms of popular participation in electioneering campaigns. They were huge spectacles of colour, passion and elegance at different campaigns grounds across the country after the ban of political campaigns was lifted. Regrettably, in 2015, the fourth republic, we took the desecration of our common humanity to an unprecedented level of utter disgust, with relentless attacks on His Excellency, Muhammed Buhari, former Head of State, the flagbearer of the APC during the electioneering campaigns. Momentarily, we forgot that in our humanity we find our being, our completeness and our essence. As espoused by late Archbishop Tutu, in his best seller – ‘Made for Goodness (2010), we failed to recognise that ‘to be hateful and mean is operating against the deepest yearnings that God has placed in our hearts because each kindness enhances the quality of life while each cruelty diminishes it’.
My sense is that while we all have a right to vote for a candidate of our choice in an election, we do not have to lose our essence of humanity and goodness on the altar of hate campaigns and acrimonious politics. Late Archbishop Tutu enjoins us to note that ‘the practices of goodness are practices of vigilance and conscious choice. They are habits of self-knowledge’. In other words, the late statesman, admonishes us that we become sub-human, lack discipline and constitute a danger, not only to ourselves but also to humanity, in failing to realize that we have a responsibility to ourselves, and to others, to celebrate our shared humanity based on love, compassion, temperance and mutual consideration for all and sundry.
Man’s inhumanity to man was a child’s play during the 2015 and 2019 elections relative to the 2023 campaigns when it was elevated to the highest level of absurdity. One candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now Nigeria’s President, was mercilessly attacked and pilloried, demeaned, lied against, abused, reprimanded, and ridiculed throughout the campaigns.
He was presented as an uneducated, incoherent, good-for-nothing old grandfather, and common criminal who was too ill to be entrusted with the nation’s presidency. He was touted as a desperado longing for power on a false notion of ‘emilokan’- an entitlement doctrine’, unmindful of the fact that he adopted it as his humble plea to delegates from Ogun State to vote for him during the presidential primaries of his party.
His detractors even composed a funny song on ‘baba wey no well he dey shout emi lokan, hand dey shake, leg dey shake, baba wey no well he dey shout emilokan’ to deride him. Given his pedigree as a pro-democracy activist, a party leader, an accomplished administrator, a talent hunter, a financial wizard, and a bridge builder, undoubtedly, he was eminently qualified to contest for the highest office in the land.
His detractors, however, thought otherwise. But to their consternation, he won fair and square because of his audacity, single-mindedness, uncommon sense of focus, temerity, long-suffering and uncanny ability to build bridges across religious and ethnic divides, amongst others. That he could survive the endless missiles of hate, battering, disinformation and sheer cruelty that he was subjected to, especially on social media platforms which were used as terror machines to denigrate him during the campaigns, is both legendary and unprecedented in the annals of our history.
We ought to agree, as a nation, that henceforth, we will be mindful of our shared humanity, and that election will not be seen as a brutal war. Politicians must accept the reality that in an election, only one candidate can win. Democracy is enhanced, deepened and best served when politicians learn to respect the process and outcomes of elections. It is, therefore.
His Excellency, Ebele Jonathan is a global icon today because God gave him the wisdom to secure victory from the jaws of defeat by conceding to General Buhari in 2015. Today, he is taller in stature, as a statesman, democrat, and respected across the world as a man of peace after asserting that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. We need to learn from his exploits and patriotism to keep the nation united and vibrant. We need to learn from late Nelson Mandela who enjoins us to recognise that an enduring society can only be built on friendship and tolerance.
Mark Heard counsels that ‘perhaps we have more in common by virtue of our common humanity than we have differences by virtue of our religions’, hence the weaponization of religion during the last election was toxic and totally unnecessary. His holiness- Dalai Lama- emphasizes that ‘love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive’.
Arising therefrom, the time is ripe for all Nigerians to join hands with the President to build a nation where tribe, tongue, religion and social status do not matter. It is time to keep our religions in our hearts, and refrain from using them as poisonous tools of aggression and hate. It is time to celebrate our huge diversity and harness our common humanity to build a great nation that we all long for.
Nigeria must arise as a beacon of hope for Africa, and the world, under the zeal and inspirational leadership of President Bola Tinubu. Our responsibility is to lend him our hands and hearts to enable us work together to fetch our refreshing water from our rocky surfaces, and inaccessible dry wells. It is a veritable way to quench our thirst and leap to the zenith of our infinite possibilities, glory and greatness.
Victor Mayomi is a Public Analyst, and Retired Director, Federal Civil Service
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