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Propaganda in Jonathan, Buhari campaign blitz

By Akpo Esajere
03 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
THE expression, “between the devil and the deep blue sea” has gained fresh bounce in this election season.   The “devil” here is no other than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.    The “deep blue sea” is, of course, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential flagbearer,…


THE expression, “between the devil and the deep blue sea” has gained fresh bounce in this election season.

  The “devil” here is no other than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. 

  The “deep blue sea” is, of course, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential flagbearer, who is Jonathan’s main opponent in the contest scheduled for the14th of this month, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.

  The term, which depicts “uncertainty” or “caught in the middle” or “at the crossroads” is, in this election, signifying the sharp division between loyalists of the two leading candidates, as well as the “difficulty of choice” facing the electorate, majority of who are no supporters of the two.

  There is no love lost between the supporters and loyalists of the two candidates and the division is as sharp as it could ever be. The way it is, those who want Jonathan to have a second term will vote for Jonathan, and those who want Buhari to take over or replace Jonathan will vote for Buhari.

  Those for Jonathan are unmoved about all the talk about “change.” To them, severe public criticisms of the PDP and vicious personal attacks on Jonathan notwithstanding, the call for change can’t stand scrutiny. 

  They don’t see the campaign for change anymore than a naked struggle for power to control the reins of government — a bid merely to enable the replacement of a set of government personnel with another set. 

  They don’t rate APC politicians and their presidential candidate as agents of change but persons out to grab power for power-sake.

  In the same way, those for Buhari don’t care about all the fuss about his school leaving certificate or that at 72, going 73, he is ageing, less capable or that Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and others like him in the PDP seem to think that Buhari could die soon.

  Indeed, to them, raising such “mundane” issues is only diversionary and even enhances the Buhari mystique.

  They desperately want a change of government. They want power to be in “new” hands. They want a government that can fight corruption, bring back discipline, subdue the raging insurgency and reclaim Nigeria’s territory in the hands of terrorists.

  As far as they are concerned, Jonathan “has done nothing” in these areas, which are of the “gravest” concerns and, for them, Buhari is a messiah. 

How the election may be decided

  Strikingly, there is, however, the “pain of choice” among wider sections of the electorate. Many more Nigerians, who are not necessarily supporters of the PDP and APC or lovers of Jonathan and Buhari, and who are clearly in the majority, would wish they didn’t have to vote for the two rivals in this contest.

  They could have felt better if there was a third strong party instead of only the PDP and APC, with another strong candidate for greater compares.

  They don’t like Jonathan or they would wish the president had “performed better” than he has done during his first term, to make it easier for them vote his return.

  They may not like Buhari either, going by what they know or all the stories and analyses about his near 18 months’ foray into public administration about 30 years ago and they don’t know what to make of it or how to make up their mind about him. 

  These (usually called “undecided” or “swing” voters) — from the way the presidential race is turning out — may be the ones whose votes are most likely to “decide” or “swing” the winner between Jonathan and Buhari. 

  Which is why until actual voting takes place, there is no saying who will win. Both the PDP and APC seem to realise this, and they have been playing into it, marshalling out an all-out propaganda — with all its deviousness in seeking to manipulate the electorate.

  But both Jonathan and Buhari’s campaign teams may have found out that propaganda’s winning ways can sometimes be crazy. They don’t always work out as intended. Also, propaganda can teach its user good lessons as well.

  For example, Jonathan’s campaign team has been making quite some fuss about Buhari’s School Leaving Certificate. Indeed, the Cert war came at the same time as Fayose’s “death” ad, which also raised the age question against Buhari. 

  To the extent that Jonathan and his party (PDP) have been at the mercy of Buhari and his party (APC), which have been having a “good time” pummelling them and their policies relentlessly, the outing sort of turned the tables awhile, and the APC and its candidate, for once, found themselves at the receiving end. 

  It is possible that the Cert matter shook Buhari and the APC a bit. For it is now in the public domain from the Jonathan campaign team’s end that Buhari, who had run for the Presidency three times previously, had managed to do so without having his School Leaving Certificate displayed or even sighted by the election umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

  If nothing, the propaganda war, therefore, serves to warn the election umpire that, like its Polling Unit misadventure and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) problems, it must not take its rules for granted or do anything to favour any candidate. 

  On its part, although it has not yet quite called a truce, the “clash” seems to serve as an eye-opener of some sorts to the Jonathan campaign team.

  They seem to realise that hauling insults at Buhari or wishing him dead disappointed more than it gratified the cause; that some people were quite upset and that it could make some of them want to vote for him out of sympathy!

  The team seemed to learn something else more important: that the vicious personal attack on their candidate, particularly arising from perception of Jonathan as weak and not in control of his government, is only just a part of the story.

  That the other part, which they needed to sell more vigorously, is that Jonathan has performed better in some respects than his predecessors since 1999 and that it is the better case to make.

  And so, the PDP, APC and INEC gained/lost in equal measure from that one.

  Take another example: crowd attendance at campaign rallies. Buhari has been reaping from it, possibly more than Jonathan.  

  When Buhari campaign train arrives a city for a rally, sections of pro-APC Press and the social media backing his candidacy celebrates engagingly. 

  “Mammoth crowd” “massive crowd”“teeming supporters” “huge crowd” — are some of the headlines, and with splashes of photos on front pages. It is as if crowd attendance at a candidate’s rally is synonymous with his acceptance by prospective voters or a concrete proof that everyone will vote for him!   

  Buhari’s train arrival at Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, for example, attracted catchy headlines like, “Buhari’s rally shuts down Ado-Ekiti” or “Mammoth crowd receives Buhari in Ado-Ekiti.” One social media platform ran photos of it with the hash-tag, “Fayose will not like this!”  

  Ironically, it is in Ekiti State, where the campaign rallies of the APC then governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was running for second term, featured huge crowds in most of the state’s16 local governments. His opponent’s (Fayose) were thin by compares, only for Fayose to defeat Fayemi in all the 16 local governments. 

  So, a huge crowd is not necessarily a measure of great voting support; otherwise, it would be assumed that Jonathan will overcome Buhari in Sokoto and Kano States or that Buhari will defeat Jonathan in Rivers and Enugu States. Jonathan’s crowds in Sokoto and Kano were as impressive as Buhari’s in Port Harcourt and Enugu. 

Exaggerated posturing for support

  Terms such as “too close to call,” “battleground,” “clean sweep,” “stands no chance,” are much in use in this election.

  Supporters of APC seem more assertive than those of the PDP in stating who, between Jonathan and Buhari, will win where, and with what likely margin or voting pattern, often giving it to Buhari.

  Among them, it is common to hear allegations like, “Buhari will defeat Jonathan at first balloting” or “Jonathan can only win if they rig” or “PDP is only hoping to use the power of incumbency.”

  Supporter of PDP, on the other hand, tend to leave it to pro-APC pundits to speculate and “make noise” as some of them are wont to say, insisting that election is about “strategizing” and campaigning because “it is serious business.”

  On their part, they would say, “Buhari don’t stand a chance against Jonathan” or “APC popularity is only on paper” or “Buhari can’t achieve what Jonathan already achieved.”

  Colourful and flamboyant propagandist claims by both camps — contributing in no small measure to the state of heightened tension around the imminent presidential election.