“I get a feeling sometimes that some of these candidates were just locked in their wardrobes and they were told: ‘Just take selfies in there and don’t come out until you’ve finished the entire wardrobe.’ All kinds of postures. Just ridiculous. It has been an embarrassing exercise in terms of electioneering.” – Wole Soyinka!
The previous post looked at the Campaign Team based on the lessons from Axelord’s Believer. Today we will jot down some points on THE CANDIDATE through eyes of Nigerian elections based mainly on WOle Soyinka’s interview published in the Guardian UK. Various news and readings on the elections have also informed in this entry however implicit.
The quote above gives a hint of the contemporary candidature issue. I think, this is mostly out of neoliberalism and consumerism idea that has penetrated in every corner of the society and in areas including academia and politics (especially party politics). The need to “Brand” oneself has exceeded the content. This has affected elections and campaigns whereby candidates focus more on branding themselves with little content or substance in their expressions of whatever kind. At least in the developed world (don’t get me wrong here because they have also been immensely affected by branding issues) the brand is almost equally balanced with content in terms of policies. Although there have been a tendency of left and right parties meeting in the centre with effect of looking similar, we have now seen re-emergency of the role of ‘ideology’ in Europe where we hear of extreme right parties or extreme left. Thus the content still matters in their party politics and elections. Well, without getting lost into that debate which will be the subject of future post when discussing ongoing UK’s campaigns, let’s turn to our case today-Nigeria.
So the Nigerians went to polls over the weekend -28th & 29th March 2015 after weeks of postponement due to Boko Haram threat. Security is really an issue in Nigeria. And I hope each candidate took it seriously in his or her canvassing – that is if branding and advertising did not chock him or her.
Well, the Nigerians are really in the group of what Political Culture scholars call “active citizens”. The way they showed up in the voting line is a sign of that. It is reported that nearly 60million people are registered to vote. It is arguable that these electorates are all going for “the candidate” and not the substance. Millions of dollars have been used to advertise the candidate. In describing the problems of liberal democracy and elections issues, the late Lee Kuan Yew spoke of the following concerning the candidate in the modern days campaigning:
“Security, prosperity, and the consumer society plus mass communications have made for a different kind of person getting elected as a leader, one who can present himself and his program in a polished way…am amazing at the way media professionals can give a candidate a new image and transform him, at least superficially, into a different personality. Winning an election becomes, in large measure, a contest in packaging and advertising…A spin doctor is a high income professional, one in great demand. From such a process, I doubt if a Churchill, a Roosevelt, or a de Gaulle can emerge.” – Lee Kuan Yew
In Nigeria, the Guardian UK reports “countless millions of dollars have been lavished on the election campaigns, with commercials dominating television and newspapers for the three months…cities have been coated in placards and posters on a breathtaking scale”.
On the same, Wole Soyinka observed that “This was the real naira-dollar extravaganza, spent on just subverting, shall we say, the natural choices of people. Just money instead of argument, instead of position statements.”
To be fair, such is not unique to Nigeria; rather it is becoming a universal issue of all countries that practice “democratic” elections. It is sad how democracy as a concept has been tarnished by practices of those who claim to follow it. Why would an election cause deaths and violence? For example!
A good CANDIDATE would not take winning as a matter of life and death. If that is case, he/she is not a worthy candidate. It is possible to set a system through which the candidature will be defined by arguments rather than brand.
The above does not mean to argue that candidates should not campaign; at the end of the day it’s election so you have to campaign for votes. It is competition. One has to be pragmatic and competently campaigning.
In the campaign the focus must be sharing and sending the message- i.e. the vision of the candidate supported by mission and objectives (which are policies) – and not branding oneself like a fashion product.
To conclude, I want to say something about Wole Soyinka’s interviews and his arguments since they could be informing many in the world regarding Nigerian elections in respect to his impressive position in poetry and in the literary world.
Reading his interview, I gain lots of insight and agreed with lots of what he observed and comment. I was also impressed with the fact that he was on the ground (Nigeria) participating in the process. However, in general I thought Soyinka was obviously biased to Buhari unless the Guardian UK was selective in publishing all that he said. He seemed to have knocked down the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and indirectly support Buhari. His remembrance of past Buhari’s regime and then qualifying his voting decision in reference to what Mandela went through with the Boers and forgiveness…I don’t know what to comment…but that is a hint he likely voted for Buhari- which is ok and his democratic right but not after using most of the interview to kill the other candidate. For his caliber I had hoped he would have been more objective.
To conclude, I urge voters all over…to get back to their sense and choose a CANDIDATE with vision that is supported by content and substance. Don’t allow media to completely carry you over! Have and pray for discernment in voting!