2023: Verbal Fireworks, Banters, Jabs from the Campaign Grounds

2023: Verbal Fireworks, Banters, Jabs from the Campaign Grounds

Since Wednesday September 28, when the Independent National Electoral Commission lifted the ban on public political campaigns, the political turf has witnessed verbal fireworks, drama, innuendos, banters, and jabs from different presidential candidates prospecting for votes in the 2023 election. Though the candidates have conducted themselves well on the podium but same cannot be said

Since Wednesday September 28, when the Independent National Electoral Commission lifted the ban on public political campaigns, the political turf has witnessed verbal fireworks, drama, innuendos, banters, and jabs from different presidential candidates prospecting for votes in the 2023 election. Though the candidates have conducted themselves well on the podium but same cannot be said of their supporters who have sometimes been unruly, and occasional skirmishes have been reported here and there at the campaign grounds.

But politics cannot be devoid of polemics? Not even in the more developed democracies are such missing. It is what makes it interesting and enjoyable. From the ludicrous to the sublime, politicians are never short of drama and throwing of political jabs. Despite the personal chummy relationships amongst some of the presidential candidates as displayed from their hugs, handshakes and camaraderie displayed at airport lounges (good for the optics) when they run into one another, they still haul stones and jabs whenever they are on the rostrums. It appears, it is politics as a game, where polemics and politics are like Siamese twins.

Atiku and Tinubu as Jolly Good Friends

Tinubu’s Declaration of the Election as a Fight

Though the campaign of the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), took off a bit late for logistical reasons, it would appear to have overtaken those who started earlier, like Peter Obi of Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP in terms of how it has taken his opponents headlong. At his campaign flag off in Jos, Plateau state, last week, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not mince word when he described next year’s presidential election as a fight to define the soul of the nation. The verbal fireworks have since been growing daily.

“February 2023 is more than an election. It is a fight to define the soul of the nation and to determine our collective fate. Do we adhere to the ideals of broadly shared prosperity, competence, peace, justice, and compassion toward all? Or do we toss these ideals away, lashing ourselves to the divisive politics of the past or to those whose rantings show they cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy.

“One party wants to take us back to a past that never should have been. Another party wants to take us to a past that resides only in its candidate’s head. Neither the old road nor the fantasy road is good enough.” Asiwaju Tinubu said.

Asiwaju Tinubu of APC

He further hit the nail on the head saying the PDP presidential candidate’s slogan of ‘Atikulated’ was a “wrong theory” while the ‘Obi-Dients’ slogan adopted by the followers and supporters of the LP’s Peter Obi was a misnomer. He then added a clincher: “Peter Obi lives in Lagos. He doesn’t know the way to Anambra,”

Peter Obi’s Salvo at Tinubu

Trust the politician, no comments get unnoticed and unattended to one way or another. Delivering a speech in Port Harcourt last week where he had been invited to commission a newly constructed flyover bridge by the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, the presidential candidate of Labour Party sublimely retorted: “Everyone knows where I was schooled and my schoolmates. Not some people that no one knows their schoolmates or the schools they attended”. This was a reference to Asiwaju who has been derided on the social media as not listing the primary and secondary schools in his nomination form submitted to the INEC,

Atiku Abubakar’s Hit Back
The presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, also seized the opportunity of the 82nd synod of the Universal Reformed Christian Church also known as NKST, in Mkar, Benue state, where he was a special guest of honour, to hit back at the presidential candidate of the APC and his party when he said: “I know that as good Christian leaders you must have prayed to God to provide healing for the land and to give us new leaders of the nation in 2023 who would rescue Nigeria from plunging into the abyss. My prayer is that we must not become a failed state, where the centre can no longer hold and mere anarchy becomes our lot,”

Atiku Abubakar of PDP

“My party the PDP is sensitive to the balance of power between Christianity and Islam in this country, for us to have a good life where peace is assured, and we are guaranteed liberty and pursuit of happiness. Those who fail to respect our religious diversity have done it with usual impunity. They will not get away with it this time around. I am running for President to guarantee our religious freedoms. We in the PDP have demonstrated this by presenting a Moslem – Christian balanced ticket.

Governor Wike as Enemy Within Against Atiku Abubakar and PDP
Atiku Abubakar’s most vitriolic attacks are not from his opponents in the other 17 political parties but from within his own party. The PDP is suffering from an internecine war whose arrowhead is Governor Nyesom Wike, leading four other governors of the PDP. For everything Atiku Abubakar says, Governor Wike fires back without necessarily mentioning his name but gives a cue to Atiku’s political opponents on what they should be saying. When Atiku Abubakar said he was an advocate of restructuring: Wike retorted that he should prove it starting with the restructuring of his party.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State

When he said he wouldn’t appoint all his service chiefs from the same part of the country: Wike derides him saying why hasn’t he raised his voice against it since and then threw a punch: Is that not what he is doing in the PDP now, with the Chairman, presidential candidate and DG campaign all coming from only one part of the country? With friends like Wike, Atiku doesn’t need an enemy again. Governor Wike is fighting as an injured person and has insisted that the PDP Chairman Dr. Iyorcha Ayu, whom he described as corrupt, must step down from the position. On Saturday, he also extended the frontier of his battle by challenging his fellow governors from the southsouth region to show their people what they have done with refunds to the Niger Delta region made by President Buhari. He said all the projects he has been commissioning are proceeds of the money for Rivers state.

Asiwaju Tinubu Exploits the Cues

Speaking at the APC Governorship campaign in Delta state on Saturday, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu took a cue and capitalized on the in-fighting in the PDP saying “when they are fighting themselves in their party, how can they govern? When Atiku Abubakar was there as vice president, he was fighting his boss. They were fighting in public over how they shared PTDF money buying cars for their friends”

At that occasion also Senator Omo-Agege called out the Governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa saying he betrayed his fellow southern governors by accepting to serve as the running mate to Atiku Abubakar. He likened him to Judas Iscariot in the Bible.

Unfavourable Statistics Throw Spanner in the Works for APC?

Usually, election for an incumbent is like a referendum of how well he or she has performed. On this, the Tinubu campaign is torn between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is a referendum on the almost eight years of APC administration. No matter how brilliant Tinubu’s ideas may be in his Renewed Hope manifesto, he will still be haunted by the Nigerian public perception of the Buhari’s regime which may not well pleasing. The reality of the foregoing scenario got compounded last week when the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics released its multi-dimensional poverty figures showing that 63 percent or approximately 133 million Nigerians are living in multidimensional poverty. This, for an APC government and Tinubu’s campaign is like throwing a spanner in the works. It is an irony that a government that promised to pull 100 million out of poverty will be confronted with this kind of statistics.

Highlights of the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index survey reveal that:
· 63% of persons living within Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor.
· The National MPI is 0.257, indicating that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations.

65% of the poor (86 million people) live in the North, while 35% (nearly 47 million) live in the South. Poverty levels across States vary significantly, with the incidence of multidimensional poverty ranging from a low of 27% in Ondo to a high of 91% in Sokoto.

Over half of the population of Nigeria are multidimensionally poor and cook with dung, wood, or charcoal, rather than cleaner energy. High deprivations are also apparent nationally in sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.

The Campaign Issues are Crystallizing
Though, the candidates may be avoiding a direct debate among themselves, nevertheless the issues that matter to Nigerians are crystallizing from the campaign podiums as well as from the various town hall meetings. One thing is clear so far, the candidates have not indulged in direct personal attacks and confrontations. This is commendable. It would be desirable that that spirit and attitude is maintained all through the campaign period.

Where dirty personal attacks have emerged, they have surfaced from third parties who also have defined their interests in such matters. One of such was the recent investigation of Asiwaju Tinubu’s forfeiture of money in the US as investigated by David Hundeyin. Details are everywhere already.

Asiwaju Says He’s Unperturbed
Pelted everywhere and with unfavourable press in the last couple of days, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu says he is unperturbed. Like a cat with nine lives, he has weathered thicker storms in the past. Hear him: “I don’t read social media anymore o. They abuse hell out of me. If I read it, I get high blood pressure, I get angry. I don’t read it”

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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