Monday 14 March 2011

Change Gonna Come?

I just watched about 45 minutes of the Nigerian V.P debate (YouTube didn't have the rest) and my reactions are a little mixed. No doubt I enjoyed it. The candidates were well spoken, humorous at times and they offered their soundbites with a gravitas and sincerity that you don't encounter often in Nigerian politics. But at the end of the day, I couldn't escape that despire the packaging being more refined, I'd basically heard many of the statements before. Fighting corruption, we've been kung fuing the thing since 1999. Providing jobs, that one isn't exactly new either.

Also, there was a lot of PDP bashing and though some of it was very entertaining I felt that the candidates really lost an opportunity to expound on their policies by focusing so much on the ruling party. I wish somebody had said this is not about what the PDP hasn't done for you, this is what my party is going to do for you and this is how we are going to do it. One argument of course is that in such a debate, given that you have between 30 and 60 seconds to answer a question, there's not much time to expound on your policies but they didn't seem to have any problem summarising their vitriol against the PDP. At the end I knew what all three were against (PDP) but what exactly were they for? However, as I've said the PDP bashing was entertaining and here are some of the best instances of this.

"Great nations are not built on good luck." Pastor Tunde Bakare (CPC)

"Those who the gods want to kill they first make mad." Fola Adeola on the PDP. (ACN)

"I'm not concerned about the fanfare. It's a farewell party that PDP is having across the nation." Tunde Bakare on PDP's campaign.

"Flamboyant campaigns that look like beauty pageants." Chief Oyegun on PDP's campaign. (ANPP)

And my personal favourite just because its directness is almost sarcastic:
"The PDP are wicked. Get them out." Fola Adeola.

Unfortunately the PDP Vice Presidential candidate did not attend. And of course this was another opportunity for more bashing. Words like impunity, impudence and travesty were thrown around.

This is not to say that the candidates didn't have concrete policies.

"Amend the Constitution to remove immunity from prosecution from elected officers in criminal cases." Pastor Tunde Bakare on corruption. (CPC)

That however was the only concrete procedure I jotted down. I know there were more, Pastor Tunde Bakare talked about going back to a less oil based economy by developing agriculture, Chief Oyegun mentioned how religious violence had been practically combated in Kano State (the state where his principal was from) but all in all, I just got a sense of vagueness when it came to policies. When asked about corruption, the ACN candidate gave a proverb that says a fish spoils from the head so if he and his principal refuse to be rotten then their subordinates would follow their lead and so on and so forth. To me that just didn't seem concrete enough. The general vagueness of the debate was best exemplified in this statement about the Niger Delta made by Fola Adeola:

"Where there is no justice there is no peace."

It sounds good and it's certainly true but I would have preferred more concrete figures. What percentage of the budget are they going to devote to reversing the injustices done in the Niger Delta? How are they going to rehabilitate militants into society? What are the key issues they have identified in the area that if addressed will reduce tension drastically? Nothing on that from any of the candidates I'm afraid. Nothing.

I'll leave you with this and these were my final thoughts on the debate. Former military ruler and CPC presidential candidate Mohammed Buhari was purported to have said, Nigerians should go out and 'defend their votes.' Now what he meant by that was unclear, so the moderator (who was a good blend of forcefulness and charm) asked Pastor Bakare to clarify. He at first made matters murkier by alluding to the situations in North Africa without actually explaining if 'defend your vote' meant, defend your vote with violence. He then gave a closer to home example of this defence by narrating the story of what happened during a state election. Apparently, the people who manned the ballot boxes were surrounded by men with kegs of kerosene and matches in their hands so basically, there was no chance of a rigging.

This anecdote meant to inspire left me a little confused. Taking pictures of the voting process with your phone and not leaving the voting station until they have counted the votes all this is very well and good and I agree with this, but turning up with a keg of kerosene and box of matches at a polling station, surely this is just another example of the do or die politics that PDP is famous for.

Scenario 1:
There are men at the polling station with machetes, stopping me from casting my vote.

Scenario 2:
There are men at the polling station with kegs of kerosene protecting my vote.

Both situations look frighteningly similar to me. Both situations would make me consider staying at home on polling day and padlocking my gate. To be fair, the other two candidates were not as drastic in defining what they meant by defend your vote but I wish at least one would have stated clearly that their definition was exclusively non-violent. Arguably, Pastor Bakare's definition depends more on the threat of violence than actual violence but the election season is volatile enough.

And it's no good saying that the PDP have historically used violence in their election campaigns because you don't fight fire with fire as any fireman will tell you.

So in short, these are my thoughts on the VP debate. Watch it for yourself.

It was a shame that Vice President Sambo didn't show up because the three candidates might not have been so chummy otherwise. They were so united in their disgust for the PDP, they might have belonged to the same party, a point the moderator brought up.

The audience was too scanty.

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