By Odunayo Oluwatimilehin Oyewole
As an enthusiastic and patriotic young girl growing up on the streets of Lagos, I treasured the electioneering campaign periods as one defining season of my life. I could say that my love for politics and public administration had its root in my keen admiration of political campaign activities displayed by various political parties to earn support for their candidates.
I just could not hide the euphoric feelings of excitement as I watched with dazed amazement and utmost curiosity how die-hard party followers passionately went about campaigning and canvasing for public support for their choice parties and candidates. I must have thought to myself that I would one day be the candidate on whose behalf public consent was being sought for.
As a naïve youngster, I saw electioneering campaigns as one elaborate and prolonged Christmas season—with different customized party souvenirs flooding every nook and cranny of my community — all in the name of seeking for public consent.
I assumed this to be the norm until I had the privilege of studying the ideal principles that guide electioneering processing and politics in general, then I got to know that what we call political campaign in Nigeria is actually a bastardization of the idea; political manipulations of the highest order in disguise.
Since then, I have not ceased to ask myself, why would a political party offer me gifts to perform my inalienable rights?
A political campaign is a strategic effort which seeks to influence the decision-making process within a specific group. The phenomenon of political campaigns is strictly tied to lobby groups and political parties.
Once a party declares their preferred candidate who must have emerged as winner from the party’s primaries, a public announcement would then be made.
This announcement could range from a simple press release to concerned media outlets, to a major throng pulling campaign and speaking tour.
Ideally, campaigns avail political parties the opportunity to dispatch volunteers into local communities to meet with voters and persuade them to support their candidate. However, this process has been bastardized in Nigeria; rather than persuade, all we see is coercion and manipulation of the electorates by stomach worshipping party followers— who fail to reckon that the consequences of their selfish act will inevitably catch up with them in a short while.
During an electioneering campaign, political parties are supposed to launch educative and informative television and radio programs, organize enlightening symposia, engage the use of social media and direct mail campaigns aimed at persuading voters to support their candidate and also intensify their grassroots campaigns.
In Nigeria, rather than do the needful, political parties and their candidates prefer to doll out mouth-shutting huge sums of money as incentives to gullible electorates, being aware that that is the only language they understand when it comes to choosing their representatives.
It is quite disheartening that the sanctity of the ballot boxes has long been sacrificed on the altar of mundane basic needs at the expense of living a comfortable life as citizens of an African country of renown such as Nigeria.
The most disturbing aspect is seeing political parties distribute items such as: customized party bathroom slippers, 6 yards of Ankara, umbrellas, t-shirts, face caps, hand bands, note books, matches, food items (that can’t last up to one week) and ridiculous amounts of money. These, the electorates sheepishly receive, unknown to them, in exchange for their freedom and the destinies of their children yet unborn. I cannot but ask myself, how long shall we continue this way?
The salient question now is: how do you expect a political office holder to whom you ignorantly surrendered your freedom to deal fairly with you? How dare you object the draconic ruling style of those at the center of power, in a country like ours that takes pride in her being referred to as a democracy?
Need I remind you that, you lost your freedom and rights the day you cast your vote in exchange for whatever ludicrous incentives you were offered.
I will not stop singing it that; your vote is your voice, it is your power, and it is your potent instrument to actualize your desired and long overdue change within this polity called ‘NIGERIA’.
I challenge you today to deliberately see to it that you do not give away your power and rights on the ground of political manipulation and short-term palliative clad in political campaigns.
Together, we can achieve our desired change!
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