Two high profile disavowals directly linked to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Party (APC), occurred recently: one by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and the other by Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana.
When members of the National Association of Seadogs – also known as Pyrates Confraternity – gyrated in Ikeja, Lagos, they mocked Tinubu’s health condition in a song and the video went viral. Prof Wole Soyinka immediately issued a disclaimer, being a Sea Dog himself and one of the founders of the group in 1952. The song took most people by surprise because the association has never been known to support any political party. What was therefore the motivation for the song?
Then, we read the rebuttal by Akufo-Addo to what was obviously a planted online news story, claiming that he wrote a letter to Tinubu, asking him to step down for Peter Obi, the presidential flag bearer of the Labour Party, over frivolous claims by the tattlers. This was why Bayo Onanuga, director of media and publicity of the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, issued a press statement asking Obi to call his supporters to order.
In this season leading up to the general elections in 2023, expect more fake news from cyber bullies and hate speech merchants. But what we have witnessed so far has been a deliberate and endless effort to single out, attack and denigrate Asiwaju Tinubu from a long list of 18 presidential candidates.
By the time the campaigns begin next month, all the presidential candidates will get the chance to tell Nigerians their stories through their manifestoes and why they want to lead us. This is important because what Nigerians need right now is hope that their lives can become better under the next administration.
This is why we should be having a debate of ideas on how to make Nigeria a better place and let our votes count. In addition, we should ask for good governance and accountability from our political leaders. We should also worry about what each candidate is bringing to the table based on their previous record of achievements.
An important assignment our social media activists should take on at this time is to present a charter of demands on key national issues to all the presidential candidates with measurable goals.
For example, Ayo Akinfe, a London-based author and journalist, pointed the way forward by listing 10 of such demands recently. They include increasing generated power from 7,000MW to 50,000 MW through a variety of sources like wind, solar, thermal, gas, hydro and waste recycling; initiating a Lagos underground tube network, getting Nigeria Air into the skies due to our massive aviation market and starting a high speed railway network, beginning with the Lagos-Abuja route.
Others are getting the ports of Warri, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Ikot Abasi and Uyo up to the capacity of Apapa; raising our GDP from the current $450 billion to $1 trillion through an ambitious agribusiness expansion programme that will see us expand production and start processing cash crops like cocoa, palm oil, cashews, coconuts, groundnuts, neem, papaya, cassava, guar gum, kola nuts, shea nuts, yam, etc.
Akinfe also talked about tacking insecurity by taking a frontal approach to crush insurgents and kidnappers; tapping into the automobile market by getting manufacturers to open assembly plants in the country, including plants to manufacture car components; increasing the kilometres of tarred roads from 193,000 km to South Africa’s level of 947,000 km and increasing our literacy rate from 60% to 75%, especially reducing the number of out-of-school children from 13 million to 3 million.
For me, these are serious issues and should be interrogated and constitute a template for the incoming administration to set the agenda for Nigeria’s development. This is what should be our focus because I’m sure we all want a robust economy, good roads, public hospitals and schools that are working efficiently. In a nutshell, we should all be talking about reclaiming Nigeria’s lost glory in all its ramifications.
However, if the public scrutiny is constantly on Tinubu out of 18 presidential candidates, he will gain the advantage as we count down to the presidential elections. In public relations, news can be measured as positive, negative or neutral and controversial news has its benefits.
In the case of Tinubu, he is always in the news, which is clearly making him a front runner in the presidential race. The more Tinubu’s traducers and calumniators discuss Tinubu or write about him, the more they are giving him free publicity, leading to a dominant share of voice in the media. Ask the experts, it is the surest way of creating top-of-mind awareness for a brand. Publicity is the oxygen a brand needs to thrive.
Apart from APC, PDP, Labour Party, Rabiu Kwakwanso-led New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and Omoyele Sowore’s African Action Congress (AAC), there are 13 other parties with presidential candidates but they are largely unknown. Why is it so?
If the media spotlight is only on APC and PDP – the two dominant parties – and now Labour Party because of Peter Obi, it must be for a reason, but it does not mean the other presidential candidates do not have anything to offer. The strength of a brand is a function of its awareness which explains why the media is critical in building a successful brand.
Are the three front runners – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi – “popular” because of their parties or public office records? How do we measure the strength of their popularity? Individually, what are they known for or what do they stand for? The discerning mind will work with facts and figures, and not swayed by the negative sentiments promoted on social media on any candidate. It is an equal opportunity contest for all the candidates who are on the ballot. Indeed, the searchlight — in whatever form – should be beamed on all the candidates.
In her column in The Punch newspaper, Abimbola Adelakun also thrashed Tinubu, questioning his health status and supporting the context of the song in the viral video by the Sea Dogs. It will not be the first time she is attacking Tinubu but she is well within her right as a public affairs commentator. But Adelakun was actually doing Tinubu a huge favour without knowing it.
Our problems are much more fundamental and they are rooted in our current faulty political structure where “might is right”. The solution is to have a national conversation and build a country that is just, fair and equitable for all – an egalitarian society. It has nothing to do with who can jog or lift weights every morning. More importantly, Nigerians have become more aware and they have the capacity to vote out any bad leader.
I know family members and friends who passed away due to ill health. I know two colleagues whose wives died from breast cancer last year. They were 53 years old. I have countless examples that died from Covid-19 infections. I know colleagues who died before their 50th birthday. Are we truly in control of our health and well-being or when we would die? Look around you, there are many diabetes and hypertensive cases or men and women working hard to treat prostate cancer or breast cancer.
There are several other diseases that we suffer from and it is by God’s grace we live every day. In fact, every day we live (sleep and wake up) is a bonus. Who is 100% well as we grow older? Some people die in their sleep or become infirm due to old age. Should we also mock those who are physically challenged?
Nigeria needs a “competent and strong leader, a talent management expert and team player with an excellent record of performance.” The leader should be able to restore hope because of the daunting challenges ahead of the next administration. The hope that I’m talking about is a promise from God in Hebrews 6:17-18. Our leaders must be bound by their oaths of office in addition to being promise keepers.
It is expected that the presidential candidates will use the media massively to target voters when the campaign begins but the messages and messaging techniques will make all the difference. When it is time to vote, feel free to vote for your preferred candidates based on your convictions.
In spite of our challenges, we cannot give up on Nigeria.
-Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)