Opinion: Can hate speeches really win elections?

by Victor Emejuiwe

Jonathan-BuhariThe body language of our leaders shows they are enjoying all the hate propaganda against their opponent. They have succeeded in breeding up followers with malicious mannerism which is very unhealthy for the younger generation.

I can vividly recall Shehu Shagari’s 1980 inauguration speech, which was titled “My Vision for Nigeria.” Part of the text in that speech read as follows; “Our problems are many and varied but they are not insurmountable, if we can sink our differences and work like a team, with every one willingly contributing his quota in order to satisfy the legitimate hopes and aspiration of the people. The task of nation building is a collective responsibility of all and posterity will not forgive us, if we should betray the sacred trust conferred on us by the people”

These words from Shehu Shagari are not only visionary and prophetic but also instructive. The challenge of Nigeria today is the lack of statesmanship from our leaders. They vituperate at anyone who opposes their interest; forgetting the fact that leaders are automatically looked upon by the citizens as role models. For the sake of elections, Nigerian leaders have forfeited the statesmanship in them and have made elections look like battle field; with hate speeches and unfortunate remarks thrown at fellow citizens who oppose their interest.

From Shagari’s speech, the central vision about governance is all about nation building and this must be done by all. Nigeria became the cynosure of the world when it collectively defeated the Ebola virus disease; this boosted our image and relieved the citizens from the fear of being wiped out by the EVD.

There are many more things we could collectively achieve as a nation if we work together. Nigeria could have likewise ended terrorism and poverty from the country, if our leaders had genuinely collaborated with stakeholders in order to achieve this. It is unfortunate that our present leaders care so much about their personal ambition more than the interest of the public.

The stream of hate speeches emanating from the media, sponsored by the political parties and their supporters in the run- up of the 2015 elections shows our weakness as a nation. The utterances and adverts of this group of persons are grave enough to ignite violence and destroy the nation that is meant to be built by all.

Those who organised the Abuja Peace Accord in January 14th 2015 did this in the wisdom of safeguarding the lives of the ordinary citizens and preserving the unity of Nigeria. The politicians and their cohorts should know that elections are not won by demonising a candidate or casting aspersions on opponents rather, such attitude stokes the embers of fire which can set the nation ablaze. The electorates should be wise and never allow themselves to be swayed by unnecessary propaganda.

It is unfortunate that when the chips are down, the same men and women who ignited the conflict will be nowhere around the country; they would have flown outside the country with their families. It is very wrong to pitch citizens against themselves; especially in an ethnic and multi-plural society like ours. Using religion as a campaign issue is an introduction of division amongst the multi-faceted religious worshippers in Nigeria.

On a daily basis, the citizens watch adverts on the TV and read in the newspapers where those who aspire to lead us and also serving leaders use hate speeches and adverts to hound the opposition. From our investigations, over 100 support groups who show solidarity for the Peoples Democratic Party do nothing else in the print media other than paying for character defaming adverts against the opposition.

The amount spent so far by these various groups on print media advert alone, between December and February 14 is over N1.3bn which is above the general campaign ceiling of 1bn approved by the electoral Act. The All Progressive Congress is also not left out as they have spent over N300m between this duration on adverts via the print media.

Leaders of the political parties need to note that the truth can never be twisted no matter how hard it is done. People would respond to truth and not propagandas; propaganda worked in the past, but because the lives of the citizens are not getting any better, propaganda is no longer the best form of campaign to sell to the electorate. Nigerians are definitely getting wiser by the day.

In this present age, what the public want to see from their leaders and politicians are result of their precedence. The people would like to hear them speak about what they have been able to accomplish in their past and how impactful it has been on the society. It is based on this premise that they would decide how to cast their vote. When politicians stand before the people and cast aspersions on their opponents, they already exhibit character flaws which are bad symptoms of a leader. For discerning voters, they direct their sympathy to the opponent especially when the opponent has none of such character flaws.

The body language of our leaders shows they are enjoying all the hate propaganda against their opponent. They have succeeded in breeding up followers with malicious mannerism which is very unhealthy for the younger generation. This is definitely not the future of our dream country.

Finally, the electronic and print media houses should not allow themselves to be used as the battle ground of desperate politicians; they should set profit making aside and abide by the ethics of the profession. Also, the electorate should be weary of politicians who have broken the peace accord signed on the 14th of January 2015; and avoid them at the polls. The peace accord is the only way out of the post-election violence of 2011. If the evil prediction against Nigeria’s break up in 2015 would not come to pass, then the politicians and their supporters must guide their utterances. Elections are not won by hate speech. Remember, posterity will judge everyone according to the role they play.


Victor Emejuiwe is a programme officer, Good Governance. He wrote in from the Centre for Social Justice, Abuja.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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