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Questions of note as we enter election year.

Year 2018 is the real election year in Nigeria, even though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed February and March 2019 dates for national and state elections. All of the critical thresholds needed to be crossed would take place this year and well ahead of February. It thus means that much of political altercations, attacks and jibes would be afloat in the course of 2018.

With primaries holding later in 2018, it is certain that the intra and inter-party altercations, leading to face-offs, squabbles and rumbles will peak well before the end of 2018.

Just as party men haggle and tussle at each other, many would also take issues at the incumbent administration. It would be all the more interesting to see how the All Progressives Congress (APC) tackle opponents and the brushes from 67 political parties (if not more) who would engage it in blow-ups from different ends.

Before we go far into the impending contest, I believe we need clear resolutions on the fundamentals of certain issues the political combatants would constantly throw in the face of the ruling party.

Corruption and anti-corruption

When the APC mounted the campaign podium in 2014/2015 its campaign was rested on three key pillars; fight against corruption; fixing the economy and defeat terrorism. The messages resonated as the Boko Haram insurgents were at the peak of their operations and then not a few were alarmed at the persistent revelations of sleaze in the system.

The APC capitalised on an obvious slip by former President Goodluck Jonathan to tag him as saying 'stealing is not corruption.' Whereas the man was trying to explain a position presented to him earlier by a former Chief Justice of the Federation to indicate that corruption is bigger than stealing, the opposition easily capitalised and gave the then president the name it fancied.

More than half way into its four year mandate, the actions and inactions of the APC-led government have helped to define its take on corruption. Has the government fared well in the fight? That is a general question many would ask. But in presenting the answers, there has to be clear agreements on the key issues. Thus far, it looks as if the definition of corruption by the APC in and outside government are not the same. As an opposition party, the APC contemplated corruption as the all-encompassing ill that bedevils the society. It saw corruption as encapsulating stealing and much more. In government, however, the APC appears to have toned down that definition.

Or how else would you define the failure of the administration to prosecute the alleged mismanagement of the funds allocated to the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE) which led to the removal of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) David Babachir Lawal from office. Thanks to the Senate, which appeared hooked on the general definition of corruption, the issues with PINE came to the fore. It took a piercing quote from Senator Shehu Sani who talked about 'deodorants and insecticides' before the limited action we saw so far on Lawal. I will call it limited action because besides losing his job, no one has seen the man near any of the court rooms.

To enable us correctly define its performance so far, the government would also need to clarify to us if the series of secret employments embarked upon so far by several government agencies, some in the name of 'replacements'(one agency was said to have engaged more than 1,000 under the pretext) is not corruption. The Senate, again was appalled by this and not only passed a resolution banning the practice but is also proposing a bill to tackle the illegality. So far, no chief executive has been reprimanded for this obvious act of corruption and the beneficiaries smile home each month with their share of the federal loot. The sad aspect of the development is that the chief executives don't bother about federal character and all such constitutional jargon while committing the crime.

So, while the government and its agents will want us to believe it has done well in tackling corruption, its opponents are bound to take a broader view and highlight the dark sides it left untouched.

Hate speech

This is another potentially knotty and nebulous issue that would play out often in the course of the year. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told the nation hate speech is terrorism. But that has told us nothing

about what hate speech means. Except for speeches that project ethnic and religious hatred, such as those promoted by some parties ahead of the 2015 election, politics doesn't really thrive on hate speech. It dwells on the verbose, the flowery and beautiful nothings of the speech which easily move the men on the streets to action.

In a situation where the opposition would have to pass judgments, (objective and subjective) on the ruling party, where the opponent would have to assess the government on good and bad, in attempts to promote its candidates ahead of the incumbent, how do you arrive at universal definitions of hate speech. Politics is essentially about promotion of interests. In doing that, one point of view must be praised and another condemned, in that case, who defines the red lines?

This is the tricky side of it all. A post on an online channel last week already indicated that the NBC has threatened to ban any station that projects hate speech ahead of 2019. What does it really mean?

Now, we have been told that the world is about words and opposite. There are always two sides of the coin. What will it amount to if some interests come up with their own version of the 'human side' to project a candidate they believe could do more. Will that amount to hatred?
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Dec 31, 2017
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